The ecumenical group Christian Churches Together in the USA hosted a panel on the Armenian Genocide as part of its annual convocation, held earlier this month in Houston, TX.
The panel was held on February 12 at the city’s St. Kevork Armenian Church, where the Rev. Fr. Martiros Hakobyan, parish pastor, and local parishioners welcomed the Christian Churches Together delegates.
Historians Rachel Goshgarian and Taner Akçam spoke about the Armenian Genocide and its aftermath. Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Diocesan Legate and Ecumenical Director and the current President of Christian Churches Together, moderated the panel. Also present was the Very Rev. Fr. Aren Jebejian, a member of the Christian Churches Together organization.
Professor Akçam spoke about the “hidden Armenians” in present-day Turkey and related the story of a woman whose relative was ethnically Armenian but adopted the Islamic faith during the Genocide. He explained how the convert was treated like a second-class citizen in her village because her Armenian past was known to the locals. In recent years, a number of Turkish citizens with Armenian roots have been speaking openly about their Armenian heritage, which had been kept secret in the aftermath of the events of 1915.
Professor Goshgarian spoke about the Armenian architectural heritage in Turkey and how it represents the voices of the people who were deported and massacred during the Armenian Genocide. She noted the intentional destruction of monuments and the repurposing of churches and other religious buildings.
Archbishop Aykazian told the story about Archbishop Shnork I Kaloustian, the late Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, who was separated from his mother as a child during the Armenian Genocide and reunited with her many years later after she came across a newspaper photograph of her son as the Armenian Patriarch. Archbishop Aykazian said he heard this story first-hand from Archbishop Kaloustian in the Patriarch’s twilight years.
Following the panel, faith leaders gathered in the church sanctuary for a requiem service for victims of genocides and crimes against humanity. Roman Catholic Bishop Mitchell Thomas Rozanski gave a message on the meaning of martyrdom in the Christian faith.
This year’s Christian Churches Together annual convocation focused on the impact of immigration on churches across the United States. Among the speakers addressing this theme was Vahe Asadourian of St. Kevork Church who spoke about the Armenian immigrant experience.
Established in 2001, Christian Churches Together is comprised of more than 40 churches and organizations, including Evangelical, Pentecostal, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, historic Protestant, and African-American churches. Archbishop Aykazian was among the founding members of the organization. He is also the first to serve as president of both the National Council of Churches and Christian Churches Together.