BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
With all this talk and microscopic (on an atomic scale, if not sub-atomic) progress on our Turkish front, it seems to me we ought to be thinking about, discussing, and putting forth actual steps that can be taken.
Since a lot of what has been talked up (and even acted on, though on a wholly insufficient scale) is regarding Armenian church properties being restored, I propose that negotiations be commenced to have the See of Cilicia returned to its home in Sis.
Beyond the obvious benefit of its being a concrete step of slowly recreating an institutional Armenian presence in our homeland, it would also foster more interaction with our lands. Some might journey to Sis as a pilgrimage, others on church business, and others simply to visit their ancestral hometowns, heartened by the restored Armenian presence.
The visits by Armenians would obviously benefit the local economy (and this has its problematic aspect—supporting the economy of our enemy), thus making the Armenian presence more tolerable to Turks who would benefit from it. Slow, baby steps towards restoration, such as these relationship-building ones, are perhaps the only way.
But, what of jurisdictional conflict with the Patriarchate of Istanbul? Wouldn’t turf wars ensue? While this should not be a problem since the Catholicosate of Cilicia had its zone of churches over which it had jurisdiction (and the two patriarchates, Istanbul and Jerusalem, are Ottoman impositions on our church’s structure), it could, at least for the time being, for simplicity in dealing with the return of properties, allow the patriarchate to handle issues within Turkey. The Cilician Catholicosate could then declare itself the “Diasporan See.”
Next, if the church leadership is enlightened enough, Islamized Armenians could be assisted to organize themselves as such and explicitly “come out of the closet” of crypto-Armenianhood. If the church, as a fellow religious institution, doesn’t do this, then others must and will.
Why is organizing Islamized Armenians important? Because:
— They are our compatriots
— Organization is strength
— It creates a common ground for these folks to reestablish and develop their Armenian identity (through language as a starting point, for instance)
— It has important political ramifications, not only within Turkey’s borders and its politics, but also, such a group could participate in Islamic fora. Currently, Azerbaijan goes to international Islamic gatherings and easily passes anti-Armenian resolutions and spews its hatred; imagine having a delegation of Muslim Armenians present to advocate the opposite; or better still, imagine that same delegation successfully passing a Genocide resolution at such an international gathering!
I describe this second step as rubbery because it will take a lot of work and time to get there, and how to do it is not as clear-cut as moving the offices of an institution.
But let’s get busy. Let the See of Cilicia know, through your church, or by some other communication, that you support and advocate its return home. Then get busy finding the relatives that got left behind post-Genocide, so we can start organizing them.