1.5 million men, women and children were massacred during the Armenian genocide at the beginning of the twentieth century. A horrid start to a horrid century.
Yesterday I wrote about the effects of pilgrimages to other countries. I forgot to mention the obvious: when you meet a stranger, you can either love him or remain indifferent to his presence. Indifference is not an option during a pilgrimage. In fact, indifference is not a Christian option. Full-stop.
Christ did not remain indifferent to us. He bowed down the Heavens and descended to our humble being; He so loved us that He become one of us; He identified with our pain and suffering to the extent that He gave Himself up in order to share this pain and, if possible, to take it away from us.
I am deeply ashamed for my lack of knowledge about the Armenian genocide. I knew close to nothing until I visited this wonderful country. I knew nothing of the 1.5 million lives that were wiped away from the face of the earth. The final act of this disaster would be to allow ourselves to wipe away their memory, too.
There really isn’t much to say when you see these photographs. I looked at each face with great care, I looked in their eyes and I tried to imagine their expressions when they used to laugh, when they fell in love, when they looked at their mothers and their children. I looked at all these decaying, decomposing bodies and tried to understand how God’s memory works. It makes sense now that we pray for ‘eternal memory’ – what else can we ask for? Who will remember our smiles in a century? Who will remember the way in which we experience fear, hunger or happiness?
I look at these faces and the only consolation I find is the knowledge that each of them is entirely known to Christ, Who made them all and Who will remember them eternally.
Pilgrimages can be painful. They force you to enter the pain of others and to make a choice. You can chose to remain indifferent and safe in your comfort and coldness. Or, you can chose to open us, to love and share the pain of these people. We are one, after all; and my sins have contributed to all the horrors of the world – past, present and future. We need to remember. And we need to repent.