On April 24, 1915, a large group of Armenian intellectuals was rounded up and killed by the Ottoman government. This was followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches leading to the Syrian desert. Driven forward by military escorts, the deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to periodic robbery, rape, and massacre.The total number of people killed as a result has been estimated at 1.5 million. A further 1 million were displaced.It was the first genocide of the 20th century and continued until 1923. Armenians remember the ANZAC soldiers who saw the injustice that they were suffering and stopped to help them. The ANZACs created the first relief for the victims of the Armenian Genocide and provided them with the much needed medical care, and in many instances, keeping them safe from the hands of the Turkish soldiers. Some in the Turkish community also provided protection to the Armenian people.
(A summary of further historical information here).
On Monday 8th May 2023, the VCC EO Rev Sandy Boyce met with Michael Kolokossian, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee (ANC) of Australia, and Danielle Der Bedrossian, ANC Administrator.
The Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU) is the peak public affairs body serving the 50,000 Armenian-Australian community and directly represents over 34 organisations nationwide.
ANC-AU’s primary concern is to have the Armenian massacres and forced deportations in 1915 recognised formally as genocide by the Federal Parliament, and to support the Christian Republic of Armenia and Artsakh.
In 2015, the 14th Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia formally acknowledged that the Armenian massacres and forced deportations in 1915 constituted a Genocide, and commended the NSW and SA governments in acknowledging the Armenian Genocide and encouraged the Federal and other state governments to do the same.
‘The UCA was the third denomination at a national level to acknowledge the Genocide.
“In the years of 1915-1918, the Armenian people were under the grip of annihilation and the brutal plans of genocide – but our gracious and loving God saved this first Christian nation from being wiped out. By accepting the proposal, the (UCA) Assembly will keep the story of the first Christian nation alive”.Rev. Dr. Youmshajekian, former Minister of Armenian Evangelical Uniting Church in Sydney
The World Council of Churches has also formally acknowledged the genocide.
Today, the indigenous Christian Armenians of the Republic of Artsakh continue to experience ethnic cleansing by the Republic of Azerbaijan. Following the 2020 Artsakh war and the ethnic cleansing and cultural desecration that was occurring, the President of the NSW Ecumenical Council, Dr. Ray Williamson, called upon UNESCO to condemn Azerbaijan’s desecration of Armenian churches.
In September 2022, the NCCA assisted the Armenian community in appealing directly to Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Senator the Hon. Penny Wong, calling on the Federal Government to assist in securing just and sustainable peace for Armenia and Artsakh.
The letter also called on the Australian Government to take appropriate measures to safeguard the ongoing desecration of religious and cultural sites in the currently occupied territories of the Republic of Artsakh and to aid efforts to release Armenian prisoners of war illegally imprisoned by Azerbaijan. More here.
As a result of the NCCA’s support and advocacy, Australia acknowledged Azerbaijan’s aggression against the Christian Armenians.
Some three dozen countries, hundreds of local government bodies and international organizations including the World Council of Churches have so far recognized the killings of 1.5 million Armenians as Genocide. Turkey denies to this day.
Last week (May 3), Turkey shut down airspace to Armenian flights heading to a third destination in response to the unveiling of a monument in Yerevan. The monument commemorates those involved in an assassination plot against Ottoman Turkish officials responsible for masterminding and committing the Armenian Genocide. Turkey has indicated it would take further steps if the monument is not removed.
Also, the Azerbaijan blockade of the Lachin corridor in Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh) remains in place, with devastating impact on the Armenian community. The NCCA and UCA NSW/ACT Synod have both issued statements expressing concern about what is happening.