Centenary Commemoration at Southwark Cathedral in London
Armenian Genocide Centenary Commemoration Committee (AGCCC UK) had organised annual procession through central London to Downing Street, St. Pauls Cathedral that ended with Commemoration Ceremony at Southwark Cathedral, one of the largest London cathedrals on Saturday the 18th of April.
Reports Hasmik Harutunyan
After a long day of marching and campaigning, the Armenian community of London made their way to Southwark Cathedral on the River Thames, where a special programme was prepared by the organising committee for several months. This impressive venue got quickly packed not only by members of the Armenian community, politicians, religious leaders, but also by guests visiting the famous cathedral.
Following the opening remarks by the Very Reverend Andrew Nunn, Dr. Charles Tannock, MEP and the Patron of the AGCCC took the stage. Mr. Tannock, who has been defending human rights of minorities, is a strong supporter for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. He boldly condemned the policy of modern Turkey in the denial of historical facts. Mr. Tannock said that many European countries have already recognised the Armenian Genocide, such as Italy, France, Belgium, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Cyprus and more recently Serbia and Croatia. He noted the historical message of Pope Frances in Vatican last week and his condemnation of Turkey’s denial of historical facts. Mr. Tannock confirmed what he had stated at the European Parliament on the 15th April 2015 that Turkey MUST recognise the killings of 1.5 million innocent civilians in order to join other progressive countries of the world.
The next speaker was Professor William Schabas, “the world expert on the law of genocide and international law”, who spoke passionately about the Armenian Genocide as an attempt for full-scale extermination of an entire nation. Professor Schabas noted that because of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 was unpunished, other crimes against humanity followed, including the Holocaust as well as current mass killings of Christians in the Middle East and Africa. The Professor Schabas mentioned that the term “Genocide” invented by Raphael Lemkin in 1943 with the fate of Armenians in mind. Professor Schabas mentioned that the “Armenian Genocide is a bone in the throat” of the Turkish government. However, the struggle for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide must continue until justice is done for the millions of victims.
During the musical interval of the Commemoration ceremony at Soutwark Cathedral, British soprano Paula Sides performed two gorgeous arias by Handel.
On behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Elysey of Sourouzh expressed Russian solidarity with the entire Armenian nation and the full recognition of the Armenian Genocide. He mentioned that Christians have suffered throughout centuries. During 70 years of communist regime, Christians in USSR have been persecuted and imprisoned for their faith. Nowadays Christians are still killed and tortured around Irak and the Middle East, and the world has to stand against this barabaric actions against innocent civilians.
The next speaker at the ceremony in Soutwark Cathedral was Baroness Caroline Cox, a celebrated activist of the Armenian cause in the UK. She confessed that the rocognition of the Armenian Genocide by Turkey was part of the healing process. She added that ONLY the recognition would heal the wounds of the survivors and the victims of the Genocide. She reminded the public that many Turkish families had given refuge to Armenian civilians during the mass killings between 1915 and 1918. Th recognition of the historical truth would be important for Turkey because of the growing number of Turkish scholars, intellectuals and public members who already accept the Armenian Genocide. Baroness Cox expressed her strong belief that “Justice, Freedom and Truth will prevail”
After the lyrical performance from mezzo-soprano Anais Hephoyan, Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia Dr. Armen Sarkissian addressed the public with his family’s tragic narrative during the mass killings in the city of Van in Western Armenia. Out of 19 family members, only 5 people managed to survive, including Dr. Sarkissian’s grandmother, who told him to keep family secret safe fearing communist persecutions. Dr. Sarkissian recalled the 24th April 1965 when people poured into the streets of Yerevan to commemorate the Armenian Genocide for the first time in 50 years! He said that the Karabagh movement for liberation in 1988 was another attempt to stop the injustice and persecution of Armenians of Nagorno Karabagh. The Ambassador expressed his belief that the centenary commemoration is also the celebration of survival of the Armenian people. The intention of the Turkish government in 1915 was to wipe out an entire nation from existence did not succeed as the survivors have restarted their broken lives.
At the end of the Commemoration at Southwark Cathedral, Mr. Raffi Sarkissain, the co-chair of AGCCC, thanked the participants and the public for their attendance and invited them to continue their valuable support for the full recognition of the Armenian Genocide as the first Genocide of the 20th century.
By Hasmik Haruunyan