My grandfather was an immigrant from Armenia. He came to America, alone, as a young teenager in 1915 during the time when 1.5 million Armenians were killed by genocide - including my grandfather’s family. Although my grandfather, Krekor Katchaturian, died when my mom was young, I grew up surrounded by stories, Armenian rugs, and remembrances of him.
A few months ago, I finally stepped foot on my grandfather’s native land. For the first time I had the feeling of. . .wow. . . Everyone here looks like me!
Through the centuries, Armenia has been conquered and divided and reestablished a number of times. In 1991 after the Soviet Union ceased to be, Armenia became its own country again. It is now a little smaller than it used to be, but it is there lying just east of Turkey, south of Georgia, and north of Iran. (For thousands of years, Mount Ararat, the mountain where Noah’s Ark landed, was within the Armenia’s boundaries but today it is in Turkey.)
Armenia is a proud country . . . they are proud of their history, their resiliency, their alphabet (there is a REALLY interesting story about that!), Mount Ararat, their rugs, their strong women, and their faith. Christianity and the Christian mindset of being loving and kind plays a major part in the daily Armenian life.
Did you know that Armenia was the first country in the whole world to ever adopt Christianity as its official religion? Yes! In 301 AD. Here is a quick summary of how that came to be:
There was a Christian man in Armenia named Gregory. When Gregory would not bow down and worship one of king’s idols, King Tiridates had Gregory tortured and thrown into a deep pit filled with dead bodies and filth. There Gregory remained for 13 years, surviving only on bread that a widow threw down to him each day after receiving instruction to do so in a dream.
(Side note: My husband and I actually climbed down into this pit….and it was not easy! It was down a 30 foot, narrow hole that dropped into a small dungeon.)
Afterward, a series of events left King Tiradates on the brink of insanity which caused him to live a demon-possessed existence. Years later, the King’s sister had a vision that if Gregory was freed, the King would be healed. Everyone was astonished to find Gregory was still alive after all those years. Gregory was brought to the king – the king was healed – the king and his whole court asked for forgiveness and confessed faith in Jesus Christ. The king proclaimed Christianity to be Armenia’s official faith – and it has been proudly Christian ever since.
Sadly, it was, also, that faith that caused Armenians to be massacred.
In 1915, one and a half million Armenians were tortured and slaughtered in a demonstration of systematic extermination. The Armenian Genocide is acknowledged to be one of the first modern genocides. It is also one of the least known about and remembered.
Reportedly a few decades afterward when Hitler’s advisors learned of his plans to exterminate the Jews, they warned him…You can’t do that -The world will not allow you to wipe out a race of people. To which Hitler is quoted to have said, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
Which was very true. And we know what happened next.
We all would like to think that the Holocaust was the last time such hatred was demonstrated against a people . . . but no. Since then, millions have been killed in dozens of recognized genocides that the “world” has allowed -- and about which most of us have never heard. Don’t be misled - there is not just one country or one religion to blame for these atrocities: Throughout history It seems that almost every religion has been responsible for deliberately trying to carry out some sort of killing of another culture or religion.
In fact, on our trip the evening after we visited the Armenian Genocide Museum, we went back to our hotel and turned on the news (which is generally the only English-speaking channel available). The lead story was about an ethnic cleansing happening that day in Myanmar in Southeast Asia — hundreds of thousands of Muslims have been killed by Buddhists...and the killing goes on. The stories in this present day report were eerily similar—almost identical—to what we learned earlier that day had happened in Armenia a hundred years ago. The hatred is still happening today. When will we learn?