Visitors browse through an exhibit and interactive art project called “witness” about the Armenian genocide of 1915 at Grand Park in Los Angeles in 2015. Michael Robinson / TNS
On April 15, Armenians in Connecticut and all over the world will commemorate the Armenian Genocide of 1915, when more than 1.5 million Armenians perished in a vicious and unthinkable state action by the Ottoman Empire.
Despite overwhelming and virtually incontrovertible evidence of that horrific tragedy, the government of Turkey continues to shamelessly deny it. The United States, which had sidestepped the recognition issue for many years so as not to offend its NATO ally, formally recognized and condemned the genocide in 2020 with resolutions of both houses of Congress and then by President Joe Biden’s statement in 2021, courageously recognizing the genocide, which said of the victims, “We honor their story. We see that pain. We affirm the history … The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide.”
Efforts for continued condemnation of all genocides is important to honor those who perished during those horrible times but equally to deter the ongoing threats of future genocides. Continued vigilance is needed as the world today witnesses an escalation of brutality in Ukraine, which the government now condemns as genocide. Continued atrocities in the historic Armenian region known as Artsakh further demonstrate the need to watchfully condemn ongoing genocides.
In addition to the increasing number recognition of the Armenian genocide by scholars, journalists and governments have been another event that has uplifted the hearts and souls of Armenians all around the world: In 2015, the year of the 100th commemoration of that tragic event, the Armenian Church took an unprecedented and truly remarkable step: The canonization of the martyrs of the genocide by the Armenian Church. The Synod of Bishops of the Armenian Apostolic Church, under the auspices the Armenian Catholicos, formally recognized those who perished in the Genocide as martyrs and canonized them as saints of the Armenian Church.
The event was reported to be the largest canonization service in history. It was an occurrence of enormous consequence. It had been some 500 years since the last time the Armenian Church had canonized a new saint. While not widely reported in non-Armenian communities, the historic event was reverently and proudly proclaimed throughout Armenia and the diaspora. It was a monumental event filled with hope and symbolism.
His Eminence Archbishop Daniel Findikyan, primate of the Armenian Diocese of the Armenian Church in America, Eastern Region, before his ordination, produced a magnificent monograph titled “From Victims to Martyrs.” In it he wrote: “Never in (the) history of the Armenian Church had new saints been proclaimed with greater splendor, excitement or inclusiveness — every hierarchical jurisdiction of the Armenian Church was represented, as were a few sister churches throughout the world. … Unprecedented as well was the Armenian Church’s readiness, after one hundred years, to discern God’s redeeming grace from within the darkness and evil of that great crime against humanity.”
The Genocide victims are now martyrs. They can now provide intercession. Instead of praying for them, we now pray to them. It is something of incredible mystery and relevance. In the words of Father Untzag Nalbandian, pastor of Trumbull’s Holy Ascension Armenian Church “Many of us are the sons and daughters of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide, who gave us a new life in this country and or wherever they went. Since 2015, our generation became the children of saints, which puts on us a greater responsibility to be good, caring, helpful, and compassionate towards others. Genocide against one ethnic group is genocide against all humanity. We remember our martyrs, but now we also can ask for their intercession.”
Along with the canonization of the martyrs came the consecration and anointment of a new icon depicting the Holy Martyrs. It is present in all Armenian churches.
The canonization has proved to be an inspirational event for the entire Armenian community, and for the world. It is a reminder that despite the passage of time, helpless victims of the Armenian Genocide will be never be forgotten, but rather will be remembered for their faith and will forever serve to intercede on behalf of all of their descendants.
Harry Mazadoorian lives in Kensington. His parents were survivors of the Armenian Genocide in which three of his grandparents perished.