Thursday, April 24, 2008

April 24th

Today we remember 1.5 million Armenians who were systematically annihilated by the Ottoman Empire.  This picture is of the Tsitsernakabert, The Genocide Memorial.  This is a must for anyone who ever visits Armenia and for Armenian's around the world it is a symbol of mourning, death, sadness and loss.  But it also clearly represents life, survival, and endurance.  I have been to the Tsitsernakabert three times...the 1st was in 1991 when a few of us from our Vacation Bible School work group stole away at night and in silence made our way up the walk.  The movement of the eternal flame on the 12 'pillars'; dancing and moving brought even more focus to the orange and yellow fire.  You do not feel alone when you stand inside the monument especially on April 24th when thousands upon thousands of locals, odars (if you don't know what this word means you probably are means foreigner or non-Armenian), and Diasporan Armenians make their way to pay homage to the lives that were cut off.  They come in groups and buy roses, tulips, carnations, lilacs, and other colorful stems to lay around the circle inside the monument.  Stacking of long stemmed flowers creates a floral wall of remembrance and honor.  The blooms are laid by men and women, young and old.  Some make the sign of the Cross after they deposit their flower, others pray, the soldiers salute, and others shed tears.  In the United States there is much political controversy about the Genocide and who supports memorandums and such.  In Azerbijan, today there was yet another article about the "So-Called-Armenian-Genocide"...there are many who believe it is all a lie.  Of course this saddens me because our heritage has proclaimed with their blood the truth and wether or not the Turks ever admit their culpability will not change the facts.  
The second time I went to Tsitsernakabert was with Mariel Howsepian Rodriguez on her Easter week visit to Yerevan.  When you take a tour you first go to the museum that is actually underground (so that the vista of the monument is not spoiled) and you see horrible photos of the hangings, death marches, and starvation.  You read actual letters and documents from Missionaries, Diplomats, Soldiers, and people from outside of Armenia who witnessed the brutality and tried to make it stop.  Soil from six different providences are preserved to remember the land of which the most devastation occurred and status reports of numbers of people, churches and land size are listed from before and after the Genocide.  But the most moving aspect of the museum is an outdoor "courtyard"; it is actually a half-circle with 12 panels of stone (similar to the pitched walls of the monument) on these stone walls are quotes from non-Armenian eye-witnesses to the genocide.  The docent says, "There were thousands of eye-witnesses to the atrocities of the Genocide there are 12 here who stand as a jury.  They have brought in their verdict of "Guilty" but YOU ARE THE JUDGE!"  with that she leaves you alone to walk outside, to ponder her words, to actually judge.  For me it is not a question of believing or disbelieving...the facts are clear; we know the truth.  Usually for believing Christians the question is more, "Why do we keep "Remembering" this awful part of our history?" or "If we are Christians aren't we supposed to forgive and forget?"  To this I say we always REMEMBER.  We have FORGIVEN but we don't FORGET.  Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper and He said, "Do this in Remembrance of Me!  And Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 11, as often as you eat the bread and drink the cup you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.  We REMEMBER Jesus death...he bore our sins on the cross, he gave his life as a ransom for ours.  We must remember Jesus death because it reminds us of WHO WE ARE.  I think of the Genocide a similar way; we remember not to hate the Turks or to wallow in our pain and suffering.  We REMEMBER the Genocide because it reminds us of WHO WE ARE.  It reminds us that our ancestors would rather be driven out of their homes, starved, and killed then to renounce Christ.  I remember because our forebarrers DIED for their faith in JESUS CHRIST and some days I can't even LIVE properly for Him.  I remember because it keeps in my mind how sinful we ALL are and in DESPERATE need of a SAVIOR.  I remember because I am a Christian because of CHRIST'S suffering and dying 1st and foremost and because my great-grand parents, grand parents, and parents faithfulness to Jesus and His message of salvation.  Today is April 24th; a day to remember.  Blessings Jonelle;)


Mick Fuller said...

thank you.
we will REMEMBER

Mariel Howsepian-Rodriguez said...

The other day, my sixth grade students brought up the march in Los Angeles (they had seen it on TV), and wanted to know why Armenians were marching. I explained to them briefly about the genocide, the facts, and brought up the Holocaust and Darfur, but the facts don't get into the meaning of rememberance. Reading "Forgotten Bread," an anthology of works by first generation Armenian-Americans, this conflict of remembering, forgiving, forgetting, keeps resurfacing. Jonelle, I think you said this beautifully.