Friday, April 24, 2015

Fr Georges Massouh: The Ongoing Genocide

Arabic original here.

The Ongoing Genocide

The first centennial of the Armenian Genocide is of paramount importance this year, not only because it is the hundredth anniversary of the event, but because it comes amidst the oppressive circumstances when we are witnessing the continuous decline of the Christian presence in their historical homelands, or most of these homelands.

During the past hundred years, the Christian presence in Turkey has declined to almost nothing. Turkey, which had a diversity of Christians including Greeks, Syriacs and Armenians living in its most important regions-- Cappadocia, Anatolia, Cilicia, Constantinople, Antioch, Smyrna, Diyarbakr, Mardin, Edessa-- has seen its Christian presence reduced to ruins.

In Palestine, the cradle of Christianity, the land where Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnate God of the Christians, the Zionists came to annihilate those who believe in Him as Lord and Redeemer and to crucify those who believe in His crucifixion and resurrection. Almost a century after the Balfour Declaration (1917) of evil memory, the number of Christians in historic Palestine has fallen from around 20% to less than 1%.

In Iraq, Iraq of the Mundhirids and Hira, of Mosul and Baghdad, of Nineveh, of the Tigress and Euphrates, Iraq of Arab, Syriac and Assyrian Christianity, the presence of Christians has been coming to an end over the past century, amidst a suspicious silence on the part of those near and far.

The reasons behind this steady decline in the number of Christians varies by time, country, circumstances and context. There are international interests, a policy of "divide and rule", nationalist intolerance, exploitation of the religious and sectarian factor in political struggles, religious extremism, political and military alliances, economic factors and Zionist hatred...

These reasons, however, do not exculpate Christians from responsibility-- or at least from partial responsibility-- from their fate on account of certain decisions that they made and certain paths they took over the course of the past century. Likewise, when we talk about the suffering and decline of Christians, this does not mean that we deny the suffering of their partners in these lands, Muslim and non-Muslim. Each of us is paying the price and we are all victims of ourselves.

The Armenian Genocide, whose victims include Syriacs and other Christians, remains the greatest symbol of Christian martyrdom in the 20th century. Thus it must be recognized so that it will not be repeated in one form or another and so that its crucified and slaughtered victims will cease weeping and crying out for justice and peace.

In this context, it must be stated that diverse factors led them to commit the Armenian Genocide. There is no doubt that a mixture of nationalist feelings of a racist character and extremist religious feelings on the one hand and the interest of the powerful European states along with an Ottoman Empire in flames all joined together against the Armenians and members of other minorities.

The Ottoman Empire and the modern Turkish state that was built on its ruins are both responsible, one after the other, for the Armenian Genocide. The direct causes that led to the Genocide are not important. Are they religious or nationalist motives that led to the Genocide? That is not the salient question today. What must be declared today is an affirmation that the state that was ruling at the time, whatever its identity, is responsible.

The issue, then, is not merely commemoration of a genocide that took place a century ago. The issue is that the genocide has been continuing for a century and has succeeded in uprooting the majority of Christians from the countries that witnessed the first green shoots of Christianity. The beginning of recognition of the genocide and apology for its infamy should be refraining from supporting the terrorists who continue to exterminate the grandchildren of the Armenians, Syriacs and Christian Arabs and to return right to those to whom it belongs.


Anonymous said...

Samn! how do you explain Fr. Massouh's seeming willingness on the one hand to quite forthrightly condemn 'Zionists' and Zionism, to attribute to them the desire to 'annihilate'and to 'crucify', his willingness to declare the Balfour Declaration as being 'of evil memory'; and on the other hand, his relatively obscurantist and sheepish use of language when it comes to the "motives that led to the Genocide"?

Why the use of the relatively nebulous terms "religion" and "religious extremism" when referring to Islam? Why is the term 'Muslim' only used in reference to "the suffering of their partners in these lands", and never in terms of the perpetrators of that suffering?

Why the need to even bring up Zionism in a speech on the anniversary of a genocide not perpetrated by Zionists - as if to suggest an equivalence between the atrocities committed during the Armenian Genocide and the vilest actions of the 'Zionists'?

I'm not being tongue in cheek, I'm honestly perplexed and curious as to what informs this worldview. Is it ethnic or what?

Samn! said...

Well, sixty years of Zionist rule has reduced the Christian population in Palestine much more rapidly than centuries of Islamic rule and the Orthodox in Lebanon are especially sensitive to this, as many of them come from Christian families who were expelled in 1948. Add to that the Lebanese experience of Israeli aggression from the 1970s onward (the oblique reference to Christians' mistakes should probably be taken to refer to the catastrophic mistakes of political Maronism in Lebanon, including the right-wing militias' alliances with Israel), and you can begin to see where Fr Georges is coming from.

In his Lebanese context, Fr Georges gets criticized pretty often by Muslims for being too critical of Islam and Muslim leaders and by Christians for being too critical of Christian leaders...

Samn! said...

The parallel with the results of Zionism is worth bringing up in the context of "the ongoning genocide" because the demographic change from about 20ish percent Christian in historic Palestine in 1948 to about 2% in 2015 is comparable to the change in the proportion of Christians within the modern borders of Turkey between 1915 and 1925.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your insight. It is easier to understand where he is coming from now.

I can understand the parallel being made in terms of the demographic change and its rapidity, but the physical horrors and tortures inflicted specifically upon Christians under the Ottoman empire during the genocide are not equivalent to what the Zionists have done or are doing. And yet, it is in the context of the anniversary of the genocide, with no such distinction made between the two, that he has made the demographic parallel. To make the demographic point in that context is to suggest that the two are equivalent, which they are not.

The preference for Islamic rule still strikes me as strange. Isn't Christian rule preferable to either?

Samn! said...

No. Civil, non-sectarian rule allowing freedom of religion and equality of rights and responsibilities without regard to religion is preferable to any religious state, including a Christian state. (And this is the position that Fr Georges harps on ceaselessly in his writings).

Anonymous said...

A Christian state does not, ipso facto, preclude "freedom of religion and equality of rights and responsibilities without regard to religion". It does provide a safe zone for Christians.

As Fr Georges and others persist in their pipe dream of the non-sectarian state, Christians will continue to be persecuted in sectarian states or else fleeing to other parts of the world because they have no state of their own in the Levant.

Forgive me, I do not mean to argue. I wanted some insight on Fr Georges position, and you have kindly provided it.

Anonymous said...

Bravo Fr George for your courageous words. Alan in Ireland