Let Us Not Give Up: 105 Years of Fighting Genocide Denial

Pastor HaigAn Armenian Genocide Commemoration Message by Rev. Dr. Haig Kherlopian, Pastor of the Armenian Evangelical Church of New York (AECNYC) and AMAA Board Member

Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and plead the widow’s cause. -Isaiah 1:17

I will never forget ordering my iced coffee at Starbucks on October 29th, 2019. As I was waiting for my order, I was watching C-Span on my phone, seeing the US House of Representatives vote on H. Res. 296, which states that it is U.S. policy to: “(1) commemorate the Armenian Genocide, the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923; (2) reject efforts to associate the U.S. government with efforts to deny the existence of the Armenian Genocide or any genocide; and (3) encourage education and public understanding about the Armenian Genocide.” The votes were being tallied as I was waiting for the barista to finish pouring the coffee over the ice. Completely shocked, I saw the vote tally for ‘yes’ rise above 400 votes to recognize what happened to our people as Genocide. I was overcome with emotions. Tears of joy, relief, and justice watered my eyes as the barista mispronounced “Haig” and said that my Grande Ice Coffee was ready.

Though it is important to celebrate the victories like the ones we had in both the United States House of Representatives and the Senate over Armenian Genocide recognition, it is vital to know that the cause of Armenian Genocide recognition is far from over. The Turkish government is still in denial of the sins of their ancestors. In fact, shortly after the House of Representatives passed H. Res. 296., President Erdogan, denied the Armenian Genocide in front of President Trump and the American media. Even if it takes another 105 years, we must not forget the evil of having 1.5 million of our people murdered and having our culture completely uprooted from its historic lands. We must continue to seek justice and correct oppression until the Turkish government and people confess the sin of the Armenian Genocide.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. -Matthew 5:43-45

Christianity is radical in that it is appropriate to forgive those who sin against us and that it is a commandment from Christ to love our enemies. We must choose to forgive those who have done great evil to our ancestors in order to be children of God. Jesus says that it is God the Father’s job to judge and expose the righteous and unrighteous, but that it is our job to forgive, bless, and love those who persecute us. Forgiveness is not contingent upon the perpetrators’ recognition of their crime. When Christ forgave us on the cross, he did not wait for an apology, he forgave. You can forgive someone who is not willing to change. In the pursuit of Genocide Recognition, we must make sure there is not hatred in our heart by forgiving and blessing those who continue to deny the sins of their ancestors when it comes to the Armenian Genocide. I understand that this is a difficult task to do, but it is possible with God’s help and knowing that Christ has forgiven us.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. -Galatians 6:9

For over a century the Armenian Missionary Association of America, has responded against the evil of the Armenian Genocide by doing good. The AMAA has helped rebuild the Armenian civilization by championing the cause of the widow and the orphan, by building schools and churches, by providing relief to those in need, and the list goes on. We must not grow tired of giving donations and partnering with programs AMAA provides that focus on making Armenian culture flourish not just in the homeland but throughout the diaspora.

Though the wounds of the Armenian Genocide have been open for 105 years, we must not become tired in the fight to get recognition from the Turkish government. We must continue to be obedient to the teachings of Jesus Christ. We must love our enemies and never repay evil with evil, but overcome evil with good. Let us not grow weary of doing what is right. Let us not give up in continuing to seek justice for our ancestors who were the victims of Genocide.