April 24 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian Genocide, which took place in Turkey from 1915 to 1923. Denied as genocide by the Turkish Government and characterized by it as merely part of the general violence of World War I, remarkably the United States has not yet officially recognized this horrific episode in history as genocide. As the world commemorates the 100th anniversary of this tragedy, the National Council of Churches expresses its profound disappointment that President Obama, while calling for a “full, frank and just acknowledgement of the facts,” has refrained from identifying it as genocide.
NCC president and general secretary Jim Winkler said that such an acknowledgement includes the use of the word genocide: “At this moment, I am in Armenia for events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the genocide. Church leaders from around the world have gathered here in solidarity with the church and people of Armenia. I am more aware than ever before of how important it is for people of good will everywhere to stand up and name genocide for what it is.”
The National Council of Churches has long been involved in work to counter genocide, mass atrocities and other crimes against humanity. This work continues through the organization’s involvement in United to End Genocide, for which NCC associate general secretary Tony Kireopoulos has served as board chair. “The Armenian genocide is widely acknowledged to be the first genocide of the last century,” Kireopoulos said. “The most recent genocide was Darfur, and the threat of other genocides looms large in yet other contexts today. Therefore, our work to end genocide is not over, but it begins with an honest appraisal of what has happened in the past.”
The National Council of Churches will be issuing a formal statement commemorating the Armenian Genocide on May 7, when the NCC governing board and church representatives to the NCC Christian Unity Gathering will join Armenian-Americans and others from around the world for the US service at the Washington National Cathedral to commemorate the Armenian Genocide.