By: Janet Shamilian
Each of us is rightfully entitled to our own assessment of what the Armenian Cause means. Some of us may feel a stronger connection with a certain issue than another and others may weigh in most, if not all issues involving Armenians. However, to assume that the Armenian Cause is only confined to the acceptance and recognition of the Armenian Genocide is blindly neglecting the truth, history, and facts – and as a people, we have had our overdosed and prolonged encounter with negligence.
Being Armenian is not an obligation we fulfill 1 out of the 365 days in the year. It is not only about how dedicated we are to our people each year, solely on the 24th of April. It surely is not about how many Armenian flags we display in just about every single size and how often we drive around the consulate, encircling the protest. Rather, being a faithful Armenian is defined by the work and time we contribute to our cause, not just on the 24th of April, but on every single day of the year. I commend those Armenians who have dedicated their lives to our cause. I applaud those Armenians who have sacrificed their vocation in order to help their people.
The genocide does not only revolve around the recognition of the crimes committed against humanity almost a century ago. We often forget that recognition is only a step and not the destination. As we advocate for justice, we must not disregard other necessities that come along with the acceptance of our history – such as the need to demand for restitution. Restitution, the act of returning something lost or stolen to its rightful owner, should be the next step. In the 1990’s, groups of Holocaust survivors established reparation programs in countries that were both directly and indirectly affected as a result of the Nazi regime. On October 3, 2010, Germany paid off the last installment of interest, finally settling its World War I accounts. After Finland sustained its independence during World War II, it had to pay huge war reparations to the Soviet Union along with Hungary, former Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia. Similarly, after World War II, Italy and Germany had borrowed a great sum of money from Greece and ended up repaying Greece for war reparations. Following these few examples from history, we must be mindful that advocating for the acceptance of the genocide is not enough. We cannot forget our geographic soul.
The Armenian Genocide is not the only issue Armenians face in the United States or internationally. A prevailing issue that is taking place right now is the breach of ceasefire between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan. Despite peace talks and agreed ceasefire in May 1994, periodic shootouts on the borderline have taken place for the past 18 years. This “frozen conflict” has led to the killings of soldiers in times of these sporadic infringements of ceasefire. The autonomy and sovereignty of Armenians in Karabakh will be at risk if the international community and we, the members of our community, remain dormant and uneducated about these acts of hostility. Thankfully, by finally addressing the serious violations of the Azeris, the United States Department of Defense blocked Azerbaijan from purchasing U.S. military equipment. Azerbaijan’s aggressiveness and disrespect towards calls to settle the Karabakh issue peacefully should ignite and activate members of the Armenian community. This focus on present day issues is imperative in steps towards understanding the Armenian Cause.
Other prevailing contemporary issues include the bipartisan measure regarding Turkey’s stolen Christian church properties and the resistance and discrimination Turkey bears towards freedom of faith for religious minorities. This measure calls upon Turkey to return all confiscated Christian church properties along with various affiliated artifacts. Turkey threatens the survival and longevity of religious minorities when showing resistance to religious freedom.The Churches Resolution is aligned with American’s beliefs of religious freedom and practice. It would be hypocritical for this superpower to not intervene and pressure respective parties to return religious sights to their rightful owners.
By providing foreign aid, the United States is able to promote and stabilize healthier democracies, ensure a favorable environment for American products, strengthen national security, and defend its global leadership. In May 2012, United States House of Representatives panel for foreign affairs proposed increasing foreign aid to Karabakh from $2 million to $5 million. This proposal results in a 150% increase of aid to Karabakh while preserving aid to Armenia.
Another pressing issue is the assimilation of our culture and people. Rather than retaining our cultural identity, we are bidding farewell to our near 5,000-year history. Nothing is worth such an unfair and parasitic trade-off. Adapting to our environment is integral, but being absorbed by our surroundings is unacceptable. Assimilation inevitably leads to a loss of identity, thereby demonstrating detriment in the already microscopic Armenian community.
The abovementioned problems are rooted in our history but are problems taking place in modern society. Though the recognition of the Armenian Genocide should be at the top of our political agenda, we cannot abandon the current occurrences involving our homeland and our people. It is important to place a fair balance on the past and present together, since both the past and present largely impact our future. Other than educating ourselves regarding the issues mentioned above, the first step towards helping our community is by calling our local Senators and U.S. Representatives and urging and encouraging them to vote for pro-Armenian issues. If you are already represented by individuals who are supportive of these issues, the power of “thank you” notes goes a long way…
The Armenian Cause is not a subjective field, dependent on each individual. It is a series of causes and issues that together comprise the Armenian fight to overcome our lingering battles. We are the soldiers in this battle. Just as in any successful strategy of war, while we can prioritize, we cannot direct all our attention towards just one issue. Failure to disperse our attention and magnify all the issues will not only make us seem unknowledgeable, and even worse, vulnerable and blindsided. The Armenian Cause is the overarching theme of the Armenian struggle, respective of ALL issues taking place within the Armenian community.