The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has said on a visit to the Armenian genocide memorial that violence targeted against whole communities is ‘one of the greatest disgraces of the twentieth century’ and must be utterly repudiated in the twenty-first.
Speaking during a ceremony last week at the Genocide Memorial at Tsitsernakaberd in Yerevan, during his visit to Armenia, he said that such atrocities had scarred the international community.
He declared: “This ceremony reminds us of one of the greatest disgraces of the twentieth century … the history of brutal massacres of whole peoples on ethnic and religious grounds; the turning away of the rest of the world and the denial of the suffering of the victims throughout the 20th century - this has been one of the most regular and terrible features of international conflict.”
During the ceremony, which included commemoration of the victims of Darfur, Dr Williams said that the world needed to understand the past and to face up to unpleasant truths:
“My most earnest prayer is that as our new century begins we shall somehow learn to put behind us both the cruelty and the denial; both the terrible violence that puts whole populations at risk, that wipes out new generations that is merciless towards women and children but also that we will learn how to tell the truth about our past, that to stand by the side of those who suffer most and how to build together in which such atrocities are not possible.”
“In Yad Vashem in Jerusalem the text from scripture is written ‘O Earth, cover not their blood.’ So we pray that God will help us keep our eyes open to the reality of injustice and of suffering, that the blood will not be covered and that also we will be given forgiveness and strength for our journey ahead.”
Dr Williams’ visit to the region included a meeting in Syria with President Assad and also with the Grand Mufti, Shaikh Ahmad Hassun, in Damascus.
The Armenian genocide is a matter of considerable controversy. Churches across the world have joined other human rights campaigners in highlighting and condemning it. But mention of the events has been punishable by imprisonment in Turkey.