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Mercy and Truth will meet. Justice and peace will embrace.

Jon Barton - Monday, April 20, 2015

The Virginia Council of Churches participated with St. James Armenian Orthodox Church in a Ecumenical and Interfaith Service On the Occasion of the Canonization of the Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide on Saturday, April 18, 2015. "Few people want to talk about Genocide; it is a very depressing subject after all. Still, we cannot indefinitely avoid depressing subjects, particularly when they are part of not only our history but also our present reality."

"In the first quarter of the 20th century, the world had to hear a story it would have preferred not to hear. – the story of how a civilized people turned to genocide, and how the rest of the world, also composed of civilized people, remained silent in the face of genocide…"  The Rev. Dr. Jonathan Barton, General Minister for the Virginia Council of Churches, explained during the homily. 

Participating in the service were: V. Rev. Fr. Simeon Odabashian, Diocesan Vicar - Diocese of the Armenian Church; The Rev. John T. Myers, Associate Executive Eastern Virginia Association Southern Conference UCC and President of the Virginia Council of Churches; The Rev Jenee Gilchrist, Baptist General Convention and Vice President of the Virginia Council of Churches; The Rev. Joseph Crockett, Associate General Secretary for the National Council of Churches of Christ USA; V. Rev Fr. Nicholas Bacalis, Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral (Richmond); Fr. George Chioros, Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Churche (Newport News); The Rev. Wallace-Adam Riley, St Paul's Episcopal Church (Richmond); The Rev. Charles Swadley, United Methodist Pastor, Interfaith Relations Commission Virginia Council of Churches; Fr. George Sebaali, St. Anthony Maronite Church (Richmond); The Rev. Jonathan Barton, General Minister, Virginia Council of Churches; Rabbi Ben Romer, Bonay Kodesh; and Dr. Imad Damaj, Virginia Muslim Coalition. 

"The first four decades of my life about the only thing I knew about Armenia was that they were starving and therefore I had to eat everything on my plate. This was because when my parents were growing up their parents had told them to eat everything on their plate… No one seemed to be aware of why people were starving in Armenia only that somehow by eating everything in front of us we were helping these starving people." Because of their telling, many who did not believe …now believe, and some who did not care have come to care.  They tell the story out of immense pain, partly to honor their loved ones who died, but also as a warning to the living – to warn the living that it can, it has and it will happen again and that it must never happen again."

"Those who would deny the ugly side of history are committing the greatest indignity human beings can inflict on one another; saying to people who have suffered excruciating pain and loss that their anguish and grief are mere illusions."

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