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Sunday, June 23, 2024
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Editorial: Monuments to remember the Innocents who died

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Premier Gladys Berejiklian joins Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP last December at the blessing of the Khachkar presented to the Archdiocese of Sydney by the Armenian Apostolic Church in thanks for the 2015 Liturgy in St Mary’s Cathedral commemorating the 1915 Armenian Genocide carried out by the Turkish government. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Given Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s public support for the decriminalisation of abortion in NSW this last week, we can only remark that the ability to simultaneously support two mutually exclusive and contradictory propositions at one and the same time must surely be the sign of a truly agile mind.

Last year, the Armenian Apostolic Church in Sydney gifted St Mary’s Cathedral with a beautiful traditional Armenian monument, unveiled and blessed by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP in a special ceremony on 18 December. The monument was an intricately-carved Khachkar, also called a cross-stone, presented to the archbishop and the Catholic people of Sydney after St Mary’s hosted a liturgy in 2015 to commemorate the centenary of the Armenian genocide conducted by the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

A khachkar to remember

A khachkar is a truly masterful work of art in ancient Armenian tradition. Hand-carved, the most common form is as a stele – a vertical slab of stone – into which is carved the pre-eminent figure of a cross above a rosette, possibly representing a solar disc surrounded and decorated all over with scrolls and flourishes of fruit, leaves, grapes, pomegranates and so on. In Armenian culture, a khachkar is a serious thing, a monument, a sign that one should remember.

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Also present at last year’s presentation was Premier Berejiklian, whose own grandparents were orphaned in the 1915 horror orchestrated by the Turkish Ottoman government. Today, the Armenian genocide is still too-little known, but serious scholars the world over know its basic shape and outline, the horror which was to take an unknown number of lives but which is generally agreed to be in the millions.

A starving Armenian orphan photographed by John Elder during the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Photo: Armenian National Institute

At the time it was well-known. Although to this day the Turkish government maintains the hysterical pretense that the Armenian Genocide never occurred, among those who tried to stop it were the-then papal nuncio to Constantinople, Cardinal Angelo Maria Dolci, while the British historian Arnold Toynbee wrote about it extensively. The German High Command, as we know, were impeccably informed by the Turkish Government of their actions regarding the Armenians.

It took the form of massacres of almost all the male Armenian population, deliberate starvation of all other Armenians within the Empire and death marches of victims into the Syrian desert. One interesting feature was the killings by doctors of many victims by morphine overdose and injections of blood from tyhpoid fever victims.

Armenians burnt alive in Sheykhalan by Turkish soldiers in 1915. Photo: Armenian Genocide Museum Institute

Around the world today, Armenians rightfully demand that the world never forget the genocide – the deliberate, planned, knowing and calculated killing of an entire class of people based solely on their identity. Interestingly, the Armenian Genocide was to form the pattern for the mass exterminations carried out by the totalitarians of both left and right throughout the course of the 20th Century.

As debate grows this week around the issue of the legalisation of abortion in NSW, it is more than somewhat curious that the grandchild of genocide victims who applauds the commemoration of one atrocity should have no apparent qualms about officially legalising another – in this case, one of children.

Much as the Turkish government has consistently denied for over a hundred years that an Armenian Genocide ever took place, Premier Berejiklian is welcome to insist that the killing of a human child is not actually the killing of a child, that the deliberate ending of the life of an unborn person is not the ending of a life. If she did, her logic would be in more or less perfect accord with the Turkish authorities of a century ago. Or, to put it another way, how is the killing of 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children a crime and the killing of 80,000-90,000 Australian children a year (about 25,000-30,000 annually in NSW) not?

Science and 3d ultrasound reveal what abortion-voting politicians fear: we are always human persons.
A khachkar – a monument – to the victims of the Armenian Genocide in 1915.

The supreme test of true civic and political leadership is the willingness to do not what is popular, but what is right. The Berejiklian Government rush to officially sanction the killing of the State’s children through the Parliament with minimal to zero debate, with almost no consideration of objections or qualification, no public inquiry into the subject, no opportunity for residents of NSW to make their views known to their MPs and not even discussion in state Cabinet is both obscene and a total failure of everything good government is meant to be.

In the face of this attempted coup we must protest with all our strength. But perhaps we can also plan for the future with hope, knowing that in the long run, scientific truth and a Culture of Life will eventually win. Doing so, we should also plan our own monuments to the victims, monuments of remembering, so that the world never forgets who died – and who it was that killed them.

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