Who knows what a new day brings. Last Sunday morning I woke up to find images of Pope Francis strung through my Facebook newsfeed. Comments he made during Sunday Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica marking the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide left the Turkish Foreign Minister turning to Twitter and ambassadors scrambling.
For a brief moment and in an incredibly insignificant and selfish way I thought, Lord Jesus show the world who the Armenian people are, so that I may never, ever, ever have to resort to the Kardashians as a reference when trying to explain my husband’s ethnicity. Just an honest Jesus moment, what can I say.
Pope Francis called the slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman Turks the first genocide of the 20th century and urged the international community to recognize it as such. Although historians estimate that 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, the Turkish government has definitely denied that a genocide ever took place. Sadly, for decades now the United States has avoided officially using the word Genocide in regards to the Massacre. Not because it wasn’t indeed Genocide, but because Turkey is an important military ally with an important military base.
As I rattled off the Pope’s eloquent and unapologetic statements to my hubby, my little Armenians, the ones I’m lucky enough to share my life with, were still snuggled into their beds.
I’d affectionately coined them my watered-down Armenians-a sentiment I shared in my own Facebook post that morning. To which my brother-in-law, Pierre, responded warmly that there is no such thing. After some days to ponder, not only do I think he’s right (yes, Pierre, I’m admitting it to the whole world) but I think it might just be the smartest thing he’s ever said.
My kids, 10 and 13, spent the morning watching a documentary about that atrocities of their ancestors. It’s a graphic and upsetting film. I wanted to hide this from them, to shield them from the inherent evil in the world-but that too would be injustice. They watched and my heart was heavy for them.
Before my children were born, in the heartbreaking images of starving survivors I’d see the face of my husband’s grandfather, Dikran.
Raised in a multigenerational home, my husband shared his childhood home with his grandfather. Dikran served in the French Colonial military and was an accomplished tennis champion. Well into his eighties he still had the physique of an athlete. Because he preferred the sympathies given to the frail, his appearance often mirrored unsteadiness. Nonetheless, when he thought he was alone we would find him running and jumping through my mother-in-laws living room. Dikran and I shared the same conversations countless times. In his limited English he would do his best to tell me about his love for tennis. He would also say to me, “I speak English very good… Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday…” and then he would laugh at himself like it was the first time he said it, and as if he thought that English sounded absurd. I’m told that he had an incredible dry sense of humor, and that in his prime he was the life of every party without ever cracking a smile. Dikran died four years after my husband and I were married. In the last few days of his life whenever he saw my face he wept.
Dikran was born in Armenia in 1913. He was a toddler during the massacres.
Through the resolve and tenacity of his mother, Jameleh, Dikran and his siblings survived genocide. Refusing to deny Christ, her husband was taken in the night, put in shackles, and marched off to slaughter. The sound of shackles scraping along the cobblestone road would haunt her for the rest of her life. She was forced from her grand home filled with fine things. Knowing they would be driven into the death marches, she made the decision to leave Dikran behind. He was hidden away and cared for by his aunt. With her two older sons at her side she carried her infant daughter for nearly 40 days through the Syrian desert. Witnessing the most vile abuses at the hands of the Turkish guards she resorted to covering herself in animal feces in an attempt to avoid their abuses. They finally found refuge in Aleppo, Syria. Dikran would make the pilgrimage to Aleppo three years later. They lived for five years in Aleppo off the repayment of a debt that was owed to Jemeleh’s husband. When the debt was paid in full, Jameleh was no longer able to care for her children. Dikran would spend much of his youth in an orphanage run by Catholic Charities.
Since the birth of my children what I see now in the haunting documentary images are the faces of my own children. Pierre, you’re so right there simply is no such thing as a watered-down Armenian. Perhaps it’s the incredible tenacity of my husband’s grandparents to survive, to refuse to let evil win, that shows itself in the eye’s of my children.
And so we continue to move forward, and my little Armenians carry the resolve of their ancestors. They are beautiful and thriving, as are our nieces and nephews and in that I know that evil didn’t win. It never truly wins.
Searching scripture to match the enormity of the pain of Genocide brought me to Revelation. Some things are just too heavy for this world and so we must fix our eyes on the next.
Revelation 21:4 New Living Translation (NLT)
4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
A Prayer for our heavy hearts-
“Lead us Lord that we may, in both big and small ways, challenge evil. Where it begins help us to be your light that overshadows darkness. Help us to lead our children in a manner that honors those who have gone before us and have endured great sorrow. Protect our hearts, in your Son’s precious name. Amen.”
Little Armenians was originally posted for Easter Praise in April of 2015. Mindy’s book Embracing Charlie was honored with a Finalist Title in the Christian Inspirational Category of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards.