In the beginning of this month, an interfaith delegation of the Council of Religious Leaders in Israel traveled together to Poland, in order to visit Auschwitz.
The Reverend Father Koryoun Baghdasaryan represented the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem in this commission.
The religious leaders met with the Cardinal of Krakow and the Archbishop of Warsaw, as well as with local Jewish dignitaries. After the meeting, the delegation visited the concentration camp Auschwitz.
In Auschwitz Father Koryoun Bagdasaryan presented the speech of His Beatitude, Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem:
Standing on these grounds is indeed a most solemn and an awe-inspiring experience for all those who belong to the post-World War II generation. It is impossible not to feel the plight and torment of myriads of human beings—old and young, men and women—who were annihilated here and elsewhere because of intolerance and hatred. An inhuman act, an unspeakable crime, was committed here.
For an Armenian clergyman such as myself, being here is a harrowing experience. The sinister atmosphere at this site holds morbid vibrations generated by earlier atrocities. The conviction that human memory will erase evil acts and pass even genocide into oblivion emboldened Hitler to say in reference to the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923 perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks: “Who remembers the Armenians?” That statement was made on the eve of persecutions and pogroms against the Jewish people and other groups in Europe.
The Armenian people could not forget what happened to them one century ago. Four generations later, last year they marked the centennial of the Genocide of 1915. Today they empathize with and share the trauma of all the descendants of Holocaust-survivors and all those who have experienced genocides. The trauma caused by any kind of mass killing is a dehumanizing experience that cannot be and should not be forgotten or forgiven.
At Auschwitz I and my fellow Armenians are also haunted by another tragic reality. The only symbol resembling Auschwitz that my people had built a church, in the desert of Deir el Zore in Syria, the site where thousands of deported Armenians died of hunger and thirst, is now in shambles as a result of ISIL extremists’ atrocities. Racial and religious hatred did not even allow the bones of the dead to rest.
As heads and representatives of various churches in the Holy Land we are here to offer our prayers for those who perished and for the families of survivors that still need consolation. But I also feel that our presence here is an earnest appeal to the leaders of the world to realize the seriousness of their responsibilities to their constituents. Pogroms, genocides, ethnic cleansing, racial and religious intolerance are ungodly acts that create perpetual chaos instead of solving problems. And today as a concerned human being and an Armenian, I ask the Israeli Government to join hundreds of Jewish scholars and historians and admit that what happened to Armenians in 1915 was indeed a GENOCIDE in the full meaning of the world.
We pray to God to give wisdom to the world leaders to resolve conflicts that lead to atrocities. Instead of wars and mass killings may the Lord establish peace and good will among men.
Archbishop Nourhan Manougian Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem