Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)
630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Contact: Jake Goshert, Coordinator of Information Services
Tel: (212) 686-0710 Ext. 60; Fax: (212) 779-3558
E-mail: [email protected]
August 2, 2004
CHURCH LEADERS PUSH FOR ACTION ON CATASTROPHE IN SUDAN
By Jake Goshert
The Armenian Church is taking a leading role in pushing for action to
end the genocide which is beginning in the Sudan.
Bishop Vicken Aykazian, legate and ecumenical officer of the Diocese of
the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), led a protest outside the
Sudanese Embassy in Washington D.C. on Friday, July 23, 2004. He was
joined by religious leaders and supporters from the Armenian Assembly of
“My message was that genocide is not acceptable, especially in the
beginning of the 21st century,” said Bishop Aykazian, who led a prayer
during the protest and also spoke for the group to various media
outlets. “I told them I know what genocide means, because my people
have suffered through genocide. So we ask the authorities and the
people to come together to fight against the genocide.”
Bishop Aykazian, who serves as secretary to the executive committee of
the National Council of Churches (NCC), has talked about the issue with
leaders of that ecumenical body and is one of the organization’s leaders
calling for international action to end the violence in the Sudan, where
the Janjaweed — a government-backed nomadic Arab tribe — has raped,
killed, and burnt the homes of black, non-Arab residents in the nation’s
Darfur region in attempt to get them to leave their lands, which the
Arab government has promised to the mercenaries.
Those able to flee the Sudan have been pouring into neighboring Chad,
where food, water, and shelter are growing scarce. American officials
have unsuccessfully called on Sudan to allow humanitarian aid to flow
into the Darfur area. The Bush administration has already pledged $300
million in aid.
With American pressure, the United Nations Security Council passed a
resolution at the end of July calling for sanctions against Sudan unless
the violence ends. (Sudan was recently elected to a three-year term on
the U.N. Human Rights Commission.)
The violence has already claimed an estimated 50,000 lives and displaced
a million people. During the protest at the Sudanese Embassy, the group
called not only for an end to the violence, but also for humanitarian
aid and financial support for the displaced non-Arab victims.
USING THE RIGHT WORDS
Right now the activists are struggling on two fronts: to gather
humanitarian assistance and to get the violence to be called genocide.
“According to the experts, it is genocide. It really bothers me when
the authorities and the government do not use the word genocide, because
it is genocide. We have to use the word genocide,” Bishop Aykazian
said. “We have no right to use the word ‘massacres’, because other
nations used that word when talking about the Armenian Genocide, and
that bothers us. So we have to use the word ‘genocide’.”
“Genocide goes beyond violence,” Bishop Aykazian added. “It is not only
killing human beings; it is killing the culture of a nation, of a
minority, of a race. Genocide is the destruction of a group of people
and the destruction of their history.”
CONTINUED CALLS FOR ACTION
The NCC’s executive board passed a resolution on Tuesday, May 18, 2004,
urging member churches to push for cessation of the apparent attempt at
ethnic cleansing in the Darfur region of western Sudan.
The first NCC resolution dealing with the Sudan was approved in 2002.
This recent resolution “affirms and extends” the calls to action made in
the earlier statement of the NCC Executive Board — an 80-member body
representing leaders from the NCC’s 36 Protestant, Orthodox, and
Anglican member churches.
The organization is also raising funds to send supplies of food and
clothing to the refugees streaming out of Sudan and into neighboring
The Eastern Diocese will be raising funds through its local parishes to
provide aid to the victims in the Sudan through the National Council of
“Today it is happening in the Sudan, and tomorrow it can happen in any
part of the world. When you need help, you ask other people to help
you. So make sure when others ask for help you don’t just keep quiet
because you don’t want to put your hands into your pockets,” he said.
“As Armenians especially, we have no right to just keep quiet.”
E-mail photos available on request. Photos also viewable in the News
and Events section of the Eastern Diocese’s website,
PHOTO CAPTION (1): Bishop Vicken Aykazian, diocesan legate and
ecumenical officer, leads a protest outside the Sudanese Embassy in
Washington, D.C., on Friday, July 23, 2004.
PHOTO CAPTION (2): Dozens of people join Bishop Aykazian in a protest
calling for an end to the genocide in the Sudan.