Friday, April 24, 2015

A man places a candle in front of the Brandenburg Gate to build
the year 1915 during a demonstration after an ecumenical service
yesterday remembering the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians at the
Berlin Cathedral Church in Berlin, Germany.

On 100th anniversary, President Gauck condemns massacre as Church
canonizes 1.5 million dead

BERLIN -- German President Joachim Gauck yesterday condemned the
massacre of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turkish forces a century
ago as "genocide", a term that the Berlin government had long rejected.

Gauck used the word in a speech to mark the 100th anniversary of what
most Western scholars and two dozen governments regard as a genocide
against an Armenian population that flourished in what is now modern
Turkey. Turkey vehemently denies the charge.

Gauck, a former East German pastor with a penchant for defying
convention, also suggested Germany itself might bear some of the
blame because of its actions during WWI.

"In this case, we Germans must still come to terms with the past,
as to whether there is in fact a shared responsibility, possibly
even complicity, in the genocide of the Armenians," said Gauck,
adding that German armed forces were involved in planning and even
implementing deportations.

His determination to use the controversial word prompted members of
parliament to overcome long-held resistance from Chancellor Angela
Merkel's government, which until Monday had steadfastly refused to
use the term.

In his speech, Gauck quoted a phrase from a resolution which
lawmakers will debate in parliament today and are expected to
endorse overwhelmingly: "The fate of the Armenians is exemplary for
the history of mass destructions, ethnic cleansings, expulsions and,
yes, the genocides during the 20th century."

The term "genocide" has special resonance for Germany, which has
worked hard to come to terms with its responsibility for the murder
of six million Jews in the Holocaust.

Analysts say it was previously reluctant to apply the description in
the case of Turkey for fear of upsetting Ankara and the 3.5 million
people in Germany who are Turkish nationals or of Turkish origin.

There are also concerns in Germany that massacres committed in 1904 and
1905 by German troops in what is now Namibia could also be designated
genocide, leading to reparation demands.

The reversal of Germany's stance is significant because it is Turkey's
top trading partner in the European Union. France, the European
Parliament, Pope Francis, Canada and Russia are among others who have
used the term, condemned by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

Despite US President Barack Obama's campaign promise in 2008 to call
the killings genocide, in the upcoming weeks to the centennial he
didn't make any public statements addressing the topic.

The head of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Argentina says he is
proud, but definitely not surprised, that his friend Pope Francis
recently called the 1915 mass killing of Armenians in Turkey


In related news, the Armenian Apostolic Church yesterday made saints of
the up to 1.5 million Armenians at an open-air ceremony to commemorate
their killing by Ottoman Turks a century ago.

It was the first time in 400 years that the Armenian Apostolic Church
had authorised any canonizations.

"The blood of the Armenian martyred for Christ has placed the seal of
unshakeable faith and patriotism on the sands of the desert, while the
one who committed genocide assumed that the Armenian was being lost
forever in the gales of history," Catholicos Karekin II, the supreme
head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, said during the ceremony.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Turkey announced it was recalling its
ambassador to Austria after parties represented in parliament signed
a declaration recognizing the massacre of Armenians a century ago
as genocide.

Turkey denies that the killings, at a time when Ottoman troops were
fighting Russian forces, constituted genocide. It says there was no
organized campaign to wipe out Armenians and no evidence of any such
orders from the Ottoman authorities.

"Questioning these claims is not up to parliaments or politicians, but
rather to historians," Erdogan told a peace conference in Istanbul,
organized as part of the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign during
WWI, before Gauck's speech.

Erdogan said: "The Armenian claims on the 1915 events... are all
baseless and groundless."

-- Herald with Reuters, AP