This year the 14th Triennial Assembly was held on July 12-18 in the Winthrop Hall University of Western Australia in Perth, where 300 members of the UCA elected by Synods and Presbyteries across the country met.
The Armenian Evangelical Uniting Church of Sydney, located in Willoughby NSW is the only Armenia n congregation that is part of the Sydney North Presbytery of the Uniting Church NSW and ACT Synod.
Rev. Dr. Chris walker, the National Consultant for Christian Unity and Worship, together with Mr. Levon Kardashian and the Rev. Dr. Krikor Youmshajekian, the previous minister of the Armenian Evangelical Uniting Church of Sydney and currently the minister of the St. Andrew’s Uniting Church of Longueville and the Chairperson of Sydney North Presbytery, prepared a proposal (http://assembly2015.uca.org.au/28-armenian-genocide-christian-unity-working-group) seeking the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the Uniting Church in Australia.
The proposal was moved by Rev. Dr. Walker on behalf of the Christian Unity working group and seconded by Rev. Dr. Avril Hannah-Jones. Rev. Dr. Youmshajekian made a brief speech capturing the attention of all present. “In the years of 1915-1918, the Armenian people were under the grip of annihilation and the brutal plans of genocide – but our gracious and loving God saved this first Christian nation from being wiped out,” said Rev. Dr. Youmshajekian. He also mentioned that many countries and many communities in Australia had been involved in providing support, relief, food, and safe places for the Armenian people to live.
“By accepting this proposal the assembly will keep the story of the first Christian nation alive,” he said, giving thanks to the many Uniting Church congregations who had held liturgies to commemorate the Genocide.
Rev. Dr. Chris Walker, National Consultant for Christian Unity Doctrine and Worship, told the Assembly that it was deeply fitting for the Uniting Church to make this acknowledgement as the Armenian people mark the 100 year anniversary of the Genocide. He also acknowledged that both the World Christian Council and the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) had made statements acknowledging the massacres that took place and the suffering of the Armenian community. “Accepting this proposal would be an act of ecumenical solidarity with the Armenian people who have suffered so much and continue to do so” he said.
After the proposal was unanimously adopted (http://assembly2015.uca.org.au/uniting-church-recognises-the-armenian-genocide/#more-2113), the President of the Assembly, Mr. Stuart McMillan, made a brief comment and asked all to stand for a minute of silence in commemoration of more the 1.5 million Armenians, who were the victims of the Genocide planed and implemented by the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century. By the request of Rev. Dr. Youmshajekian a prayer was offered by the NSW Moderator Rev. Dr. Myung Hwa Park, both sung and spoken in Korean and English.
The 14th Assembly has also agreed to:
• Commend the NSW and SA governments in acknowledging the Armenian Genocide and encourage the Federal and other state governments to do the same
• Affirm the value of recognizing a date on or near the anniversary of the Armenian genocide, as a day of observance and commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.
• Request the National Consultant Christian Unity, Doctrine and Worship to prepare
(a) A prayer to be provided for all congregations of the UCA for use on the day; and
(b) In consultation with others, educational and liturgical resources for congregations to use.
On behalf of the Armenian community of Australia and the blessings of the Bishop Haigazoune Najarian, the Primate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Australia and New Zealand, we express our appreciation and gratitude to the Uniting Church in Australia for passing such an important resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
STATEMENT ON ARMENIAN GENOCIDE RESOLUTION, BY REV. DR. KRIKOR YOUMSHAJEKIAN, ON BEHALF OF THE
ARMENIAN COMMUNITY AND THE ARMENIAN MEMBERS OF THE UNITING CHURCH IN AUSTRALIA
UCA 14TH TRIENNIAL ASSEMBLY – JULY 12-18 – PERTH, WA, AUSTRALIA
President and members of the Assembly. Brothers and sisters in Christ.
Տէր Յիսուս Քրիստոսի շնորհքը, Հօր Աստուծոյ սէրը եւ Սուրբ Հոգիին հաղորդութիւնը ձեր բոլորին հետ ըլլայ։
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
I feel honored and privileged to be here and address the Assembly on behalf of the Armenian Community, as well as the Armenian members of the Uniting Church in Australia. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and I am happy that many Uniting Church congregations, especially in the Synod of NSW, and many other denominations responded to our request and used the circulated Liturgy prepared on this solemn occasion and included it in their church service orders. Thanks for all.
Between 1915 and 1918 the Armenian nation was on the brinks of annihilation due to the implementation of brutal genocidal plans by the Ottoman Turkish Government. But our gracious and loving God saved this first Christian nation from being wiped out from the face of the earth. Among other means of survival, God moved the conscience of hospitable Middle Eastern and charitable Western nations to help and support a devastated nation. At the time 52 countries worked together to support the suffering Armenian nation. As a result in 1918 Relief Committees had been founded in many of the Australian major cities, such as Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, and Tasmania. To give a few examples:
Joynten Smith, mayor of Sydney, with Sydney’s prominent businessmen, clergy and political leaders adopted the following resolution: I quote: “A fund to be established in New South Wales in order to help relieve the terrible distress of the surviving Armenian Christians who have been almost exterminated by Turks and who are, as a result, deported from their homes, are homeless, starving and perishing”.
Later in 1922 the many different committees were centralized into the Armenian Relief Fund of Australasia, having its headquarters in Adelaide.
In the same year W.P. McElhone, Mayor of Sydney, made an appeal in town hall stating: I quote: “May I venture to bring to your urgent and kindly consideration the special call of need which comes to us from the land in which Christianity had its birth, Armenia. An international effort is being made to save this nation. We wish to send a ship from Australia to Armenia.”
As a result, 4000 tons of food, clothing were collected and sent to the Middle East and Armenia, with many Australians accompanying the cargo. Also an orphanage was established in Antelias, Lebanon, now the Holy Seat of Cilicia, called the Australasian Orphanage, where 1700 orphans were fully supported and educated by Australians.
As the son of a survivor I am and will remain twice grateful to this great country Australia and to the great Australian nation. Thank you all and thank you Australia.
I would like to inform you that the United Church of Christ USA during its General Synod held on June 26-30, 2015 adopted unanimously a resolution to affirm and recognize the Armenian Genocide as the Presbyterian Church USA did in 2014.
By adopting the proposed resolution, the Uniting Church will be the third denomination on national level recognizing the Armenian Genocide along with Pope Francis, who during a special mass marking the Centenary of the Armenian Genocide held in Rome in April 2015, recognized on behalf of the world wide Catholic Church.
By voting in the affirmative to the proposal today, we as the Assembly will keep the story alive, our story, and the story of the first Christian nation.
I ask you, the Assembly, that this resolution be adopted and at the very least create an incentive and impetus for meaningful action toward a just resolution of this unhealed wound of 100 years. Thank you.
Mr. President, I have a request that if the proposal is approved and the resolution adopted, Rev. Dr. Myung Hwa Park, the Moderator of the NSW and ACT Synod offers a special prayer on this solemn occasion.