WASHINGTON—A prayer service commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide was held at the Washington National Cathedral on Thursday evening.
The service remembered those lost in the genocide and showed gratitude for the regeneration of life that the survivors worked so hard to create.
United States Vice President Joseph Biden and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power joined President of Armenia Serzh Sarkisian, Catholicos Karekin II, and Catholicos Aram I, in a prayer service.
Esteemed guests and representatives of various faiths gathered for “The Holy Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide: A Prayer for Justice and Peace” to remember those lost in the Genocide and to demonstrate gratitude for the regeneration of life for which the survivors and their saviors worked so hard.
The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, welcomed attendees to the service and the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, delivered the homily. The interfaith ceremony was led by His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and His Holiness Aram I Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia.
Also in attendance were the descendants of saviors who contributed to the survival of thousands of Armenians a century ago. During the service, they were acknowledged and praised for their human compassion and selfless bravery.
“Worshippers of all faiths long for a world of tolerance and devoid of hate and violence,” said Noubar Afeyan, Chair of the NCAGC Steering Committee, who is himself the descendant of a Genocide survivor.
Reflecting on the day’s service, the Armenian President offered his perspective. “It was truly an honor to address the congregation at the National Cathedral,” said President Sarkisian. “Today’s ecumenical prayer demonstrated a powerful call to unite this community in the spirit of gratitude, justice and peace.”
“It is important to recognize that we must work together to forge a more peaceful future,” said his Holiness Aram I during the ceremony.
“In 1915, a well-planned and systematically organized genocide took place against the Armenian people. Today, some people, for geopolitical reasons, refer to it as a great tragedy. Others may depict it as massacre and simply as relocation because of war time. But what happened in 1915 was a genocide – even if the word genocide was not yet part of the vocabulary of international law,” stressed His Holiness Aram I, in a clear reference to the Obama Administration’s refusal – under pressure from Turkey – to speak honestly about the Armenian Genocide.
His Holiness Aram I then issued a clear call for justice for the Armenian Genocide, differentiating between “cheap reconciliation [which] generates further injustice” and “true reconciliation” based on recognition, accountability, and reparations.
His Holiness Karekin II said, “We seek to inspire a change of spirit in people—an awakening of the heart that will influence future generations. The events in Washington are a testament to our strength, one hundred years after the Genocide, as we join together to promote peace, honor those lost, and protect those at risk around the world no matter their race, religion or ethnicity.”