Virginia Council of Churches Passes Genocide Centennial Resolution

Virginia Council of Churches

RICHMOND, Va.—The Virginia Council of Churches unanimously approved a resolution calling for the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, at its 70th Annual Meeting at Faith Community Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., on Nov. 6. The Virginia Council of Churches presented this resolution to its entire member congregation, so that they share this resolution with their congregations.

The Convention was attended by representatives of every Christian denomination in the Commonwealth, including representatives of the Baptist, Orthodox, Lutheran, Episcopal, and Catholic churches. Rev. Dr. Jonathon Barton, executive director of the Virginia Council of Churches, has been most instrumental in forwarding this action. For many years, he has participated and joined in activities of the St. James Armenian Orthodox Church community of Richmond. He is currently an honorary member of the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide Committee.

After the presentation of the Resolution by Bedros C. Bandazian and Sona K. Pomfret, who represented the St. James Armenian Church, there were extensive questions and responses regarding this recognition. Several Church representatives asked about reparations being a part of this Resolution. After debating this issue, the Armenian representatives indicated that this will be part of the next phase of the program. Several in the Assembly spoke about their knowledge of the Armenian Genocide and expressed the need for the Christian Churches of Virginia to stand firm in their condemnation, and to pray for remembrance.

The Assembly wished to affirm that this was an act that the public needs to be educated about. Some had indicated that perhaps if this first act of Genocide had been addressed properly in 1915, perhaps other massacres and holocausts would not have occurred subsequently. The Assembly stood firm in moving this action forward and asked that all congregations in Virginia educate themselves on this sad chapter of “man’s inhumanity to man.”

A strong commitment from many of the attending clergy indicated that they will join with the Armenian community of Virginia to participate in an ecumenical service on April 18, 2015, at St. James Armenian Church in remembrance of the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

Below is the text of the adopted resolution:
Resolution for Virginia Council of Churches
October 26, 2014

WHEREAS, 2015 marks the centennial of the commencement of the Armenian Genocide, in which more than 1.5 million Armenians were exterminated by the Ottoman Turkish government; and

WHEREAS, this centrally planned and systematically executed crime against an ethnic minority of Christians living on their ancestral homeland is regarded as the first genocide of the 20th century and the precursor to the Holocaust; and

WHEREAS, those who attempted to rescue the Armenians and provide humanitarian aid included Western missionaries of various Christian denominations, U.S. relief organizations, and brave individuals such as U.S. ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr.; and

WHEREAS, persecution of Christians in several parts of the world today concerns the Virginia Council of Churches and citizens of the Commonwealth, underscoring the Armenian Genocide’s historical significance; and

WHEREAS, the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee of Central Virginia and the people of Saint James Armenian Orthodox Church—a member of the Virginia Council of Churches—represent an ancient Christian tradition, remain devoted brothers and sisters in Christ, and strive to inform Virginians of all faiths about the Armenian Genocide;

NOW, THEREFORE, the Virginia Council of Churches hereby recognizes the centennial of the Armenian Genocide; officially and expressly supports the efforts of the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee of Central Virginia; resolves to convene with leaders of the Virginia Council of Churches as well as the Interfaith Center for Public Policy and the Richmond Interfaith Council to participate in an ecumenical service on Saturday, April 18, 2015, organized by the Centennial Committee; and hereby calls upon all its member churches, during all services on Sunday April 19, 2015, to pray for the victims of the Armenian Genocide and for all those, past and present, who have fallen victim to violent acts based on hatred of a people, community or state because of gender, religion, race, nationality or ethnic identity.

The following prayer is suggested:

Blessing: Armenian Genocide Prayer—April 18, 2015
Virginia Council of Churches, Richmond, Virginia

Heavenly Father, Creator of the Universe:

We ask your blessing on the people gathered here today, all of whom stand in the cause of witness, memory, and the ongoing struggle for justice.

We ask you to grant rest to the souls of all who perished in the genocides of the past and present—and especially to the million and a half souls lost, 100 years ago, in the Armenian Genocide. Remember the fallen, O Lord; cast your blessing on those who survived; and bestow your peace on their descendants.

On this most solemn occasion—the 100th year of remembrance of the Armenian Genocide—we painfully acknowledge that the world has not yet learned the vital lesson, and has not done enough, to expunge the plague of genocide.

And so we ask, Lord, that you will shine your light into the dark corners of the world, to expose cruelty and injustice wherever it afflicts innocent people—so that the genocides experienced by so many peoples will never be repeated anywhere on the face of this earth.

We pray that you will inspire our leaders with wisdom, compassion, and resolution in the face of evil. Our world today exists in a time of uncertainty; and in such a time, O God, we seek above all to know and perform your will. We pray that you will remember the precious sacrifices being made today in the name of faith and religious liberty; that you will shepherd the downtrodden out of the darkness of tyranny; and that you will steer our entire world to a new dawn of peace, justice, and dignity—for all your children.

Finally, we thank you for the bounty and liberty of this great country of America. Bless this land and her people, Lord, so that she may continue to be a beacon of hope to our world.

For all of these things, may your name be praised from generation to generation.


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