Turkey (MNN) — You’d think something that happened 100 years ago wouldn’t cause issues today, but it is. World leaders are still divided over the 1915 massacre of more than 1 million Armenian Christians.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is taking a stand. They’re calling it the “Armenian genocide” and urging U.S. leaders to do the same.
“Remembering and acknowledging the terrible evil that took place 100 years ago is especially important given the crimes against humanity–including acts of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and religiously-motivated violence–that are taking place today…especially in Syria and Iraq,” stated USCIRF Vice Chair, Robert P. George in a recent press release.
“On this day, the United States government … should state publicly and clearly that perpetrators of such heinous crimes will be held accountable.”
Armenian genocide: the facts
As stated on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Web site, the term “genocide” did not exist before 1944 and is used specifically to refer to “violent crimes committed against groups with the intent to destroy the existence of the group.”
Near the end of the 1800s, Muslim rulers of the Ottoman Empire (present-day Turkey) began a systematic extermination of Armenian “infidels,” culminating in the historic events of 1915.
- 1890 — Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid II tells a reporter, “I will soon settle those Armenians. I will give them a box on the ear which will make them…relinquish their revolutionary ambitions.”
- 1894 – 1896 — Police and soldiers attack nearly every Armenian town in the Ottoman Empire, slaughtering between 100,000 and 300,000 people. According to Armenian-Genocide.org, thousands fled the country, while thousands more were forcibly converted to Islam.
- 1914 — The Turks enter World War I and Ottoman religious leaders declare jihad (holy war) against all Christians who were not their allies.
- April 24, 1915 — The Armenian genocide begins. Up to 250 doctors, lawyers, politicians, government officials, teachers, writers, poets, and other intellectuals who could become the core of a future resistance, were arrested overnight and executed within 72 hours.
- 1915 – 1922 — Armenian citizens are forced on “death marches” through the Mesopotamian Desert. A special battalion charged with “the liquidation of the Christian elements” systematically slaughters Armenian Christians by drowning them in rivers, throwing them off cliffs, crucifying them, and burning them alive.
By the time the Ottoman Empire fell in 1922, only 388,000 Armenians remained. Before the genocide began, the Armenian population was numbered at two million.
The well-established and documented facts listed above communicate the intent of Turkish leaders: to rid the Ottoman Empire of Armenian Christians, once and for all. Since 1918, however, Turkish officials have denied this genocide ever took place.
Because Turkey is an important Middle Eastern ally to many Western nations, their leaders have followed suit.
On the campaign trail, current U.S. President Barak Obama vowed he would “recognize the Armenian Genocide” if he were elected. However, throughout his entire term, and on the centennial anniversary of the 1915 Armenian genocide, President Obama broke his promise, calling it an “atrocity” instead.
“The Armenian genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact,” Obama said on January 19, 2008.
Though highly criticized, President Obama isn’t the only one to avoid using the “G” word. Leaders of the United Kingdom and Israel also refuse to label the Armenian massacre as genocide.
However, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin made the following statement last week.
“The Nazis,” he said, “used the Armenian genocide as something that gave them permission to bring the Holocaust into reality.”
As Edmund Burke once said, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” The Armenian genocide is relevant today because history is repeating itself.
Why it matters
“What these rebels and ISIS are doing is incredible. These stories of cutting off heads: these were only stories we heard from our grandmothers and grandfathers,” Armenian refugee Bedro Zeitounian tells TIME Magazine. “But now we are seeing it in front of us.”
As explained here, Western leaders failed to intervene and help persecuted Christians in the early 1900s. Today’s Western leaders appear to be doing the same.
Now that you know, what will you do?
Prayer is the action most requested by persecuted Christians, and it’s the most important response. Connect with persecution watchdogs like Open Doors USA, Voice of the Martyrs USA, and Voice of the Martyrs Canada for daily updates and prayer needs, and follow the 8thirty8 Facebook page.
If you live in the U.S., speak up for the voiceless. Share this story on your social media platforms, and if you live in the U.S., urge your elected representative to take action.