Some locals dismayed Armenian genocide not acknowledged

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Posted: Sunday, May 1, 2011 11:32 pm

CALEDONIA - While they're unhappy President Barack Obama hasn't
acknowledged genocide the Ottoman Empire committed against their
ancestors nearly a century ago, members of a local Armenian congregation
said Sunday they understand it's a touchy political subject.

About 175 people attended an annual liturgy and program at St. Mesrob
Armenian Apostolic Church, 4605 Erie St., to remember more than 1.5
million Armenians who were killed between 1915 and 1923. The Easter
holiday pushed the service back a week from the usual date.

Among those attending the service were Racine native Ryan Weber, 34, and
his wife, Lussia Kamberian, 28, who met in 2007 while doing volunteer
work in Armenia and are preparing for a Peace Corps mission to Kenya.

Like protesters in other parts of the country, they're upset Obama has
been no more willing to refer to the 20th-century atrocities as genocide
than the predecessors he criticized.

The couple, who now live in Milwaukee, said using that term is an
important step.

"It just recognizes what it truly is, instead of beating around the
bush," Kamberian said.

Bill Bedoian, 62, knows he might never have been born if a stroke of
luck hadn't allowed his grandparents to reunite. A Turkish military
officer who knew the family spotted Bedoian's grandmother and prevented
a soldier from making her part of his harem.

Despite entering the White House with good intentions, it's going to be
hard for a U.S. leader to recognize the genocide while Turkey remains a
strategic ally, he said. In part, Turkish officials maintain the
killings came in response to an armed rebellion.

"I don't defend the fact they don't make that public statement," said
Bedoian, a teacher who lives in Racine. "I understand why it happens."

The Rev. Yeprem Kelegian, pastor at St. Mesrob, said it's really up to
Armenia and Turkey to resolve this and move relations forward.

His family suffered so many losses that the only Armenian words he
learned as a child meant "the poor orphans."

The program included a traditional "madagh" meal of meat and wheat pilaf
and a documentary showing a filmmaker's search for survivors of the

During the service beforehand, Kelegian urged the congregation to go out
and act as "witnesses" against things like hate, racism and

Younger generations have absorbed stories from those terrible times to
put things in perspective.

"My parents always remind me, `You think you have it bad now
with problems with boys and grades and stuff. What you don't know is you
could be walking in the desert, starving,' " said Bedoian's daughter
Grace, 16, a junior at Walden High School. "It gives you a lot of hope
and makes you thankful for what you have."

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From: A. Papazian