The World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Armenian Apostolic Church are hosting a one-month exhibition on the Armenian genocide.
It will display information on the history of genocidal events in the Ottoman Empire which killed more than a million Christian Armenians between 1915 and 1923.
Open to the public until 30 September 2013, the exhibition is being held at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland, addressing the theme “Because I live, you too shall live” (St John 14.19, New Testament).
The exhibition is organized by the Armenia Inter-Church Round Table Foundation.
At the opening of the exhibition, Fr Mesrop Parsamyan, vicar general of the South from the Armenian Diocese of France, declared starkly: “People need to know what happened.”
“Knowing the history of the Armenian genocide is one way to make sure that such atrocities never happen again. There is still a need for churches, communities and governments to recognize the Armenian genocide, and condemn these events in order to pave the way for reconciliation and healing of the scars from the past,” said Fr Parsamyan.
The Armenian genocide has been recognized as the first genocide of the 20th century, with several historians documenting the number of Armenians killed at around 1.5 million. It is alleged that their deaths were brought about by agents of the Ottoman Empire through deportation, torture, starvation and massacres.
Turkey, however, denies that there was a planned campaign to eliminate Armenians but says both Turks and Armenians lost their lives during World War I and in the post-war years. Turkey also says no more than 300,000 Armenians lost their lives in the clashes.
Fr Parsamyan went on to say that the “exhibition on Armenian genocide is timely” given the theme of the WCC 10th Assembly, 'God of life, lead us to justice and peace'. The WCC assembly is set to take place from 30 October to 8 November in Busan, Republic of Korea.
“The God of life has let Armenians carry on their journeys for justice and peace,” he said. The WCC assembly theme is important for the Armenians who are demanding condemnation of the Armenian genocide from the international community, added Parsamyan.
Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, the WCC’s associate general secretary for Public Witness and Diakonia, voiced appreciation for the exhibition project and affirmed the WCC’s support of the initiative.
“We acknowledge and recognize the injustice faced by Armenian Christians during the genocide,” said Phiri. “It is a pity that after so many years the Armenian genocide is still not acknowledged. This is why initiatives like this exhibition are important,” she added.
Phiri also mentioned the WCC’s efforts in the past toward recognition and condemnation of the Armenian genocide.
The WCC 6th Assembly at Vancouver, Canada in 1983 issued a report focusing on the historic realities of the Armenian massacre and its aftermath, while the WCC member churches have commemorated an annual remembrance day of the Armenian genocide for several years.
The exhibition displays banners in English and French, attracting the local and international community in Geneva, and will travel to other countries.
Simon Barrow, co-director of the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia, which has been helping to raise awareness of the Armenian genocide since 2007, has welcomed the initiative.
"Facing up to crimes of the history with honesty and addressing the pain of the past with hope is essential to negotiating a better future for us all in a still-divided world," he said.
"This ecumenically supported exhibition will help in the task of recovering a proper memory of what the Armenian people endured during the first genocide of the twentieth century, in addition to developing an understanding of how and why it has resonated down the ensuing decades. It will also assist with the healing of memories and the encouragement of a common quest for justice."
Ekklesia associate Dr Harry Hagopian, an ecumenical, legal and political consultant and commentator on Middle East and interfaith issues, is also an adviser to the Primate of the Armenian Church in UK & Ireland, and author of The Armenian Church in the Holy Land. He has worked closely with the Campaign for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide (UK).
* Armenian Orthodox Church: http://www.armenianchurch.org/
* World Council of Churches: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/armeniangenocide
* More about the Armenian Genocide on Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/armeniangenocide