The Armenian Genocide: why denial harms us all

By Simon Barrow
May 4, 2018

Ten days ago we marked the 103rd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide (24 April 2018). It was remembered all over the world. Ekklesia has been specifically engaging seriously with the issues this awful episode in human history raises since October 2007. We have published over 40 news articles and commentary pieces, most notably by our valued associate and friend Dr Harry Hagopian, himself a member of the Armenian Diaspora across the world. Increasingly, we and others ahve also used social media to tell the painful stories and point to the necessary lessons.

With the increased public and political awareness the Genocide has elicited over the past ten years, it would be easy to think that the time of forgetting had passed. Regrettably, that is not true. 'Forgetting', let us note, is not a mere lapse of memory or a lack of knowledge. It is a matter of deliberately refusing to face up to the consequences of a toxic history which transmits itself from generation to generation and which requires acts of transformational change to ensure that 'never again' means a 'no' to denial and a 'yes' to making those amends that can rebuild relationships and create a different future.

Tragically, Turkey itoday remains in this state of systematic denial, involving not just refusal to acknowledge but the active suppression of historically verified truth. This is a massive problem for the country, for Turks and for all who wish the best for the nation and region. You cannot build a better future on a foundation of convenient untruths. 

As Dr Hagopian writes: "There is hardly an Armenian family in the Diaspora that cannot trace its roots to Ottoman Turkey and some grandparent or great grandparent who was killed during this orgy of murder and spoliation of Armenian life and property under the cover of WWI. My own family were not spared of those crimes."

He continues: "Many people suggest that this genocide is now part of the annals of history and should be forgotten so that the new Armenian generations can move forward and focus on their future rather than constantly mourn their past. But those people do not understand the Armenian ethos that has been traumatised by those crimes. And while Armenians have risen up from the ashes and re-constituted communities across the world, the genocide continues in different ways today as their culture and history are scavenged by those who simply do not wish for the existence of Armenians."

This is both a very specific challenge -- and a universal one. The denial of the Other in all their resonant reality is at the root of continuing acts of murder, violence and abuse against peoples across the world.

So until denial is replaced by painful truth-telling, we will remember. The healing of memories, lives and relations depends upon it. 


© Simon Barrow is Director of Ekklesia. 

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