President of the Conference of European Churches

April 24, 2015

For many years the CEC has recognised and spoken about the horrific atrocities perpetuated upon the Armenian people under the Ottoman Empire, beginning in 1915. My predecessor but one, the Revd Jean-Arnold de Clermont so spoke on the 90th anniversary, ten years ago.

In 2013 the CEC again made an important Statement through its Governing Board.

The Churches of Europe represented in the CEC, Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Old Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, majority, minority and ethnic minority communities again stress the importance of the commemoration of the catastrophic events of those days and the need for honest recognition of the atrocities. Reconciliation for the future is essential. But it can only be based on truth.

Between 1915 and 1922, some 1.5 million Armenians were massacred and thousands more were displaced or deported from their homeland in present day Turkey. The Armenian Diaspora today, scattered throughout the world, represents the greatest effect of the genocide as more than six million Armenians now live outside Armenia. Even after one hundred years, the Armenian Genocide still has serious implications for the Armenian people, as well as the international community. Most survivors of the Armenian Genocide have passed away, yet the Armenian people continue to demand recognition and reparation for the suffering and injustice inflicted upon their ancestors. Churches in the Conference of European Churches (CEC) have addressed the issue of the Armenian Genocide through the European Court of Human Rights in the past.

The Conference of European Churches, through the Church and Society Commission produced an important Discussion Paper in 2004 on the relation between the European Union and Turkey, raising important questions for the future discussions of Turkey and the EU.

Just a few days ago the European Parliament by a large majority adopted a resolution to formally join the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide in a spirit of European solidarity and justice – it also called on the European Union Council and Commission to similarly join. Both the World Council of Churches and its Commission on International Affairs have raised the need for United Nations recognition. The Vancouver Assembly of the WCC – at which I was present – said: “The silence of the world community and deliberate efforts to deny even historical facts have been consistent sources of anguish and growing despair to the Armenian people, the Armenian Church and many others.” We also honour the other 600,000 Christians of Aramean, Chaldean, Assyrian and Greek descent, including Catholics and Protestants, who were also massacred along with their Armenian brothers and sisters. The role of the world’s churches in enabling the Armenian churches to speak out and work towards the recognition of the first genocide of the 20th century has been recognised by the Armenian Church over the years. At this special time of commemoration we also join our Armenian brothers and sisters in the canonization of the Victims of the Armenian Genocide in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. In this sacred liturgy we shall raise their souls to God in our Eastertide prayers and supplications in the apostolic words of St Paul to the Philippians as he aspires to the resurrection from the dead: I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:14)

In this spirit the Conference of European Churches joins hands and prayers with the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Armenian people here and in Diaspora.

The Rt Revd Christopher Hill KCVO, DD, President of the Conference of European Churches