By Mary O’KEEFE
“Our message after 100 years is simple: We will never forget.”
That message from Congressman Adam Schiff and shared by his representative Mary Hovagimian perfectly expressed the theme of the ceremony at the Armenian Sisters Academy on April 23.
The ceremony began with students, staff and guests respectfully entering the school, all carrying a red or white flower. They solemnly placed the flower at the base of the Armenian Genocide Memorial that is located in the middle of the campus. It was obvious from the youngest to the oldest student that the memory of those 1.5 million souls who perished under the Ottoman Empire in Turkey 100 years ago would never be forgotten.
In 1915, members of the Turkish government executed a plan to expel and massacre Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire. Schiff has been a tireless voice of support to the Armenian community and has worked to get the United States government to call the mass murder a genocide. The government has yet to do so.
The Oxford dictionary describes genocide as, “The deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.” Historians estimate there were about 2 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915. Of that number, an estimated 1.5 million were killed. Turkey has denied the genocide term and has disputed the historians’ numbers.
The call for the term genocide to be used to describe the murders of so many has been going on for 100 years, since the first stories of the atrocities were shared with the rest of the world. The message at the Armenian Sisters Academy carried on that call, not with violence or even anger at the denial, but to remember and ask for justice.
“[We ask] not for revenge but for justice and to say never again,” said His Excellency Bishop Michael Mouradian.
He spoke of Armenian descendants in the United States of America that are free to continue to speak out for those victims.
“We will continue to demand justice for [the] 1.5 million,” Mouradian said.
Students performed songs and readings for their guests. School principal Sister Lucia spoke to her students and guests about the 1.5 million “voices that had been forever silenced” and praised the Armenian people for continuing to honor their culture.
Hovagimian shared Schiff’s comments: “[The Ottoman Empire] undertook a systematic effort in exterminating the Armenian people … in a campaign of death and destruction. One hundred years later we will stand up again and say their efforts failed.”
She added the pride of the Armenian culture is strong and is being passed down to each generation.
“We will build a brighter future out of a dark past,” Lucia told her students.