The Uniting Church in Australia has formally acknowledged that the Armenian massacres and forced deportations constitute a genocide.
The UCA is the third denomination at a national level to acknowledge the genocide that took place 100 years ago.
Carried out during and after World War I under the Turkish Government, the genocide was implemented in two phases – the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population and subjection of army conscripts to forced labour.
This was followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches leading to the Syrian desert.
Driven forward by military escorts, the deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to periodic robbery, rape, and massacre.
The total number of people killed as a result has been estimated at 1.5 million. A further one million were displaced.
Rev. Dr Krikor Youmshajekian from St Andrews Longueville Uniting Church and former minister at the Willoughby Armenian Evangelical Uniting Church of Sydney addressed the Assembly.
“In the years of 1915-1918, the Armenian people were under the grip of annihilation and the brutal plans of genocide – but God saved this first Christian nation from being wiped out, said Rev. Dr Youmshajekian.
The origins of the Armenian people date back to Noah. In 301 CE they became the first Christian nation and 100 years later developed their own alphabet and language which is still used today.
Rev. Dr Youmshajekian said that many countries and many communities in Australia had been involved in providing support, relief, food, and safe places for the Armenian people to live.
“By accepting this proposal the assembly will keep the story of the first Christian nation alive,” he said, giving thanks to the many Uniting Church congregations who had held liturgies to commemorate the genocide.
Rev. Dr Chris Walker, National Consultant for Christian Unity Doctrine and Worship, told the Assembly that it was deeply fitting for the Uniting Church to make give this acknowledgement as the Armenian people mark the 100 year anniversary of the Genocide.
Rev. Dr Walker acknowledged that both the World Christian Council and the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA)had made statements acknowledging the massacre that took place and the suffering of the Armenian community.
“Accepting this proposal would be an act of ecumenical solidarity with the Armenian people who have suffered so much and continue to do so.”
After the proposal was adopted a prayer was offered by the NSW Moderator Rev. Dr Myung Hwa Park, both sung and spoken in Korean and English.
The 14th Assembly has also agreed to:
- commend the NSW and SA governments in acknowledging the Armenian Genocide and encourage the Federal and other state governments to do the same
- affirm the value of recognising a date on or near the anniversary of the Armenian genocide, as a day of observance and commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.
- Request the National Consultant Christian Unity, Doctrine and Worship to prepare
(a) a prayer to be provided for all congregations of the UCA for use on the day; and
(b) in consultation with others, educational and liturgical resources for congregations to use.