Silence of the Churches

Tomorrow, on April 29th, Rome’s white marble Trevi Fountain—its swirling waters and the charging baroque statues of Oceanus, his sea shell chariot and attendant tritons and horses—will all be turned blood red in a campaign to raise awareness about modern day Christian martyrs. The popular . . . . Continue Reading »

After the “G-word” has been spoken

In the early Church, witnesses to the faith who had been persecuted and tortured but not killed were known as “martyr-confessors.” It’s been one of the great privileges of my life to have known such men and women: Czech priests who spent years as slave laborers in uranium mines; Lithuanian . . . . Continue Reading »

Calling It Genocide

In a press statement yesterday, US Secretary of State John Kerry did what many human rights activists have been asking him to do for months: he called ISIS’s treatment of Christians and other religious minorities “genocide.” Kerry’s statement came as a surprise. For months, the State . . . . Continue Reading »

ISIS, Genocide, and Us

The Monuments Men was a disappointing movie, but one of its most chilling scenes sticks in my mind as an analogue to the appalling wickedness underway in the Middle East. In the film, SS Colonel Wegner supervises the destruction of art works plundered by the Nazis: treasures intended for Hitler’s . . . . Continue Reading »

A New Book on the Armenian Genocide

This year, on its hundredth anniversary, the Armenian Genocide of 1915 has received unusually prominent and long overdue attention. New, in-depth treatments have appeared from major presses: Thomas de Waal’s Great Catastrophe (Oxford), Eugene Rogan’s The Fall of the . . . . Continue Reading »

When We Cared

Today, we mark the hundredth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. On April 24th, 1915, the nationalist Young Turks attempted to wipe out the Armenians, the oldest Christian nation, which adopted Christianity twelve years before the Edict of Milan. On this solemn anniversary, it is worth recalling the great aid European and American Christians and Jews gave the Armenians. This legacy should lead us to not remain silent in the face of today’s extermination of Middle Eastern Christians and fight the politically convenient yet disturbing tendency to deny that what happened in the Ottoman Empire a century ago was genocide.For centuries, the Armenians lived in relative peace in the Ottoman Empire. The Koran’s stance towards non-Christians is inconsistent. At some points, it advocates the persecution of all non-Muslims (kaffirs), but in others it advocates tolerance for Christians and Jews, as they are “peoples of the Book.” The Ottomans applied the latter passages with regards to the followers of Abrahamic religions in its millet system, which gave religious minorities self-rule. Continue Reading »

Confession and the Armenian Genocide

My grandmother often talked about her father’s crucifixion to my mother and my aunt. Today my aunt still vividly remembers her lamenting the atrocities of the Armenian massacres that spread throughout the Ottoman Empire one hundred years ago.The family called my great grandfather Haji Dede. He was a beloved low level cleric of the Armenian Apostolic Church in the village of Tomarza in the Kayseri region of central Turkey. In 1915, the killers came to Tomarza. They put Haji Dede up on some crossbeams, and turned him upside down like Saint Peter. I have no further narrative or details of what else they did to him before he died. Other sources have noted that a pre-killing ritual of men, especially clergy, often involved pulling out their beards. Victims could undergo other barbaric humiliations and tortures, beheading, or be burned alive. The Armenians who neither survived nor were butchered outright, died on death marches. Continue Reading »

A Genocide Remembered and Denied

On the night of April 24, 1915, as Constantinople’s Armenian community was deep in slumber following Easter celebrations, Turkish gendarmes, following the orders of the Committee for Union and Progress (CUP), made their way through the ancient Byzantine capital to the homes of 250 Armenian cultural leaders. As Peter Balakian wrote in The Burning Tigris, Constantinople’s Armenian community had been “the center of Armenian cultural and intellectual life” since the nineteenth century. The Armenians were a minority community that excelled in the arts, academia, and the professional classes; successful, intelligent, and very much “the other” in a Turkey whose young rulers were influenced by the racialist ideologies then prominent in Europe. Continue Reading »