Dr Panayiotis Diamadis: The Genocide of the Armenians: Hellenism’s current responsibilities

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Today – 24 Αpril – the world remembers the Genocide of the Armenians, the first phase of the program of islamisation and turkification of the Ottoman Empire. We honour the memories of the men, women and child victims. We also honour the memories of those who gave a hand of assistance to people who had lost home, homeland and family. What are our responsibilities today? After our participation in commemorative events and marches, what are Hellenism’s responsibilities?

With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in October 1918, a serious attempt at creating a federal republic of Armenia and Pontos was undertaken. Even though the twin assaults of the Bolsheviks and the Kemalists ruined the plans, the responsibility of Hellenes everywhere is our continued development with the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora.

In February 2020, on the invitation of the Armenian National Committee of Australia, the «Joint Justice Initiative» was inaugurated at a special event at the national Parliament of Australia in Canberra. The immediate aim of the Initiative of the Armenians, Assyrians and Hellenes of the Antipodes is the recognition of the genocides of the three indigenous peoples by the highest political body of Australia.

The «Joint Justice Initiative», which has the full support of the Federation of Pontian Associations of Australia, follows in the footsteps of the late Metropolitan Chrysanthos of Trapezounta: the cooperation of the three peoples (Hellenes,Armenians and Assyrians) in the common struggle for justice. This is the main responsibility of Hellenism to the victims of the Genocide of the Armenians.

The Genocide of the Armenians constitutes a significant chapter in the modern history of Hellas. At a time when Hellenic society was dealing with the consequences of World War One with the persecutions of the Hellenes of eastern Macedonia, of Thrace and of northern Epiros, the ‘National Division’, and the first phase of the Genocide of the Hellenes, Hellenism opened its arms to the survivors of the Genocide of the Armenians and the Genocide of the Assyrians.

At the Zappeion building in downtown Athens, orphaned Hellene and Armenian children were sheltered. At the nearby Temple of Olympian Zeus, they were given medical care. With the support of organisations such as Near East Relief and individuals including Henry Morgenthau, Jackie Coogan and George Devine Treloar, tens of thousands of Armenian survivors found refuge in Hellas and Cyprus.

In Thessalonike, in the village of Roditis Rhodhope Prefecture and Evros Prefecture (western Thrace), in Drama, Kavala and Serres (eastern Macedonia), on Kerkyra (Corfu) and elsewhere, Armenian schools contributed to the continuation of Armenian civilisation, contrary to the plans of the genocidaires. Kerkyra even had an Armenian orchestra! Amongst the descendants of the survivors of the Genocide who contributed significantly to Hellenism is Thessalonike-born artist Edouardos Sakayan.

The rescue of approximately 80,000 Αrmenians – survivors of the Genocide unleashed against their people by the Turkish state – constitutes a page of modern Hellenic history which deserves to be remembered. In those most difficult times, Hellenism did not forget its responsibility to humanity.

On Tuesday 6 April, we honoured the Day of Remembrance of the Genocide of the Hellenes of Thrace. On Monday 20 April, we honoured the Day of Remembrance of the Genocide of the Jews, Yom HaShoah. On Friday 24 April, we honour we honour the Day of Remembrance of the Genocide of the Armenians. With an eye to 19 May and 14 September, Hellenism – especially Pontian Hellenism – has an obligation to remember also its responsibilities to the future as well as to the past.

Eternal be their Memory.

Dr Panayiotis Diamadis

Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies

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