Biden, Power Listen in as Aram I Calls for Justice
WASHINGTON—During the prayer service commemorating the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide, titled “The Holy Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide: A Prayer for Justice and Peace,” His Holiness Aram I Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia delivered powerful remarks, stressing that true reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia can only be based on recognition and reparations.
“As Christians, we believe that reconciliation is an integral part of our Christian faith and vocation. But cheap reconciliation generates further injustice. True reconciliation implies accountability. True reconciliation means recognition of genocides and reparation,” said Aram I.
U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power joined President of Armenia Serge Sarkisian, His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and His Holiness Aram I, in the prayer service, which was held at the Washington National Cathedral on May 7.
The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, welcomed the attendees. The Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, delivered the sermon. Catholicoi Karekin II and Aram I led the interfaith service.
(L to R) Armenia’s Presidential Chief of Staff Vigen Sargsyan Armenia’s Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian, President Serzh Sarkisian, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power (photo: president.am)
Descendants of saviors who selflessly helped thousands of Armenians survive the genocide were also in attendance, and were acknowledged during the service.
Below is Catholicos Aram I’s message in its entirety:
Your Excellency, Mr. Vice President of the United States of America,
Your Excellency, Mr. President of the Republic of Armenia,
Your Holiness, Your Eminences, Your Excellences, Dear Clergy,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Centennial of the Armenian Genocide is defined by three key words, and these are—to remember, to remind, and to claim. These three dimensions and challenges of this landmark event are closely interconnected.
First, we remember the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide. In fact, we always remember our genocide in our reflections and actions. Our martyrs are integral, inseparable, and existential parts of our daily life. They are present in all aspects, spheres, and expressions of our individual and common life.
With their spiritual and moral values and human ideals they sustain our life; and they become the guiding post, the guiding lines of our common life in this world. Indeed, our martyrs are the blood of our Church and the sustaining power of Armenian life.
Second, in commemorating and remembering our martyrs, we remind the world the sacred legacy of our martyrs. In 1915, a well-planned and systematically organized genocide took place against the Armenian people. Today, some people may, for geopolitical reasons, refer to it as a “Great Tragedy.” Others may depict it as “massacre,” or simply as “relocation” because of wartime. But what happened in 1915 was a genocide.
Even if the term “genocide” was not yet part of the vocabulary of international law in 1915, what happened against the Armenian people was by its very intent and methods a genocide. And genocide is a crime against humanity.
Last but not least, in remembering our martyrs and reminding their sacred legacy to the world, we claim justice. In fact, I believe that according to the teachings of all religions, justice is a gift of God and rejection of justice is a sin against God. Justice is also the core of human rights. Respecting human rights means rejecting injustice and promoting the values of injustice. Any government, any society that is not sustained by values of justice becomes a source of evil, a source of intolerance.
As Christians, we believe that reconciliation is an integral part of our Christian faith and vocation. But cheap reconciliation generates further injustice. True reconciliation implies accountability. True reconciliation means recognition of genocides and reparation.
Furthermore, reconciliation means accepting the truth. As the Bible says, the truth frees us, the truth liberates us. The truth liberates us from self-centeredness. The truth liberates us from all forms of arrogance and ignorance.
Indeed, this is the Christian way, and I believe this is the human way. Therefore, let us join our efforts together to build a world in which injustice is replaced with justice; intolerance with tolerance, mutual acceptance; and polarization by reconciliation. This is the human way. This is the way in which we Armenians all over the world are committed.
May God bless you all.