WASHINGTON – Vice President Joe Biden attended the Armenian Genocide's 100th year commemoration last week that was held at the Washington National Cathedral, along with Armenia's President Serzh Sargsyan, and both supreme leaders of the Armenian Church, Garegin II and Aram I.
The National Cathedral service on May 7 lasted for about two hours. In his speech, Armenian President Sargsyan recalled that Martin Luther King Jr. had addressed people at the National Cathedral and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, who devotedly helped the suffering Armenians during WWI, was buried there. "It is ultimately fitting and symbolic that we serve the commemoration here," Sargsyan stated.
Vice President Biden was sitting next to the Armenian President and Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. A week earlier, Power had also attended another commemoration at an Armenian church in New York and lit a candle for the victims. A former journalist and Harvard University professor, she published a book which chronicled America's position on 20th century genocides in 2002. A former recipient of the Armenian National Committee lobby group's award, Samantha Power, who although is unable to speak publicly on the Armenian genocide after taking the ambassador position, pursues indirect support for justice of the Armenian cause, particularly by attending the commemorations.
The National Cathedral commemoration also included the head of the Syriac Orthodox Church Ignatius Aphrem II, Greek-Orthodox, Roman-Catholic and other high-ranking clerics praying for the victims. Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church Katharine Jefferts Schori addressed the attendees, saying that the Armenian genocide a century ago has awakened the world but it has not ended the perpetration of this evil act. Schori called on the audience to continue to shout "never again."
This year marks the centennial anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, when the leaders of the political reform movement Young Turks massacred over one million Christian Armenians of the Ottoman Empire. Despite modern-day Turkey rejecting that the 1915 mass killing of the minority Armenian community should be described as genocide, a large number of genocide scholars have supported that term, including the International Association of Genocide Studies (IAGS) members – the main international scientific body which studies crimes against humanity. Turkish human rights activists and a number of intellectuals, including the Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, have disagreed with their own government's denial of the Armenian genocide. About 25 different countries –such as Canada, France, Italy, Austria and others – as well as 43 out of 50 U.S. states have formally condemned the Armenian Genocide. Pope Francis did the same in his April 12th sermon.
The Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, secretary-general of the World Council of Churches, reminded the audience that the WCC, which represents about half a billion Christians from 350 member-churches in 110 countries, studied carefully the historic events and recognized the Armenian Genocide over 30 years ago. Tveit, a Norwegian, asked why some countries, including Norway, refrained from doing the same. "…We know what happened. We know how many lost their homes, their family members, their future, and their freedom. Some even were forced to denounce their faith and we know many have lost their life," Tveit said.
His Holiness Catholicos Aram I, an Oxford and American University of Beirut graduate, said in English, "As Christians, we believe that reconciliation is an integral part of our Christian faith. But cheap reconciliation generates further injustice. True reconciliation implies accountability. True reconciliation means recognition of genocides and reparation."
Catholicos Garegin II said that for 100 years Armenians craved justice.