'Move past how violence is named' on Armenian genocide world church leader urges

(Photo: WCC / Peter Williams)World Council of Churches General Secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit on the opening day of the 10th WCC Assembly in Busan, South Korea on October 30, 2013.

In a sermon about the Armenian genocide the head of the World Council of Churches has urged governments everywhere to move beyond the debate about how the violence is named.

Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, was preaching at a May 7 ecumenical service the National Cathedral in Washington DC commemorating the centennial of the Armenian genocide.

"We should with these acts of commemoration also have passed the point when governments – including my own Norwegian government – discuss whether what happened to the Armenians in 1915 should be named as we do by our common moral sense: a genocide," said Tveit.

"We are commemorating them not only as witnesses to cruel death, but also as witnesses to life. They gave witness to the dignity and meaning of life before their death. Today their testimonies call us to become witnesses to life in the midst of sin and death of our time," said the Norwegian Lutheran who heads the WCC.

Entitled "The Holy Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide: A Prayer for Justice and Peace," gathered thousands of guests and multi-faith leaders to remember those lost in the genocide and to demonstrate gratitude for the regeneration of life for the survivors and those who aided them.

It was presided over by Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and Catholicos Aram I of the Holy See of Cilicia.

The event was also attended by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and the President Serge Sarkisian of Armenia.


The year 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian genocide, in which an estimated 1.5 million Armenians perished at the hands of Ottoman Turks from 1915 to 1923.

The ecumenical service served as the signature event for three days of services, exhibitions, concerts and an award ceremony led by the National Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide Centennial, a project of the Armenian Apostolic Churches of America.

The event was sponsored by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Portions of the liturgy were led by members of the NCC's governing board, including Rev. Roy Medley, its chair.

The service began with a welcome from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori of the Episcopal Church.

Due to the Armenian Genocide centennial, Tveit urged a "shared commitment to address and name crimes against humanity" in today's world.

Alluding to recent violence in the United States., Tveit said all nations, even one that has become "a home for many who needed shelter from the whole world," are challenged to witness to life and hope.

"The same hopes for justice and peace we hear from this country, from cities like Ferguson and Baltimore. All lives matter!"

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