GENOCIDE: THEN AND NOW
-- an RLPB commemorating the Centenary of the Armenian Genocide.
By Elizabeth Kendal
On the night of 24 April 1915 the Young Turk government arrested over 200 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople (Istanbul) and dragged them off to prisons in central Anatolia (modern day Turkey). This event, known today as Red Sunday, is generally regarded as the beginning of the Armenian Genocide as it was the first in a series of arrests and deportations that saw 2,345 leading Armenians arrested, deported and (mostly) summarily executed.
|Armenians 1915. Genocide Museum|
Though 24 April 1915 is regarded as the start of the genocide, the killing actually began much earlier. Through the 19th Century, as the Ottoman Empire became 'the sick man of Europe', the captive Christian nations long-subjugated within it grasped the opportunity to agitate for independence. Inevitably, Christian uprisings were brutally suppressed and Christians executed, massacred and deported into slavery. Generally Russia (long the protector of Eastern Christians) would intervene in defence of persecuted Christians as was its right according to the Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainarji, brokered by Catherine the Great in 1774. In 1853, after issuing several warnings, Russian troops crossed into the Danubian Provinces in defence of severely persecuted Greek Christians (although Europe regarded this as a mere pretext for imperialist expansion). Aware that defeat was imminent, the Turks appealed to Britain for help.
The Ottoman Empire's size, along with its location between imperial Europe and imperial Russia, afforded it economic and geo-strategic value. Not only did Britain have economic interests in keeping the Ottoman Empire united and strong for the purpose of free trade (which Britain believed was the key to world peace), it had geo-strategic interests in keeping Russia hemmed in. So Britain and France entered the Crimean War on the side of the Ottoman Turks. In exchange for British support the Sultan agreed to enact reforms aimed at improving the situation of his Christian subjects. The reforms, guaranteeing religious freedom and equality before the law, were aimed at bringing an end to the Christians' status as dhimmis (second class citizens, without rights).
|Armenians, 1895. Genocide Museum.|
Then in 1915, as World War I raged and the Ottoman Empire unravelled, Turkish authorities exploited the chaos to launch an orchestrated campaign of ethnic-religious genocide, knowing full well that it was not in the interests of any Western power to stop them.
After the war the remnant Christians were denied their right of self-determination by pro-Muslim European powers who were convinced that the best way to modernise and soften Islam was to 'dilute' it with Christians. So it is a story not only of genocide, but of abandonment and betrayal, and the stoking of God's wrath.
FAST FORWARD TO THE 21ST CENTURY.
|Assyrian refugees 2014 (Iraq)|
|Armenian refugees 2014 (Syria)|
These are days for reflection, confession and repentance. These are days for lamentation as a shameful history repeats itself and Christians suffer unimaginable horrors. Most of all, these are days for serious intercessory prayer that the God of the Cross will be at work in the darkness and that he, in grace, will turn back the battle.
LET US PRAY:
* that God will pour out a spirit of reflection and repentance over all those nations who have been complicit in genocide against the Lord's people, either through sins of commission [actual killing] or sins of omission [failing to intervene].
* for all those Christians across the Middle East today who are displaced and imminently imperilled -- especially Armenian and Assyrian Christians in conflict-wracked Syria and Iraq; may our loving heavenly Father, the Almighty King of kings and Lord of lords, provide all their needs -- material (such as shelter, security, food, water and heating) and spiritual guidance, comfort, peace, and grace.
* that the Church will rise to be the Church she is supposed to be: One Body IN Christ and a light to the world! May there be a willingness to show solidarity with those who suffer; to give generously to those in need; and to end the silence, especially our shameful silence before the Throne of Grace!
'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. . . . whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' (Matthew 25:40,45 NIV)
SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN WHOLE ARTICLE
GENOCIDE THEN AND NOW
Commemorating the Centenary of the Armenian Genocide.
The Armenian Genocide occurred a century ago in the context of wide-scale ethnic-religious cleansing in the Turkish heartland as the Ottoman Empire unravelled. Between 1915-1923, some 1.5 million Armenians, some 500,000 Greeks and up to 750,000 Assyrians had been savagely murdered, or deported and starved to death. The West abandoned and betrayed its Christian allies thinking its interests lay in a pro-Muslim foreign policy. Today, history is repeating itself as Muslim forces exploit the chaos in Syria and Iraq towards eradicating Christianity. As in 1915 Christians are being eliminated and all the West offers is a shroud of deathly silence and a campaign of propaganda against anyone who would assist Christians. These are days for the Church to repent and to rise in solidarity with the persecuted.
Churches and fellowships using the Summary above might also provide a copy of the listed prayer points to be used in their worship by people who are leading in intercessory prayer.
Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012).