U.S. Presbyterian Church recognizes Armenian Genocide

July 2014

PanARMENIAN.Net – In June 20, in Detroit, Michigan, the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to recognize the Armenian Genocide, urging congregations to commemorate its centennial in 2015, and directing church leadership to call upon the United States President and Congress to condemn the acts as genocide as well, the Church’s official website reported.

From 1915-1923 when the Ottoman Empire massacred 1.5 million Armenians and expelled one million more from their historic homeland (now Turkey), the Presbyterian Church directed relief funds to Armenians throughout those years, and its General Assemblies vehemently protested the “atrocities.”

Over the last 50 years, Presbyterian support to struggling Armenian communities has come through the Jinishian Memorial Program (JMP) which operates relief, development and spiritual missions through inter-church partnerships in Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Jerusalem, and Armenia.

This historic resolution—the first of its kind for a major American church body—was adopted by the 1.8- million-member church in response to overtures from three of its regional presbyteries: Chicago, Los Ranchos (southern California), and Palisades (New Jersey). Rev. Dr. Christine Chakoian, Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Lake Forest, IL, and Rev. Dr. Vartkes Kassouni, a retired pastor in Southern California currently serving as Parish Associate in Tustin Presbyterian Church, were the overture advocates. Also lending his testimony as an ecumenical partner was the Rev. Fr. Garabed Kochakian, Pastor of St. John’s Armenian Church, Southfield, MI. Jinishian Memorial Program leadership played a key role in initiating and supporting the process.

JMP director Eliza Minasyan says the JMP global team feels encouraged by the acknowledgement this action brings to the communities served by the Jinishian program: “Especially for our colleagues in Syria right now—these are genocide survivors of great faith and courage who are helping children and the sick and displaced in a time of great danger—this brings them hope that they are not abandoned.”

The Armenian Genocide

The Armenian Genocide (1915-23) was the deliberate and systematic destruction of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire during and just after World War I. It was characterized by massacres, and deportations involving forced marches under conditions designed to lead to the death of the deportees, with the total number of deaths reaching 1.5 million.

The majority of Armenian Diaspora communities were formed by the Genocide survivors.

Present-day Turkey denies the fact of the Armenian Genocide, justifying the atrocities as “deportation to secure Armenians”. Only a few Turkish intellectuals, including Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk and scholar Taner Akcam, speak openly about the necessity to recognize this crime against humanity.

The Armenian Genocide was recognized by Uruguay, Russia, France, Lithuania, the Italian Chamber of Deputies, majority of U.S. states, parliaments of Greece, Cyprus, Argentina, Belgium and Wales, National Council of Switzerland, Chamber of Commons of Canada, Polish Sejm, Vatican, European Parliament and the World Council of Churches.