Time in Yerevan: 11:07,   20 April 2024

Presence of Armenians was obstacle to ideological plans of Young Turks: Aram I to Vatican Insider

Presence of Armenians was obstacle to ideological plans of Young Turks: Aram I to Vatican 

YEREVAN, APRIL 18, ARMENPRESS. His Holiness Catholicos Aram I of the Holy See of Cilicia says the presence of the Armenian people was an obstacle to the ideological plans of the Young Turks. This is why the genocide was planned. Those who bring the clash between Islam and Christianity into the current controversy over the Armenian genocide, distort the reality. As reports “Armenpress”, Aram I stated this in an interview to Vatican Insider, which particularly runs as follows:

- Your Holiness, Turkey has reacted aggressively to the Pope’s words on the Armenian genocide. Is there some legitimacy in this reaction?

- Any sort of reaction doesn’t lead people towards positive directions in terms of solving the problem, in terms of reaching a consensus. Reaction is not good, we have to be proactive, not reactive, proactive. If Turkey is serious about this issue, Armenian genocide, Turkey must become proactive. The Armenian genocide is not a fiction but is a fact of history. We cannot change history.

- Turkey says the word genocide – which only started being used in international juridical language in 1948 - cannot be used.

- We may reread history have different interpretations of history but to a certain extent, in this case, the genocide, we have enough proof, historical evidence, the documents, the eye witnesses, the personal accounts of diplomats of the time, the historians and in majority, not Armenians, they have written, discussed and published and publicly expressed themselves in respect to these tragic events and all of them say that this is genocide. What Turkey says, first, we cannot use the word genocide because this word was invented, or came into existence as part of international let’s say vocabulary of international law, ok I understand that. It was 1948. But the word is not important, it is the intent that is important and the intent of Turkey was genocidal. To exterminate the Armenian people, to erase from history and from the map the name Armenian and Armenia. And there is enough proof to say that. The genocidal intent of Turkey was crystal clear, therefore, sooner or later Turkey should reconcile itself with its own history. And that will pave the way for reconciliation with Armenian people. If one is not reconciled with one’s own history, one does not recognise his own history or rejects the historical, let’s say, events. They are giving diminutive emphasis on painful experience, these kinds of events, well these kinds of things may happen during the war. Again, these are not acceptable, they are artificial, biased, let’s say, interpretations. The history is there and therefore Turkey must accept what has happened, what was done by its predecessors against the Armenian people. Look, we have a huge Armenian diaspora. The majority of Armenians are in diaspora. There were maximum 3 million Armenians, less than 3 million in Armenia. And almost 8 million are in diaspora. Who created this diaspora? God did not create this diaspora. Diaspora is an imposed reality, we did not choose to become diaspora. Turkey’s genocidal attempt created this diaspora. One part of the Armenians were massacred and the other part were forced to leave Armenia. The western, eastern parts of Armenia, in Cilicia, there are proofs that clearly indicate that what happened against the Armenian people was a genocide in the real sense and the juridical sense of the word.

- Turkey’s reaction also resorts to the religious clash between Christianity and Islam. It says the Pope was discriminative, speaking only about the suffering of Armenian Christians and ignoring that of Muslim Turks.

- I think they are putting deliberately these things in a wrong, debatable and dangerous context. I’ll tell you why. What happened against the Armenians, the genocide, was not because the Armenians were Christians. This was part of the pan-Turkish ideology and politics and plans of the Young Turks. And the Armenians were a major obstacle in terms of realising their pan-Turkish policy. They wanted to bring all these nations and countries of common Turkish ethnicity and culture together, under one pan-Turkish umbrella. And the Armenian persons were an obstacle. So they organised this crime, this genocide, because of that. Religion was not a factor. Now they are using religion in order to create this sensitivity between Christianity and Islam. That is not acceptable.

- In the Middle East there are a lot of conflicts. You live there. Do you have an understanding of what is really going on? What are the real causes of this destructive conflict in the Middle East?

- There are a number of factors which generated the situation that we had in the Middle East. First, this internal conflict between Shiites and Sunnis, these two major branches of Islam. Secondly, most of the nations if not all, were in the hands of dictatorial regimes. Democracy was not a present reality in the Muslim world and the people were sick and tired of these oppressive regimes, until some of the countries were facing tremendous economic problems and there was a small rich minority and the rest of the people were poor. So this growing tension between what is called “haves” and “have-nots” created this tension. So all these factors create this atmosphere that we have in the Middle East. Unfortunately, in this context, the main losers are Christian communities because we are minorities. But in spite of that fact we are part of the Middle East, we are an integral, inseparable part of the Middle Eastern societies, our presence is deeply rooted in the history of the Middle East. Some Christians have left but others are there and all the Churches have a key policy to stay in the middle East. Because we’re part of the Middle East.

- The Pope always speaks about arms trafficking and global financial resources as being a part of this conflict. Do you agree?

- Of course. I mean these people are fighting each other through arms. Where are they getting their arms? With money. Where are they getting their money from?

- What can help Christians get through these trying times?

- Our people are facing multiple problems and have multiple needs. Therefore meeting the needs of our people, dealing with these many problems of our people is simply beyond the ability and capacity of the Church. I think we have to be realistic. Therefore our approach should be pastoral. How we can be with our people. How we can try to look at the problems our people are facing in a pastoral way but on the other hand I think the solidarity of our Christian brothers and sisters in the West is very important. And this is the time for Christian Churches in the West express their solidarity toward Christians of the Middle East in more tangible ways.

- Some, use the need to defend Christians as a reason to talk about and justify potential military intervention.

- I am not saying they have to organise a new crusade. No, we are against that. But there are different ways of expressing our concern, our solidarity with the Christians. The people should know in the Middle East that the Christians in the Middle East are not left alone, that the Christians of the Middle East are part of one Church, of one body of Jesus Christ. I think this message needs to be given to the religious and political leadership in the Middle East by religious and political leaders of the West. I am not saying they should warn them or they should threaten them. They should not use this language. But they have to say, all Christians are related to each other living in different parts of the world but eventually we all belong as Christians to each other. And to the one Father of Jesus Christ.

- In the West, many speak of the suffering of the Christians, isolating them from the suffering of the others and there is an increasing insistence on the need for us to do something for them. How do you see this approach? Isn’t there a risk of a geopolitical manipulation of the suffering of Christians in the Middle East? A geopolitical manipulation in western circles? Used regarding a new crusade.

- We should avoid the two extremes. One extreme is that we should do something, we should organise crusades. I don’t agree with that. The other extreme is just remain silent and become indifferent. What I am saying is, that somehow, this partnership, solidarity, sense of togetherness in respect to the Christians in the Middle East must be expressed in different ways. And this is very important. And the Pope is doing that.

- On a strictly political level, what must regional and global powers do?

- We are against all kinds of intervention. I think that if Western powers are serious about the Middle East they must help the people there, the political, religious leadership to engage themselves in the nation-building process and in that respect I think they have to tell them that all citizens, Christians and Muslims of a given country are equals. They have equal rights and responsibilities. That’s it, they have to tell them, because the Western powers always speak about human rights, about democracy. Here is a region where these two concepts, which are very important, these are core concepts, are not so much, let’s say acceptable and applicable in some of the Middle Eastern countries. I think here is the responsibility of Western powers.

 - Pope Francis has spoken on a number of occasions about the ecumenism of blood. But meanwhile Christians in the Middle East remain divided. What obstacles still prevent and stop the Catholic Church and the ancient Oriental Church in the East from achieving full unity also at the sacramental level?

- We need to look at Christian unity which is a fundamental problem and a goal for us on two different and yet interrelated levels. The first level is the theological level and in that respect we are already engaged in theological dialogues and through these dialogues we are trying to identify those controversial issues that created division in the past and how we can create a process by which this process will lead us towards conversions. That’s on a theological level. The other level is the level of daily life, the practical level. I think there are a number of issues where we can work together, collaborate together. For instance, I propose to His Holiness that it would be an excellent idea if we fix a day for martyrs as we have All Saints Day. All Martyrs Day. One, the Christians from the whole of the world. That’s number one. Secondly, to fix a date for a common Easter celebrations. We are following different calendars, Julian and Gregorian. I think here are the two, let’s say issues by which we can really express our unity and togetherness. Therefore, these two levels are very important and what concerns our Church, Armenian Church, we have been from the very inception of the Armenian Church a broad-minded Church, a flexible Church. We are a Church that really believes in ecumenism and the visible unity of the Church.

 - What does Pope Francis’ way of exercising the ministry of the Bishop of Rome mean and represent at the ecumenical level? Is the way the Pope exercises his ministry a help for unity? And do you think he can do something to improve unity?

- Well, first of all, I like very much the style of His Holiness. He gave a new style to his pontifical ministry. When I first met him last year, this was one of my points that I discussed with him, I said - I said - that for many reasons, our Churches, all the Churches, and particularly the Catholic and Orthodox Churches were very much institutionalised. The institution kept the Church within frozen boundaries. I said: the Church being essentially the community of faiths, it is vitally important that we take the Church beyond its walls. I was very impressed by what His Holiness started doing. Because I thoroughly believe that this is our common responsibility and in fact, the title of one of my books, is For a Church beyond its Walls. The Church becomes a Church in the real sense of the word, when the community is there. The Church is not the building, it’s the community. The confessing community. And as I said, the Pope is doing that. And this is very important. And this will generate a kind of ecumenism that is people-centred, people-oriented. The ecumenism that we used to have is an ecumenism related to an institution, to committees, programmes and a few selected people. This was and still is ecumenism. I think we need - and I was saying this to His Holiness and to you – that we need to develop new models, new styles and new methodologies in ecumenism by which we can make ecumenism more credible, more relevant, more reliable. And here, I think, we should work together, all the Churches, the Orthodox, the Catholic and Protestant Churches.

- You live in Lebanon, which has so far not been sucked into the upheavals experienced by the region as a whole.

- Lebanon is a country of communities. 18 communities, we are one family. In one family you have many children. You have problems from time to time, right? Lebanon has 18 children. And from time to time we may have some problems with each other but we are happy. We have different communities, different political parties, different political orientations but we all belong to one family which is called Lebanon.”

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