From News Release, April 24, 2015:   On April 18 the Glendale City Seventh-day Adventist Church hosted a Day of Remembrance for the Armenian genocide. The collaborative worship gathering was hosted by the English- and Armenian-speaking congregations that constitute the church. Pastor  Hovik Saraffian, leader of the Armenian congregation and a voice for Armenian Adventists around the world, presented the history of the genocide, called for Turkey’s repentance, and expressed confidence that God’s righteousness would ultimately triumph over all evils in our world.

IMG_0890-1 (2)

Pastor Hovik Saraffian. Credit: Todd Leonard.

The 40-voice Armenian Society of Los Angeles Chorus provided traditional Armenian songs that celebrated the heritage of the Armenian people, lamented the atrocities of a century ago, grieved God’s apparent absence during this awful time, and, at the same time, celebrated God’s work through courageous men and women who stood up in the face of violence.

The city of Glendale, which is located near Los Angeles, has a population of more than 100,000 people of Armenian descent, which represents nearly half of Glendale’s residents. For the past 35 years, the congregation has hosted an Armenian-speaking worship service on its campus each Sabbath in addition to having a number of members who are of Armenian-descent who participate in its English-speaking worship.

In April 1915, the Ottoman empire ordered the execution or removal of every Armenian from what is now Turkey. Over the next ten years, approximately 1.5 million Armenians were killed by gun, sword, drowning, crucifixion, and immolation. Raphael Lemkin, a polish lawyer who spent his life working to prevent and punish those responsible for mass killings, coined the term “genocide” to describe what was done to the Armenian people.

On April 24, 2015, the nation of Armenia and the Armenian diaspora pause to mark this atrocity, to give thanks for those who came to their defense, and to protest governments, including Turkey and the United States, who still will not acknowledge this as a genocide of the Armenian people.

The Glendale City Church’s April 18 Day of Remembrance worship service was scheduled to mark this history on the Sabbath preceding this international commemoration. Over 100 guests of Armenian descent attended the service. After the formal event, attendees shared stories of their ancestors, telling how their parents made it to an orphanage or how their grandparents were able to escape to a neighboring country. One guest shared that her mother was taken by boat with dozens of others into the Black Sea to be drowned. Just before she was to be thrown overboard, she was pulled aside because the executioners thought she must not be Armenian because she had blond hair and blue eyes.

For many in attendance who were not of Armenian descent, it was an eye-opening experience to be immersed in the story of the genocide. Many people expressed their gratitude to the event planners for the opportunity to learn about this history and the experience of their Armenian neighbors.

Hosting this gathering is part of Glendale City Church’s commitment to be an Adventist Peace Church, working to follow Christ’s call to bring peace into the city through community service, ecumenical relationship-building, and gatherings that highlight the need for peace and that celebrate those who do the work of peacemaking locally and around the world.

The Day of Remembrance service can be viewed in its entirety online at www.CityChurch-Online.org. It is available to watch at 8:00 pm (Eastern and Pacific Time), Monday through Friday, and at 11:00 am (ET and PT) on Saturday.