BY SHOGHAK KAZANDJIAN
For the first time in a long time, Easter Sunday will fall on April 24th, the international day of remembrance for the Armenian Genocide. As in the past, the Armenian Youth Federation will hold its Annual Protest in front of the Turkish Consulate on April 24th. Armenian communities worldwide will fulfill their duty in commemorating the death of their ancestors, alongside celebrating the holy day of Easter.
In the weeks past, some concerns have been raised about this rarity, in the fear that it displays a conflict of priorities to protest on such a widely observed religious occasion. This occurrence, however, is not a conflict nor an inconvenience, but rather an opportunity to remember both the resurrection of Jesus and the martyrdom of 1.5 million Armenians who were murdered for their Christian faith.
“As Armenians we will celebrate the resurrection of Christ and demand justice for the still unpunished crime of genocide committed against us by the Turkish government,” says Anya Agopian, member of AYF-WR Central Executive. “We have a special responsibility to stand up this April 24 and voice our demand for justice for this brutal crime which was committed against us not only as Armenians, but as Christians.”
As the first nation to adopt Christianity as its official state religion, the deep connection between the Armenian culture and its faith is seen through the vast amount of churches built across historical Armenia. Today, as a result of the Genocide, these churches are in ruins, and exist only as obliterated pieces of land in illegitimate Eastern Turkey. As this April 24th coincides with Easter, Armenians will call for the just and rightful return of these sacred lands.
“Our churches have sentimental value and are important relics of our culture,” says Serouj Aprahamian, Executive Director of AYF-WR. “It is unacceptable how Turkey has let them rot over almost a hundred years, allowing them to be used as barns, stables, and generally allowing them to reach an unacceptable stage of disrepair.”
The Armenian people, alongside their homeland, have been scarred by genocide aimed at annihilating their ethnicity and religious freedom. This year, on Easter Sunday, Armenians will remember not only the Armenian Genocide, but the resurrection of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for the same freedoms.
“Easter falling on our day of observance will be a stark reminder that the primary reason the Turkish government attempted to exterminate our people was to wipe out the Christian minority from the Ottoman Empire,” says David Arakelyan, AYF-WR Central Executive member. “We call on peace-loving people of all faiths to join us on April 24 and demand an end to all forms of religious or ethnic persecution. Only by speaking out and encouraging repentance can we ensure a more harmonious future free of genocide.”
In history, April 24th marks the beginning of a brutal campaign of extermination orchestrated by the Turkish Ottoman Empire. This was the day that the Ottoman authorities rounded up and murdered hundreds of Armenian intellectuals, cultural figures, and community leaders. It was the first step in a calculated campaign to cripple the Armenian community and open the way to their decimation.
The significance of April 24th is not only defined by its date in history. The date is a symbol that Armenians have survived, and persevered, for almost a century after the Genocide that nearly erased them. The date is a message that Turkey was, and continues to be, unsuccessful in their genocidal campaign. The date is a warning that the days of denial are numbered, and the Turkish government will soon be forced to atone for its heinous crime.
Founded in 1933, the Armenian Youth Federation is the largest and most influential Armenian American youth organization in the United States, working to advance the social, political, educational and cultural awareness of Armenian-American youth.