Monday, 13 April 2015

Well Done Pope Francis for Calling the Armenian Genocide What It Was

Pope Francis has done something brave and important by speaking out about the Armenian genocide, one of Europe's best-kept secrets. It was not just a slaughter, it was not just a massacre, it was an extermination of Christians on a genocidal scale. And our biassed media are reluctant either to refer to it or to call the victims Christian martyrs as they undoubtedly were.
Let the present government in Turkey rage and storm  - it shows them in their true colours. Their denial of this ugly fact of their past adds to the shame. The Muslim Turks exterminated Christians on a massive scale during the First World War. In 1914 there were two million Armenian Christians in the Ottoman Empire. By 1918 there  were only about 400,000 left, mostly living in or near Istanbul. All the rest had been rounded up, driven from their homes, shot, bayoneted or herded northwards into the Syrian desert where they were deliberately left to starve. 

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Even at the time there were reporters and photographers who recorded what was going on, and sent the facts to the newspapers, and many of these photographs have been preserved and placed on websites to provide valuable testimony. The Turks still deny what happened and claim that the only violence was mutual, between warring communities. However, the pictures and the testimonials of survivors and their children establish that this is not true.
The extermination of Christians under Muslim rule had been going on for centuries and this was just the last chapter in a long tale of ruthless oppression, Greek and Middle Eastern Christians were gradually but systematically exterminated, so that Palestine and other Christian majority areas under the Byzantine Empire eventually became predominantly Muslim. There were massacres of Armenians by Turks in 1894, 1895, 1896, 1909, and again between 1920 and 1923.
            In the Great War Turkey was allied to Germany and its genocide of Armenians provided Hitler with the model for his own policies. "Who remembers the Armenians?" he asked. 
            Well, today Pope Francis did. Even more promising is the fact that he held an Armenian-rite mass attended by leaders of the Armenian Christian church. This centenary matters because  we are living in a time of rising persecution of Christians by fanatical and ruthless Muslims.
In Paris there is a public memorial to the Armenians, victims of the first and the least acknowledged genocide of the twentieth century. It would be a good idea to have one in London, and what a pity our own limp, spineless Anglican clergy are not taking a lead in this. It would be a lot better than enacting the pointless farce of a state funeral for Richard III.

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