Saturday, October 13, 2007

Armenian church leader lauds cooperation

13 October 2007
Charlotte Observer, NC
America has turned a corner by putting principle before political expediency. There are things in this world that should never be compromised. Genocide is one of them. Indeed Turkey will also free itself and be a great country by recognizing the Genocide of Ottoman Armenians. Turkish nationalists had their say for too long. They had covered up past errors for the sake of national pride. They should know by now that the national pride resides in admitting past mistakes. If France, Germany, Belgium, Netherland, Italy, Greece, Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania, USA all tell a fellow NATO ally to recognize the genocide, then Turkey should listen to friends as opposed to give in to nationalist frenzy.
Worldwide head of church says House vote relieves `pain of people'

An issue that has caused rejoicing but also outrage and strained American diplomacy surfaced at a Charlotte luncheon Friday when about 80 religious and civic leaders shared salad, fish and pecan pie and listened to words about brotherhood.

On a U.S. tour, His Holiness Karekin II, the religious leader of Armenians worldwide, was the guest of honor at the Duke Mansion. He spoke of America's tradition of religious diversity and praised Charlotte churches for working together.

After the meal, he touched on an event that has roiled American relations with Turkey: the vote Wednesday by the House Foreign Affairs Committee recognizing the killing of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians during World War I as genocide.

The vote was strongly opposed by Turkey, a key NATO ally that has supported U.S. efforts in Iraq. Turkey rejects the description of genocide and says the deaths were due to war and civil unrest.

Speaking through an interpreter, Karekin said the House vote righted an injustice and helped relieve the "pain (Armenian) people have in their hearts" after more than 90 years when the killings by the Ottoman Turks were often denied.

It brings, he said, "consolation to the souls of the victims and the survivors."

He added that the vote was important not just for Armenians but for all peoples, to ensure such a tragedy never again happens. He mentioned the killings in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Reaction in Turkey, which did not exist as a country in 1915-17, has included angry marches and the recalling of the Turkish ambassador from Washington.

Addressing that reaction, Karekin said he wished the vote on the resolution instead would "free the (Turkish) people from these heavy emotions" and make their lives more abundant.

On a tour of Armenian churches in the United States, Karekin, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians, was scheduled to attend a service Friday night at St. Sarkis Armenian Church on Park Road, serving about 350 people in Charlotte.

The luncheon was sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte. Karekin presented an Armenian cross to Catholic Bishop Peter Jugis, putting it around his neck and kissing his cheeks.

Karekin praised America as a nation where people from many traditions live together.

A bouquet of red and white flowers decorated the table where he ate. As he stood at a lectern to speak, Karekin, after apologizing for his English, used the bouquet as a metaphor.

"The different churches are like these flowers," he said, noting the joining of many flowers made the bouquet more beautiful and sweet smelling.

Addressing an audience that included CMS Superintendent Peter Gorman, City Councilwoman Nancy Carter and First United Presbyterian Church pastor Gregory Busby, Karekin praised Thomas Jefferson and his Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, guaranteeing free expression.

Holding a bishop's staff, his gold cross glinting in the light of television cameras, Karekin smiled and said, "I don't know if I am expressing my thoughts understandably to you."

The audience erupted with applause.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

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