During a special Mass held in 2015 to mark the centenary of the Armenian Genocide, the Holy Father referred to “three massive and unprecedented tragedies” of the past century. “The first, which is widely considered the first genocide of the twentieth century, struck your own Armenian people,” he said, quoting a declaration signed in 2001 by Pope John Paul II and Kerekin II, leader of the Armenian church (Source and Video). What was he talking about?
Yet atrocities like this, along with the Holocaust and the Ukrainian Holodomor were instrumental in the coining of the word ‘genocide’ in the first place, by ‘combining the Greek word ‘geno,’ for race or tribe and the Latin word ‘cide,’ for killing.’
History repeats itself and we know that the Armenian Genocide was not the first such ethnic cleansing to happen, nor the last. Each genocide is an atrocity on a monumental scale, too big to comprehend. Yet some are more well known than others. Some are in danger of slipping away between the pages of the history books. With that in mind, here are ten facts that you may not know about the Armenian genocide.
1. It is estimated that between 800,000 and 1.5 million ethnic Armenians were systematically killed by the administration of Ottoman Empire, which originated from what is now present-day Turkey.
2. It began on 24th April 1915, when 250 Armenians were arrested and deported by the authorities. These people were academics and local leaders. Most of them did not survive.
3. The Armenians are a Christian people and Armenia was the first ever state to take Christianity as their state religion in 301 AD. The Genocide was a concentrated effort to rid the region of Christianity and anyone who practiced it.
4. Hitler, in 1939, as he prepared to invade Poland, said that he was ready to send to ‘death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language’ in order to gain ‘living space’. He followed up his comments with the chilling rhetorical question: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” This is a tragic example of how indifference does not make a situation go away; it only breeds more tragedy.
5. Only 24 states around the world recognize the Armenian Genocide as a genocide. Other countries stay silent on it, or refer to it in other ways without using the word, so as not to harm relations with present day Turkey, who does not recognize it and denies the numbers killed. However, historians collectively agree that it was a genocide. To see how your country views the Armenian Genocide, you can check out this page here.
6. The Armenians were systematically killed in a variety of ways. Keep in mind here that this was a people who were originally happily integrated members of society; doctors, teachers, academics, artists, families, etc. Firstly, the men were called up, leaving women, children and old men behind defenseless. Concentration camps were set up. Women and girls were systematically raped so that, anecdotally it is said that virtually all Armenian women were sexually abused in this way, often damaged to the point of death. Men were killed in mass shootings or hangings, children were tragically and callously disposed of by drowning, injecting with T.B, or shot in lines. Women and children were sent on hunger marches across the desert to Syria, where they were sold, if they hadn’t died on the way.
7. Typically, a genocide will ‘progress’ in 8 stages, exactly as the Armenian Genocide did.
The 8 Stages of the Armenian Genocide
The majority of the information for this was taken from the website for the Armenian Genocide Centenary, and you can find out more here.
8. The genocide continued until October 30th, 1918, when the Ottoman Empire collapsed. The First World War had been a useful concealment for the genocide. Although Pope Benedict XV, along with officials from other countries, spoke out during the genocide, it was consistently denied by the Ottoman administration. However, the killing of Armenians continued until 1923. By then, an estimated 1.5 million Armenians had been killed, hundreds of thousands were refugees in other countries and the population had been effectively wiped off the map of their historic homeland.
***Some of the images that follow are very graphic; user discretion advised.***
In his post on the genocide, (The Forgotten Genocide: Why It Matters Today) Raymond Ibrahim recounted the story of a woman who claimed to have witnessed the brutal crucifixion of 16 young girls.
In her memoir, Ravished Armenia, Aurora Mardiganian described being raped and thrown into a harem (which agrees with Islam’s rules of war). Unlike thousands of other Armenian girls who were discarded after being defiled, she managed to escape. In the city of Malatia, she saw 16 Christian girls crucified: “Each girl had been nailed alive upon her cross, spikes through her feet and hands, only their hair blown by the wind, covered their bodies.” Such scenes were portrayed in the 1919 documentary film Auction of Souls, some of which is based on Mardiganian’s memoirs.
Please join us in remembering the lives that were lost in ethnic and religious mass murder. We pray together for an end to all genocide and injustice that occurs in our world today.
Prayer to End Genocide
O Lord, we cry to you, with deep pain in our hearts and souls.
Our hearts ache, because of genocide caused by
the lust for power,
cruel hatred for others,
because of their race, religion or physical differences.
God of all, the heavens weep, the winds whisper
through this great world you have created.
We hear and feel the weeping in our own souls.
Open our eyes and cleanse our souls
that we may always remember the awful injustices.
How long, O God, will we look with empty souls and eyes, how long?
The answer, “Until you feel my pain for all my children.”
We cry in shame. Forgive us Lord.