(LOS ANGELES)–On Saturday–October 15–His Holiness Aram I–Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia presided over a special symposium organized by the Western Prelacy–the University of Southern California–Institute of Armenian Studies headed by Professor Hrair Dekmejian–and the USC Center for Religious and Civic Culture headed by Professor Donald Miller. The theme of the symposium was "Christian Response to Violence" during which the Armenian genocide and its impact on society were specifically examined. At the event were various members of the academic community–clergy from throughout Los Angeles–students–and other members of the public and community.
The first to present was Professor Donald Miller who gave an overview of the day by speaking about "Christianity and Violence: Parameters of Inquiry." Miller said the day would examine everything from state-sponsored violence to violence issues in general. He gave an example of how the Armenian nation has suffered from violence dating back to the days when Turkey was ruled by Sultans and under the Young Turk government that committed the Armenian genocide. Also included were incidents from more recent years where Azerbaijan organized pogroms against its Armenian population and today’s continuing blockade of Armenia by Turkey and Azerbaijan. He also said the symposium would examine the issue of violence committed by individuals–domestic violence issues–and what role Christianity and the church can play in furthering peace and justice.
Professor Hrair Dekmejian made a presentation titled "Christian Perspective on War and Political Violence" where he historically outlined how Christianity began as a movement focused on furthering peace but was later used to justify violent actions by governmen’s who took advantage of the religion. Similarly–he discussed how today–Islam is used by many governmen’s to justify violent actions.
Also presenting was Simon Payaslian–Professor of Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University. In his presentation–"The Church Bearing Witness to the Genocide of 1915: Martyrdom–Resistance and Remembrance," Payaslian reviewed the Armenian genocide within the context of other world genocides including recent ones in Rwanda and Darfur. He also examined the role of the Armenian Church in leading and protecting the communities at the time and the also its impact as Genocide survivors were scattered throughout the world.
Professor Roubina Peroomian of UCLA gave a presentation–using the Armenian genocide as a case study–that outlined the implications about people forcibly removed from their homeland due to genocide. In addition she discussed the role churches have played in relief–seeking justice–and recognition of the Armenian genocide. Dr. Levon Jernazian spoke next about general violence issues within families and amongst youth. Dr. Vicken Yacoubian discussed violence issues within different cultures and the influence of these factors in a multi-cultural society–noting the positive role faith can play in addressing these ills. The final speaker was Dr. Garbis Der-Yeghiayan from Mashdotz College–who examined violence in the media and its impact on children and youth.
His Holiness delivered the concluding remarks discussing Christianity’s response to violence. In his remarks he said that the issues examined are not just Armenian issues but issues that touch all of humanity. He discussed Christianity’s approach to violence and the role of the Church. Using the Armenian and Rwandan genocides as examples of state-sponsored violence–His Holiness stated that violence must always have a punishment and perpetrators must be brought to justice in order to prevent further violence.