On July 6 2015, a three-day conference on the Syriac Genocide, entitled “Martyrdom and Faith,” began at Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, Lebanon, in the presence of six Christian Religious Heads of the region. During the opening session, His Holiness Aram I spoke to the conference, addressing the following points:
- In legal terms, the violence against Armenians, Syriacs, Greeks and other Christian communities that occurred within the Ottoman Empire in 1915, in both purpose and method, was genocide. In 1915 the term Genocide did not yet exist in the dictionary of international law, but in their intent, planning, organization and execution, the actions of the Ottoman Turks in 1915 were tantamount to what has been defined in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as genocide.
- According to international law, a state is responsible for the unlawful acts performed by its predecessors if that state has continued to exist in an uninterrupted way irrespective of regime change. The Republic of Turkey is the continuation of the Ottoman Empire of 1915 with all its rights and obligations. Hence, the modern Turkish State carries the responsibility of the Genocide and is accountable to the victim groups.
- According to international law, genocide is a crime against humanity with the intent to destroy the victim group in whole or in part. The perpetrators are subject to being charged and tried in international penal tribunals. This process implies recognition of the genocide and the right of the victims to demand restitution.
- Armenians and Syriacs everywhere are commemorating the 100th anniversary of their genocide in 2015. During each commemoration we recommit ourselves to the legacy of the victims and continue to demand the restitution of our properties. Armenians, Syriacs and Greeks have thousands of churches, monasteries and other properties belonging to their Churches. Some have been destroyed or appropriated. We demand the return of those properties to the rightful owners.
- Our demands are based on legal and political, not religious, grounds. For centuries Christians and Muslims in the Middle East have lived together in harmony. The recent violence and persecutions of Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq is tantamount to genocide. All religions and states must condemn it absolutely.