The Armenian Genocide (1915 – 1923) was the first genocide of the 20th Century. Over 1 million Armenians, whose forbears comprised the first nation to become Christian, were systematically killed, and hundreds of thousands more were displaced and roamed the earth as refugees until they found safe havens in other countries, including the United States. Many who came to the US, as well as their descendants, continued to practice their faith in the Armenian Orthodox Church, one of the 37 member communions of the National Council of Churches. It is out of this relationship with our Armenian brothers and sisters that the NCC has long stood with the Armenian community in condemning the historic genocide, in urging its recognition by the global community, and in being in solidarity with the Armenian people.
These actions include responding to the suffering of the Armenians today at the hands of Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh. Indeed, due to actions by the Azerbaijani government, many today fear that another genocide of the Armenian people is taking place. While genocide typically takes place methodically over months and years, the NCC believes we may indeed be witnessing a continuation of genocide against the Armenian people, one that is borne of supremacy as in other genocides, but rather than consume the perpetrators in swift and orchestrated killing, unfolds over the long term in disparate acts of ethnic cleansing. As we have noted with alarm the illegal, humanitarian blockade of the region and the destruction of critical infrastructure, and observe the steady stream of refugees flowing through a single geographic conduit to safety, can we not assume this is in fact what is happening?
The crime that became known as “genocide” did not always have a name. According to the Pulitzer-Prize winning book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, by Ambassador Samantha Power, who spoke at the NCC’s commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide in 2004 and informed its resolve to work to end the genocide in Darfur that year, it was only after the Armenian Genocide that the world had identified the crime and raised the expectation that people of goodwill would respond to it.
In recent years, the NCC has responded to the challenges that seek to further victimize and erase the existence of the Armenian people, their history, and their culture. This response has included:
Today, as we look aghast at the renewed trauma and threat of genocide against the Armenian people, the NCC again resolves to continue facilitating humanitarian assistance, providing spiritual sustenance, and conducting political advocacy to end this conflict and the very real threat of genocide.