LOS ANGELES—The Philos Project, Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region, Assyrian American Association of Southern California, American Hellenic Council, and Councilmember Paul Krekorian hosted renowned Israeli professor Benny Morris to present his groundbreaking book “The Thirty-Year Genocide: Turkey’s Destruction of its Christian Minorities.”
Professor Morris’ research is the first of its kind to frame the genocide of the Ottoman Empire’s indigenous Christian minorities as a continual process from 1894 to 1924. Where scholarship on the Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek genocide has tended to examine the act of genocide in isolation, Morris’ research has synthesized the narratives of Christian persecution in the Ottoman Empire – from the Hamidian Massacres to Ataturk’s establishment of the Republic of Turkey – to demonstrate how genocide had been institutionalized over the span of three decades.
A former professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Goldman Visiting Israeli Professor in Georgetown’s Department of Government, Professor Morris has led a distinguished career in academia, where he has been recognized for his work on the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.
The discussion with Professor Morris, which was hosted in the Tom Bradley room of Los Angeles City Hall, was moderated by Robert Nicholson, Founder and Executive Director of the Philos Project. Nicholson founded Philos in 2014 to promote positive engagement in the Middle East amongst Christian leaders to advance freedom and justice on the ground.
The event brought together members of Southern California’s Armenian, Greek, Assyrian, and Jewish communities on the heels of the historic recognition of the Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian genocides by the U.S. House and Senate last year.
“With the momentous victory of genocide recognition by Congress as a matter of official U.S. policy, this timely event sought to unite our communities together in both the solemn remembrance of this dark chapter in history and a commitment to ensuring this great crime will never be repeated,” said Armen Sahakyan, Executive Director of the ANCA Western Region. “In examining the systemic factors that informed the Ottoman-era genocides, and examining genocide not as an isolated incident, but a continuous and institutionalized process, we are able to better equip ourselves in identifying and combatting contemporary cases of genocide.”
“Author Benny Morris’s presentation was a powerful, meticulous, and enlightening discussion of the hidden genocide of Turkey’s Christian minorities between 1894 and 1924. Never before has an author presented this as a “Christian Genocide” of Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrian communities. Historically accurate and factually presented, the book and Benny Morris’s presentation chronicles the organized destruction of all three communities from Ottoman Sultans to modern Turkey,” said AHC President, Dr. James F. Dimitrou. “Furthermore, this historic event highlights our new coalition with the determination to work together to counter continued Turkish propaganda that denies the destruction of all three Christian Communities. Together we finally will proclaim the truth! Together we will challenge the dangerous Turkish positions. Together we will work through a new coalition of truth and justice,” he concluded.
“Events like last Monday’s insightful talk by Benny Morris serve as the most recent example of cross-community efforts with our Armenian and Greek brothers and sisters,” said Peter Warda, President of the Assyrian American Association of Southern California. “We cannot stress how invaluable it is to have a collective voice in solidarity with communities affected by genocide and persecution, thereby speaking truth to power through education, awareness, and advocacy initiatives.”
A scene from the book presentation
“A few people ask me why we hosted an event about something that happened a hundred years ago,” said Philos Founder and President Robert Nicholson. “I give two reasons. First, any future American engagement in the Near East must begin by understanding what happened in the past. Second, the spirit that gave rise to the Turkish genocide still haunts the region and must be confronted by a coalition of peoples and faiths who believe that Jews, Christians, and Muslims belong there,” he added.
“It is entirely fitting that two Israeli Jews, Benny Morris and Dror Ze’evi, produced such groundbreaking scholarship on a Christian catastrophe. Through their research – and their mere existence as fellow Near Eastern minorities – they prove that goodwill between different religious communities is not only possible but already present,” concluded Nicholson.
In attendance included Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Amb. Nina Hachigian, representatives from the offices of California State Senator Anthony Portantino and Assemblymember Laura Friedman, the inaugural Chair of Modern Armenian Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles Professor Richard Hovannissian, and others.
The event – emceed by Juliana Taimoorazy – was formally opened by the representatives of each of the partner organizations, including the President of the American Hellenic Council Dr. James F Dimitriou, the newly-minted President of the Assyrian American Association of Southern California Peter Warda, and the ANCA Western Region Executive Director Armen Sahakyan.
The Philos Project is a dynamic leadership community dedicated to promoting positive Christian engagement in the Middle East. This community is centered on a growing network of city-based chapters located in North America and around the world. Philos equips a new generation of Western Christians to support friends in the region who share our vision for pluralism. They offer educational resources, immersive travel programs, and networking and advocacy opportunities that help Christian leaders understand and engage with important Middle East issues and support innovative projects that help advance liberty and justice on the ground.
The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region is the largest and most influential nonpartisan Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues in pursuit of the Armenian Cause.
The American Hellenic Council is a non-partisan political advocacy organization. Our goal is to promote democracy, human rights, peace, and stability in Southern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean, with an emphasis on Greece and Cyprus, by informing the American public and the government about on-going issues and conflicts in the area.
Founded in 1964, The Assyrian American Association of Southern California is a nonpartisan organization whose broad mission is to serve and advance the Assyrian-American community by concentrating on a wide spectrum of areas such as cultural and linguistic identity, public/governmental outreach and advocacy, education, arts/literature, youth services, and many others.