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Ecumenical Days of Armenian and Greek Genocide Remembrance in Berlin

The Armenian Genocide was the Ottoman government’s systematic extermination of 1.5 million Armenians, mostly Ottoman citizens within the Ottoman Empire and its successor state, the Republic of Turkey. Hundreds of thousands of people were forcibly converted to Islam to give Armenia a new Turkish sense of identity and strip the Armenian people of their past as the first Christian state in the world. Over 1,000,000 Greek Orthodox Christians were also massacred at that time. To this day, the Turkish government refuses to acknowledge this atrocity as a genocide, saying that it was simply a religious conflict between Christians and Muslims.

As we continue to see our own Mother Church of Constantinople suffering from religious persecution, we remember our these horrifying events, note with sorrow the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere today, and pray that such inhumanity will never again be seen anywhere in the world.

“Ecumenical Days of Remembrance in Berlin,” by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach, The Armenian Mirror-Spectator, September 27, 2018:

BERLIN — At a time when political issues are straining relations among European nations, it is all the more important to reflect on what unites them. In this spirit, the European Commission dedicated the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 to the theme of Sharing Heritage. Among the numerous events taking place during this thematic year, under the patronage of German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, were two initiatives in Berlin earlier this month, linked to the Day of the Open Monument, which commemorated victims of the Ottoman genocide. Dr. Tessa Hofmann, of the Promotional Society for Ecumenical Monuments for Genocide Victims in the Ottoman Empire (FÖGG), organized a tour on September 8 of the Altars of Remembrance which honor the Armenians, the Greeks from Asia Minor, Pontos and Eastern Thrace, as well as the Aramaens, Assyrians and Chaldeans (https://mirrorspectator.com/2018/03/01/ecumenical-altars-remembrance-berlin/). On the following day, she hosted a special day of remembrance for the Greek Orthodox victims of the genocide 1912-1922.
In the presence of diplomatic representatives of the Greek and Armenian embassies, religious leaders of the Greek and Armenian churches, as well as members of the Berlin Greek community, Hofmann recalled that “the concluding chapter of this crime occurred exactly 96 years ago, with the takeover of the undefended Ionian port and capital city Smyrna; there on September 9, units of the so-called liberation armed forces marched in and four days later, after the wind had shifted to a position advantageous to them, set fire to the Christian quarters of the city, beginning with the Armenian quarter Hajnoz.” The nationalist commander Nurettin then ordered males between 18 and 45 deported inland for forced labor, most of whom perished. The remaining Christians, stripped of their citizenship, had to leave. Nurettin was also responsible for implementing the order on January 21, 1921, for 21,000 Greeks to be deported, as well as for the lynching of Archbishop Chrysostomos Kalafatis in Smyrna, and the liberal intellectual Ali Kemal. Nurettin, whom she classified as a “war criminal,” was not only never prosecuted after Turkey was established in 1923, but occupied a high level military position as well as a seat in parliament. “The example shows,” she said, “that the new state integrated war criminals and genocidalists without self-critical reflection as long as they maintained loyalty to the new power holders.”

The date of the event almost coincided also with the ethnic cleansing of Christians from Istanbul on September 6-7, 1955, known as Septembriana, when mobs plundered and burned the Greek Orthodox and Armenian neighborhoods, destroying their churches and cemeteries, torturing Greek priests, raping women and mutilating men. Catholic Uniate Georgians were not spared. Hofmann drew the lesson from Septembriana, that even urban, pluralistic societies may be fragile, and religious or ethnic hatred can rapidly lead to violence. With a view to the current situation in Germany, whose status as a country of immigration is being tested by the refugee crisis, she introduced the keynote speaker, Michael Asderis, author of a book on the history of Istanbul as seen through family history….

There is much more. Read the rest here.

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