[ by Charles Cameron — my latest for LapidoMedia ]
Here’s my latest for LapidoMedia, a UK organization which supports journalists with resources on the religious background of current events:
What’s in a name?
by Charles Cameron – 24th April 2015
Pope Francis with Karekin II, Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Photo: Gregorio Borgia/AP via Washington Post
A HUNDRED years ago, an estimated 1 million to 1.5 million Armenians, along with or followed shortly by other minorities including Kurds, were killed or otherwise deprived of their lands and homes by the Ottomans in an event that for sheer horror compares with the genocides of Hitler and Pol Pot.
Today, 24 April 2015, marks the centenary of start of the Armenian Genocide, known in Armenian – and also in US Presidential English – as Metz Yeghern, literally The Great Evil or Crime.
We are faced, therefore, with the Shakespearean question – does genocide by any other name smell quite so foul?
Both Jewish and Muslim traditions counsel that the needless taking of one human life is equivalent to the extinguishing of a world, as reported in the Talmud and referenced in the Qur’an – how much more so, the attempt to extinguish an entire culture?
For the Armenians, the genocidal nature of the events of 1915 is not in doubt. Turkey, on the other hand, is less willing than Germany was after the WWII Shoah to admit to so horrendous a crime – and President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an thus pressured the White House not to use the English term ‘genocide’.
In deference to Turkish geopolitical pressure, President Obama opted for the equivalent Armenian term, Metz Yeghern, taking considerable heat from those who viewed his choice as a cop-out.
The politics are well known. What is less known is the role religion plays in the event. To understand the religious dimension of the genocide, and by extension of Armenian sentiment condemning President Obama’s decision, we must understand the importance of Christianity to the Armenian people, and the changing relations between Christians and Muslims in Anatolia across the centuries.
Vicken Cheterian, in Open Wounds: Armenians, Turks, and a Century (Hurst, 2015), writes: ‘Religion and language are the two markers of Armenian identity. For many centuries, the identity of the Armenians was closely intertwined with membership of the Armenian Apostolic church, one of the religious communities of the Ottoman Empire.’
To read the rest — inclouding some philosophical thoughts on suffering I am glad to see included — go to the LapidoMedia site: BRIEFING: Armenian Genocide: what’s in a name?