By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
WASHINGTON/ISTANBUL (BosNewsLife)— More than a century after one of the worst massacres of Christians, U.S. President Joe Biden formally declared the systemic killing and deportation of some 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Empire forces “genocide.”
His announcement prompted a sharp response from Turkey, the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, which has denied that Armenians were singled out for killings.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned his country “will not be given lessons on our history from anyone.”
But a grateful Armenia appreciated Biden’s “principled position” as a step toward “the restoration of truth and historical justice.”
Biden kept a campaign promise he made a year ago Saturday — the annual commemoration of Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.
He had pledged to recognize that the events that began in 1915 were a deliberate effort to wipe out Armenians.
LEGISLATORS PRESSURE BIDEN
In recent days 100 bipartisan legislators had urged Biden to keep his campaign promise, despite opposition from Turkey, a key ally in the NATO military alliance.
“The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today,” Biden said in a statement. “We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated.”
Besides those being killed, about two million Armenians were deported by the mainly Muslim Ottoman forces. The genocide left deep wounds among Armenians who mostly adhere to the Armenian Apostolic Church, a non-Chalcedonian denomination, the world’s oldest national church.
According to experts, Christianity began to spread in Armenia soon after the death and resurrecting of Jesus Christ due to the efforts of two of His apostles, Thaddeus and Bartholomew.
In the early 4th century, the Kingdom of Armenia became the first state to adopt Christianity as a state religion.
U.S. President Joe Biden made clear on Saturday that the Amernians’ heritage and suffering in the genocide should not be forgotten. “Today, as we mourn what was lost, let us also turn our eyes to the future—toward the world that we wish to build for our children,” Biden stressed in his historical remarks.
DAILY EVILS RECALLED
“A world unstained by the daily evils of bigotry and intolerance, where human rights are respected, and where all people can pursue their lives in dignity and security. Let us renew our shared resolve to prevent future atrocities from occurring anywhere in the world. And let us pursue healing and reconciliation for all the people of the world,” the president added.
The move comes a year and a half after the U.S. Senate passed a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide in Turkey.
Armenian National Committee of America Chairman Raffi Hamparian praised Biden for his remarks. “President Biden’s principled stand on the Armenian Genocide today — powerfully overriding Ankara’s foreign veto against honest American remembrance of this crime — pivots America toward the justice deserved and the security required for the future of the Armenian nation — a landlocked, blockaded, genocide-survivor state,” he stressed in a declaration.
Saturday’s U.S. recognition of the genocide came as an encouragement to Armenian Christians in the troubled region of Nagorno-Karabakh. In recent months churches disappeared or were damaged there in fighting over the territory with neighboring Azerbaijan.
The conflict saw Azerbaijan, a mainly Muslim nation, reclaim control over large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas Armenian forces held for more than a quarter-century.
Christians said that during a visit to Nagorno-Karabakh in March, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev ordered removing medieval Armenian inscriptions from churches and other monuments. He reportedly claimed that the inscriptions were not genuine.
THOUSANDS KILLED AGAIN
Fighting erupted between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces on September 27. It ended on November 10 when a Russian-brokered peace deal introduced a tense ceasefire.
Thousands were killed, and thousands fled their homes in the most bloody fighting in the region since the early 1990s.
That reality has added to anxiety among Armenians who grew up with the legacy of the genocide in World War I.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a prominent advocacy group lobbying for Armenians and other persecuted Christians, hopes Biden’s remarks will help heal the wounds of history.
The chief executive officer of CSW-USA, Kori Porter, suggested to Worthy News that the “importance of President Biden’s…formal affirmation of the Armenian genocide cannot be overstated. Over a century after these crimes were committed, Armenians around the world have continued to be denied justice and truth.”