Historian George Santayana is well known for the saying: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”
This is probably the hardest post that I’ve ever written on my blog. I have so much to say, yet I have nothing to say. What can one say about a period of history that witnessed the cries and anguish of children, women and men? What words are there in human language that can perfectly convey the meaning of what pictures are depicting from the years in between 1915 and 1923. Nothing I say here can be as meaningful as someone else’s testimony who either witnessed it or heard about it from his or her parents and grandparents. I am talking about that crime that is committed against not only Armenians but also against entire humanity and most importantly against God.
I am Turkish. I was born and raised in Turkey. I love being from Turkey and I love my country. But what I am saying here is probably too dangerous for a Turk to say. The word genocide is a taboo that people are terrified to utter, let alone accepting it. What I am saying here can cost me my life and possibly be treated as treason but I beg to differ. I am thoroughly a Turk and I am thoroughly fed up with my country’s denial of what happened in 1915. I am going to call it a genocide and I am not afraid of doing so because my Lord Jesus Christ taught me to speak the truth even if it cost my life and defend the cause of the weak and not pervert justice.
It is not my intention to prove here what happened in 1915 in eastern part of Turkey. Those who want to be opened to the facts will not find it hard to find them if they look for them. The literature is filled with first hand and documentary evidence regarding this atrocity and it leaves me speechless that there are some people who have the courage and audacity to deny it. It is easier to deny that we’re breathing air than to deny that over 1.5 million Armenians were killed.
But again denial stories are quite common in Turkey. I was raised in a country where the Bible’s differences from Quran is explained by distorting historical facts and not providing the real evidence. I was raised in a country where people who are supposed to have degrees have the courage to say that the Council of Nicea was convened to decide which books belong to the New Testament canon. Christians changed the Scriptures, they say, but without a single shred of evidence how that came about. It is not so surprising to me that Armenian genocide is denied as a historical fact. Turkey has forgotten how to read history and maybe more than that, it has forgotten that it is a crime to rewrite and distort history.
Denial is killing those saints twice. Denial is the worst form of defense. My dear Turkish friends, have you ever seen someone other than a Turk patting you on the back for denying it? Have you ever convinced someone by the way you deny it? You may not realize that “we have not killed anyone” does not constitute any virtue, but it’s confession and asking forgiveness that can make a Turk or anyone worthy to listen. What you don’t realize is that by denying a worldwide known crime, you’re actually making everyone else hate Turkey. Thank you, I’ll love my country another way.
By saying all of these, my fellow countrymen who read this post will doubt my commitment to my country. They’ll say: What kind of a Turk are you? You’re selling out your country. You don’t deserve to be called a Turk. Well, if being a Turk means that I have to close my eyes to murder, injustice, racism and nationalism, then so be it, I’m not one and I don’t want to be known as one. But that’s not the truth. Being a Turk cannot mean any of that. Being a Turk cannot be equated to see ourselves better than others and I am pretty sure there are millions of Turks all around the world who will agree with me. The comments section below my testimony video on Youtube will attest to this fact. People think I am actually not Turkish and some others think that I have ulterior motives for becoming a Christian. I sometimes read them and try to pray for those who make those comments. But the Armenian Genocide and the issue of racism in general are bigger than that. It is an atrocity not because those who were killed were Armenians but they were human beings who were created in the image of God. That means God placed the greater honor on humankind by creating them in his image. This is a crime committed against Armenians who bore the image of God and hence it is a crime committed against God himself. If you think being a Turk is something to be proud of and Turks are better than anyone else, then again it is a sin committed against the God of the universe who created everyone, let me say it again, everyone in his own image. My reaction to ultra-nationalism has nothing to do with my political or national sentiments for or against any nation but my firm conviction that crimes committed against a human being is a slap in God’s face and an insult to his character.
But this post is not about me, it’s about the memories of those who were brutally killed during those years. If you’re an Armenian and reading this post, I dedicate it to you and your ancestors who suffered this inhumane act from my ancestors. If it is any consolation to you, I beg you to forgive me. I have my hands open and have nothing to offer other than my breaking heart for the people of Armenia. As a Turk, I am ashamed of my country’s stance today and I beg you to not hate them the same way they did back then. I have a better option.
As I read about the genocide and watch documentaries and listen to testimonies, one thing jumps up in my heart: hatred toward what’s been done. Then I remember the One who was tortured and killed by those who hated him. Yet he gave his life for the very people by whom he was crucified. I’m talking about that man from Nazareth who gave his life for the sins of the world. His death accomplished so much more than this but in the least He accomplished this: He taught us who God is and what a human being ought to be. I know that my Armenian friends’ wounds won’t be completely healed as long as Turkey denies that there was ever a genocide but those who have seen Jesus on the cross can truly and genuinely forgive.
Tilmann Geske was killed in Malatya in 2007 for his faith in Jesus, and his wife openly forgave the killers of her husband. In a recent interview, when this news reporter asked one of Tilmann’s sons as to what he would say if he was given an opportunity to talk to the murderers of his father, he said: I would give them a big hug and tell them that I love them. This is what Jesus has done in that boy’s life and this is what I pray for the people of Armenia and Turkey.
Of course, forgiveness does not and cannot mean forgetfulness. Even if Turkey one day acknowledges what happened, I will not stop remembering the memories of those victims and I will not stop asking forgiveness… over and over again. Whatever happened happened, let’s forget about it cannot be the solution for I know that God has not forgotten it. I have a great sympathy with those Christians who believe that God’s love is so immense that in the end, he will save everyone. I’m sorry but I just cannot buy that worldview. At this point a great quote from Bishop N.T. Wright comes to mind: “I find it quite impossible, reading the New Testament on the one hand and the newspaper on the other, to suppose that there will be no ultimate condemnation, no final loss, no human beings, to whom as C.S. Lewis puts it, God will eventually say ‘Thy will be done’. I wish it were otherwise but one cannot forever whistle “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy” in the darkness of Hiroshima, of Auschwitz, of the murder of children and the careless greed that enslaves millions with debts not their own. Humankind cannot, alas, bear very much reality, and the massive denial of reality by the cheap and cheerful universalism of Western liberalism has a lot to answer for.” I am going to add Armenian genocide to Wright’s list of darkness acts and agree with him that God will take the vengeance. Now I can’t remember who said it but someone in church history gave this answer about revenge: “I’d rather let God take my vengeance and do it perfectly rather than taking it into my own hands and act unjustly”. Today I hope my Armenian friends lift their hands to their Creator and read the Psalms of David. Again turning to Tom Wright: “We judge child abusers and find them guilty. We judge genocide and find it outrageous. We have rediscovered what the Psalmist knew: that for God to judge the world meant that he would, in the end, put it all to rights, straighten it out, producing not just a sigh relief all around but shouting for joy from the trees and the fields, the seas and the floods.”
This brings to my last comment. It’s not over. When God comes back to its creation with all his glory he will resurrect those Armenian Christians from the dead and it will be a day of celebration for them. Though they suffered so much during their life time, God will wipe away those tears from their eyes and all those ugly pictures of that time, hunger, thirst and pain will give way to satisfaction, exuberant joy and glory. And I speculate that somewhere in this picture those who killed them mercilessly will watch all of this and those who were so proud of being Turk will watch other Turkish Christians and Armenian victims rising up from their graves to run to each other with full speed to hug and kiss each other to celebrate the victory of Jesus with big smiles on their faces then and Jesus will turn to them and say: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).
Now can we not agree with Paul that we groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies?
I, for one, cannot wait for that day to come when I will be hugged and kissed by those Armenians who were killed 97 years ago.
In light of these realities, I find this stanza from a great Armenian poet Atom Yarjanian most fitting. With him, I can cry to the Lord as :
Oh, make haste! Our aching bodies are frozen in these pitiless glooms.
Make haste towards the chapel, where life will be more merciful,
The chapel of the graveyard where our brother sleeps!
So my dear Armenian friends,
God has not forgotten and God will remember!