ARMENIAN GENOCIDE A WARNING TO RESIST RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION
Feb 13 2015
February 13, 2015 By Marv Knox / Editor
DALLAS–The genocide of Armenian Christians almost exactly 100 years
ago provides a graphic reminder of evil and a call to vigilance,
since Christians across the Middle East still suffer persecution,
an expert on the atrocity told Dallas Baptist University audiences.
Artyom Tonoyan, the grandson of Armenian Genocide survivors, described
the massacre of his people and current implications during the annual
T.B. Maston Lectures at DBU Feb. 9.
Child victims of the Armenian genocide in 1915. (Photo: Armenian
Genocide Museum)Armenians, who populated part of modern Turkey,
originated as a political entity between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago,
noted Tonoyan, a lecturer at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities’
Institute for Global Studies and a research associate at East View
Information Services in Minneapolis. He is a graduate of DBU and
Armenian society and culture rose and fell several times across the
centuries, Tonoyan said. Their pilgrimage to Christianity began in
the first century B.C., when the apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus
traveled to Asia Minor and told them about Jesus. They became the
first to embrace Christianity as a state religion in 301 B.C., more
than a decade before Rome.
But with the rise of Islam, “Armenian civilization underwent an
existential crisis,” he added. “Armenians were forced to islamize.”
The Ottoman Empire, which fully embraced Islam and dominated the region
for most of the second millennia, discriminated against the Armenian
Christians, he said. For example, Armenians could not own firearms
and were barred from representation in court. They were not allowed to
own horses or build a home taller than their Muslim neighbors’ houses.
Armenians singled out as ‘cancerous’
During the final throes of the Ottoman Empire in the 18th and
early 19th centuries, “Armenians were singled out as cancerous”
and a “parasitic entity,” he said. Young Turkish leaders found the
Armenians offensive because, despite political discrimination, the
Armenians prospered financially and controlled the Ottoman economy.
Shortly after the Ottoman Empire entered World War I, on April 24,
1915, the empire launched a horrendous siege against its Armenian
Authorities rounded up practically every Armenian leader–“poets,
doctors, professors, composers, teachers”–in a purge that predated
the Jewish Holocaust by decades.
About 400,000 Armenian men were killed almost immediately. Elderly
men, women and children were rounded up, their property confiscated,
and forced on a “death march” into the same desert where the Islamic
State dominates today, Tonoyan said. The marches pushed them to the
geographical and political edges of the empire.
Five thousand Armenian villages were destroyed, he said. Hundreds
of churches were confiscated and converted to mosques, stables and
A family ‘cut down’
The Ottomans decimated the Armenian Christian population, he added.
One and a half million Armenians were murdered. The Armenian population
declined from 2.1 million before World War I, to 600,000 by 1918,
to 50,000 today, he added.
“Our own family was cut down,” Tonoyan reported. Ottomans forced his
grandfather, then a boy, to watch the rape of his own mother and
sister. The last image Tonoyan’s great-grandfather saw before his
murder was the rape of his wife and daughter.
Even though the Armenian Genocide occurred a century ago, Christians
around the world, and particularly in the Middle East, are being
persecuted today, he said. Some of the persecuting countries, such
as Saudi Arabia, are strong U.S. allies.
“This is the greatest ethical dilemma facing the American Christian
church,” he said. “What are we to do as Christians? Sit back and relax,
… or do something?
“Christians are dying for their faith by the hundreds and thousands. I
cannot keep silent.”
Pray for the persecuted
U.S. Christians should start by praying for their persecuted fellow
Christians in hostile regions of the world, Tonoyan urged. He also
called on Christians to insist their senators and representatives
pay attention to persecution and demand change.
“Please, whatever you do, do not remain silent,” he pleaded. “Your
brothers and sisters need you.”
T.B. Maston, namesake of the lecture series, taught Christian ethics
at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth for much
of the 20th century. The lectureship is sponsored by the T.B Maston
Foundation and Dallas Baptist University.