Ecumenical service honouring memory of Armenian Genocide
On Saturday 23 May, leaders of the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of NSW and the ACT joined Bishop Haigazoun Najaran at an ecumenical service to honour the memory of the 1.5 million martyrs of the Armenian Genocide, 100 years on.
Dignitaries who attended the service at St Stephen’s Uniting Church included NSW Treasurer, the Hon. Gladys Berejiklian, President of the Christian Democrat Party, Rev. Fred Nile, Rev. Myung-Hwa Park, Moderator of the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of NSW and the ACT, General Secretary Rev. Dr Andrew Williams and founder of the Exodus Foundation, Rev. Bill Crews.
The service also served as an opportunity for the Armenian Apostolic Church to recognise and give thanks to the Australians of 100 years ago. In particular, the Churches of Australia were thanked for welcoming and helping Armenian refugees in what was a global humanitarian effort following World War 1. Australia rallied relief efforts, sending medical supplies, food and clothing as part of the Sydney Lord Mayor’s Armenian Relief Fund.
With a group of prominent civic, business and religious leaders, the Lord Mayor of Sydney passed the following resolution on 12 December, 1918; “That the fund be established in NSW in order to help relieve the terrible distress of the surviving Armenian Christians who have been almost exterminated the Turks… and who are, as a result, deported from their homes, scattered over the Syrian and Mesopotamian deserts, homeless, starving and perishing.”
Armenia is known as the birthplace of Christianity, being the first country to adopt it as its national religion in the early fourth century. Today, many of the descendants of these original Christian communities live in Australia. It has one of the biggest Armenian populations in the English-speaking world, partly thanks to Australia’s hospitality many years ago.
The May 23 service began with the Rev. Myung Hwa Park’s acknowledgement of country and introductory welcome, referring to the work of NSW Indigenous poet, Jonathan Hill, and offering justice and peace to honour the 1.5 million martyrs lost between the years 1915 -1917, as well as the 77 000 orphans.
The Rev. Andrew Williams read the Responsive Psalm 84, followed by a contribution from the Hon. Gladys Berjiklian.
Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Australia and New Zealand, Bishop Haigazoun Najaran, thanked the Australian people who showed mercy to the Armenian people at the time, despite not knowing them.
As a token of appreciation, attendees were presented with gifts by Bishop Najaran, in a moving gesture.