Since Armenians found a safe haven here in Lebanon and other Arab countries, following their branding as an “undesirable element” in their ancient, ancestral homelands, the Armenian population has been “branded” as a positive, constructive, industrious, artistically-gifted element in their respective adoptive homes. I can’t count the number of times since I’ve arrived, when people ask my name, they say, “Oh, like the (local) television personality Nishan!” I smile and nod…
|The very first Armenian Genocide monument in Lebanon (erected 1929), showing bullet damage from Lebanon’s civil war (Armenian Apostolic Cemetery, Furn el Shebbak)|
Once upon Ottoman times in Turkey, Armenians were known as the “loyal nation”. They didn’t have aspirations to take over the world – they just wanted to live and flourish in their various locations, whether villages or cities. They dreamed of being able to take a deep breath without being taxed for breathing too much. But Armenians made the mistake of thinking that their overlords would modernize their thinking. Now, a hundred and two years after the Armenian Genocide, and a week after Turkey acquiesced (by only a 51% majority) to its president’s power-grab, the whole world can see how ill-prepared Turkey is to abandon its repressive ways.
But that 49% is a hopeful sign that things are changing in Turkey, albeit slowly. Turkey will continue to jail journalists and beat protesters. It will continue to allow the wanton destruction of Armenian cultural heritage in the eastern “interior” locations (i.e., western Armenia), far from where mainstream media employees like to hang out. Turkey will continue to play with fire, hosting and lending material support to radical movements like the foreign militias who today again (as they did in March 2014) attacked the Syrian-Armenian village of Kessab. Why attack today, and why attack a village where there is no military presence? Why, except to continue the Genocide that they began over a century ago?
It is not outside the realm of possibility that this is a “Happy Armenian Genocide Day” card from Turkey, with a postscript “thank-you” for the release of the motion picture, “The Promise,” this weekend. If, as Jesus says in John 8.32, "the truth (i.e., his truth, in its completeness) will set you free," then those who deny the truth are in a prison of their own making. A pathetic, miserable prison. A prison from which those Turkish-sponsored extremists attacked Kessab again today.
|Statues of Armenian orphans seated on the ground with their food bowls, outside the Bezikian Orphans’ Museum at the “Birds’ Nest” Orphanage in Jbeil (Byblos)|
Yet, the more inflamed with denialism the Turkish leadership and their radicalized citizens become, the clearer Turkey’s picture becomes to their “friends” (like the U.S.). And who knows? Maybe that awareness will translate into action for what is right, and true, and good… but I’m not holding my breath. Every U.S. presidential candidate, pandering to the Armenian constituency, has made the promise to call it a “Genocide”, and, once elected, they have all (except for Pres. Reagan) broken that promise, for reasons they find justifiable. And so, people groups, their languages and their cultures continue to be destroyed. And not just Armenians, either.
Maria and I went to a cinema in Ashrafieh (Beirut) this weekend to see “The Promise,” currently playing throughout Lebanon. It is worth seeing, whether by someone completely uninformed about the subject, or by people like us, for whom the narrative was a painful reminder of a history we know all too well. It weaves through its dramatic story-line vignettes of actual events and persons. One of the most powerful aspects of the story was how the main character Mikael was determined to keep his promise to his betrothed, to his home village, and to his people. Do yourself a favor; go see it.
|LebCat 3 has expensive taste in cars (1 Mar. 2017)|
Tomorrow morning, April 24, the entire Lebanese Armenian community will gather in the various churches of their various denominations to observe this somber anniversary. In the evening there will be a joint rally (organized by the three Armenian political parties) at Martyrs’ Square in the center of Beirut. Non-Armenian Lebanese will take note of how many Armenian businesses there are, because they will be shuttered tomorrow in observance of the day, and most (though not all) Lebanese will comment on how much the Armenian community has contributed to the well-being of Lebanon. Armenians have indeed been fortunate in Arab countries to maintain their Armenian identity while giving back to the places that welcomed them after the Genocide. It’s quite a different experience and a different outcome than where I grew up, with Armenians forever teetering on the edge of the “melting pot”.
My next post will be something lighter. I promise. [LNB]