It is the 24th of April 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1915.
The 24th of April, 1915, is a date that lives in infamy. It was on this day that some 600 Armenian leaders were arrested and executed. This was the beginning of the Armenian genocide, the systematic, if not clumsy, killing of around 1.5 million Armenians, denizens of the oldest Christian kingdom in the world.
There are two prominent issues pertaining to the genocide that concern us here on the Christian History Almanac. Let's break those down.
You may know that calling this event a "genocide" has been something of a political hot potato. As of writing this, the United States still will not refer to the event as a genocide. And despite promising to do so, former President Obama balked. So, why is this so controversial? Turkey, formerly a large part of the Ottoman Empire, has threatened sanctions on any country that would refer to this event as a genocide. Turkey's geographic location and its role as a secular Islamic state have led many states to treat them with kid gloves.
And who likes to be told they did a genocide? And so the apologists say, "well, actually, Genocide wasn't a term used until the 1940s." And then the other guy is all, "yeah, but the dude that invented the term came up with it by studying the Turkish treatment of the Armenians in the early 20th century". So then, the first guy gets mad and says, "ok, but the NAZI's were systematic in their killing…" and then… well, it keeps going, and everyone is worse off. So, point #1 about the Armenian genocide:
Teaching history is often similar to preaching the law. There's a lot of damnation and condemnation and sound and fury and madness.
There is good news, but you have to look for it, and then it tends to be just the slightest glimmer of that future world. The truth is that nature (human and otherwise) is, as Tennyson suggested, "red in tooth and claw." We can call it genocide, ethnocide, populicide, etc. The important point is that no kingdom or empire is free of this sin, Turks, Nazis, Romans, Britons, Americans. As Christians, with primary citizenship not of this world, we can see the particular faults of all nations and empires on this side of eternity.
And so point two: this was primarily motivated by religion. The Muslim Turks were especially wary of the Armenian Christians who had connections that flanked the crumbling Ottoman Empire. Do you remember Bulgaria? The Bulgarians leaned on their Christian identity to leverage the West's support in becoming independent from the Ottoman Empire.
As World War 1 broke out, you may remember that the Ottoman Empire allied itself with the Germans. The Russians associated themselves (at least until their revolution) with the anti-German West. If you go to the map, you will find that the former kingdom of Armenia is adjacent to Russia. The connection between the Russian Orthodox Christians and the Armenian Orthodox Christians was a long-standing concern by the Ottoman Turks.
The rise of the Committee of Union and Progress, or CUP, was also known as the Young Turks, which took power in 1914. The ancient and once august Ottoman Empire was on its last legs, and these new radicals sought a scapegoat. The despised Christian Armenians were accused of helping Russian spies, Armenian bakers poisoning bread given to Turkish soldiers, etc. So Mehmet Talaat and the other leaders of the Young Turks resolved to eliminate the Armenian people such that in their own words: there was only one left that could be kept at a museum.
Of course, there is so much to the story, and you may want to look into this deeper. For our sake, here on the CHA, we remember this event as a tragedy that points us to the one genuinely tragic story of the fall and then to the hope that comes with our redemption.
It is our faith in sin, redemption, and the belief that everything will be ok that allows us to look at the world in all its ugly, gory, genocidal acts and point to the one who says, "Behold, I am coming soon."
Today we remember the beginning of one of the first tragedies of the murderous 20th century, the Armenian genocide, which came to a fever pitch with the arrest and murder of some 600 Armenian Christians on this, the 24th of April in 1915.
You can check out more on the history of Armenian Christianity by going to our shows featuring Gregory the Illuminator and Mesrop Mashtots.
The reading for today comes from a woman who saw another 20th-century genocide. This is a word on forgiveness from Corrie Ten Boom.
"Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him....Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness....And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on his. When he tells us to love our enemies, he gives along with the command, the love itself."
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 24th of April 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by Christopher Gillespie, who reminds you that kid gloves are made from the skin of a baby goat and are not meant for hitting children. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis who once lived in Little Armenia, East Hollywood, on Mariposa Avenue. You can catch us here every day and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true. Everything is going to be ok.