Churches urge recognition of the Armenian genocide

By staff writers
November 9, 2007

The General Assembly of the National Council of Churches USA and development agency Church World Service, holding its annual meeting from 6-8 November 2007, has urged the US House of Representatives to pass legislation recognizing the slaughter of Armenians in 1915 as a genocide.

The resolution put forward by the Rev Arem Jabejian, an Armenian Orthodox priest from Chicago, was passed by voice vote with six persons requesting to be counted as abstaining.

In its business session Wednesday afternoon, the General Assembly also reaffirmed the NCCUSA and CWS commitment to Middle East peace, and received "A Social Creed for the 21st Century" approved in September by the NCCUSA Governing Board.

The Armenian genocide statement as amended and approved by the General Assembly said it is "unacceptable that the United States has yet to officially recognize the Genocide of 1915, which in fact decimated a majority of the Armenian population then living in Asia Minor."

The statement cited House Resolution 106 "acknowledging this universally recognized historical fact (and) condemning this crime against humanity." Most historians agree that the slaughter was carried out by soldiers of the then Ottoman Turk Empire.

The House leadership decided not to place the legislation before the House because of objections from the Bush Administration, which said it would harm relations between the U.S. and Turkey, a NATO ally.

"As persons of faith, we express our concern that the truth was not upheld by our elected representatives," the resolution states.

The statement "strongly urges the leadership of the US House of Representatives to bring forth this legislation before the end of this Congress."

The General Assembly also passed by unanimous voice vote a "Reaffirmation of Our Commitment to Peace in the Middle East in Light of the 1980 Middle East Policy Statement.

Noting that the Middle East situation has deteriorated since the hopeful days of the 1980 Camp David Peace Accords, the updated policy reaffirms commitments to peace, including encouragement of a responsible discourse in the Middle East; a focus on issues of particular importance related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; concern for the alarming diminution of the Christian community of the Middle East; and appreciation for interfaith sensitivities among Christians, Jews and Muslims, as well as people of other faiths.

"The member communions of the NCC (USA) have a profound connection to the Holy Land," the statement acknowledges. "It is the place where God was revealed in Jesus Christ through the power of the Spirit ... Therefore, we reaffirm these commitments, cognizant of the role our nation plays in the Middle East, to remind ourselves of the urgent need to influence our country to take right and moral actions in the region."

"A Social Creed for the 21st Century" is an update of the Social Creed of 1908 developed by the NCC's predecessor organization, the Federal Council of Churches.

"Just as the churches responded to the harshness of early 20th century industrialization," declares the creed's background statement, "we offer a vision of a society that shares more and consumes less, seeks compassion over suspicion and equality over domination, and finds security in joined hands rather than massed arms."

The National Council of Churches USA is the ecumenical voice of 35 of America's Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, historic African American and traditional peace churches. These NCC member communions have 45 million members in 100,000 congregations in all 50 states.

Church World Service is the relief, development, and refugee assistance agency of these same communions, working in 80 countries around the world to eradicate hunger and poverty and promote peace and justice.

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