by Adam De Gree
2015 marks the 100th year anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. In 1915, the Ottoman Empire (now Turkey) carried out a series of vicious extermination programs against the Armenian people. The results were staggering, with an estimated 600,000 to 1.5 million deaths and countless displaced from their homes. Today, Armenians live all over the world, as well as in their own nation, Armenia. However, the Turkish government fails to recognize the Armenian genocide, instead opting for language that obscures the true horror of the crime. In order to maintain good relations with Turkey, many other countries, including the United States, choose to not use the term 'genocide' as well. However, nearly every major historical analysis concludes that the systematic murders count as genocide.
Armenians have lived in the historic region of Armenia for thousands of years. Armenia is the first nation in the world to make Christianity the official religion at the beginning of the fourth century A.D. However, in the 15th and 16th centuries, Armenia fell under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. The Turks of the Ottoman Empire were Muslim whereas the Armenians were Christian. During the 19th century, Turks carried out a number of massacres on the Armenians. In addition, there were many complaints about Turkish power abuse. However, it is during the early 20th century that a genocide occurred.
The Armenian Genocide began on April 24, 1915, when 250 Armenian intellectuals and leaders were arrested and executed in Istanbul. Shortly afterwards, the Ottoman government began deporting Armenians from their cities, saying that they might riot and harm the war effort. The Ottoman Empire fought alongside Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy in World War I. Turks killed hundreds of thousands of Armenian men, women, and children. Hundreds of thousands of Armenian women and children were forced to walk into the desert in Syria. There, they died of heat, thirst, starvation, sickness, and violence. Turkish soldiers often attacked the women and children, committing atrocities. The New York Times reported during this time, "The roads and the Euphrates [River] are strewn with corpses of exiles, and those who survive are doomed to certain death. It is a plan to exterminate the whole Armenian people."
The Ottoman Empire also set up 25 concentration camps to make sure that the Armenians who survived deportation reached a swift end. The Turks refused to give people food and water, and sold off women as slaves while the husbands died. Edicts were passed that allowed the government to seize land formerly owned by Armenians.
None of these actions were a secret. International witnesses reported daily to newspapers within the United States and other countries. While charitable organizations raised millions of dollars to help the Armenians, no government stopped the massacres. President Theodore Roosevelt called the killings "the greatest crime of the war." Some historians think the fact that the Ottoman Empire was able to carry out the murder of 1.5 million Armenians later emboldened Hitler in his program to wipe out the Jews.
It is worth noting that a small group of historians thinks that these killings, while horrible, do not count as a genocide, because of a lack of centralized control and the existence of Armenian communities that were left in peace. We have no records of the Ottoman government ordering the annihilation of the Armenians, as we do the German government ordering the extermination of all Jews in Europe. However, while there are no existing official records of a systematic order to conduct a genocide, it was certainly a genocide in effect.
Today, the victims are remembered in ceremony and ritual. The Armenian Apostolic Church recently canonized all of the victims of the massacres. This stands as a direct challenge to those nations who side with Turkey in ignoring the genocide. Although a U.S. Congressional panel in 2010 voted to label this a genocide, the Obama Administration won't use that word when referring to the "mass killings." Many think this is because Turkey is an important ally to the U.S. This year, many international leaders, including the Pope, have denounced Turkey for its stance. In the meantime, Armenians all over the world wait for their voices to be heard.
1. What happened in the Ottoman Empire in 1915?
2. What is at least one way the Turks of the Ottoman Empire and the Armenians differed?
3. What did President Roosevelt say of the Armenian genocide?
4. What is one reason some believe the Obama Administration will not call this a genocide?
5. Is there anywhere else in the world where people are being killed because they are different, or because of their religion? Is what happened to the Armenians similar to anything happening today?
Recently, the United States Supreme Court heard a court case involving homosexual marriage. There are many questions involved in the topic of homosexual marriage and legality. Do voters in individual states have the power to choose representatives who will decide the issue, or does the U.S. Constitution demand homosexual marriage (or same-sex marriage) be allowed? Is marriage a state or a federal governmental power? Is this an issue to be decided by voters or by the courts? Other issues involve morality. Is homosexuality wrong? Can a society create a legal system that reflects its moral beliefs, even when it goes against the moral beliefs of others in society? Because homosexual marriage touches so many issues, this short article will focus on the development of human understanding of morality, and how these have influenced law and marriage.
Polytheism and Moral Relativity in the Ancient World
One of the beliefs of nearly all ancient peoples was that the world was created and ruled by many gods. There was a god for the wind, a god for the ocean, a god for the rain. People who believed in many gods are called polytheists. Polytheists believed that if you wanted something, you could make a sacrifice to a god, and this god would then give it to you. If you wanted it to rain, you might kill an animal and burn it to make the rain god happy. Sadly, some polytheists sacrificed other humans, even children, to their gods. Human sacrifice happened on every continent in the ancient world.
Polytheists did not believe that there was a clear right and wrong for everyone. Since there were many gods, and sometimes the gods would compete with each other, what was right depended many times on what the ruler said was right. In Egypt, in ancient Africa, the leader was called pharaoh, and all Egyptians had to consider pharaoh a god. For the pharaoh, right was whatever made him strong. This meant that if the pharaoh believed killing someone made him strong, it was right. What was moral, right and wrong, was relative to the Egyptians. It depended on the person making the judgment what was considered right and wrong.
The Hebrews, Monotheism, and Morality
The Hebrews are considered the moral founders of western civilization. Western civilization refers to civilizations that have shared ideas and beliefs such as the idea that there is one God, that all people are created equal, and that all people should be treated equally by the law. Hebrews were the world’s first monotheists, which means they believed in only one God.
The Hebrews believed in morality, the idea that there is a right and wrong for all people. Hebrews taught that all people lived under God’s creation and were ruled by the same truth. We can also call this a moral order. Sometime around 1300 B.C., Hebrews believe God gave the Hebrews a set of laws to live by. Called the Mosaic Law, it is one of the first set of written laws that deals with relationships, placing importance on respecting parents and helping those in need. In the Mosaic Law, right and wrong is not a matter of feelings and emotions, but of justice and goodness.
Western Civilization, Morality, and Homosexual Marriage
Homosexual marriage was forbidden in all countries of the world from the beginning of civilization to 2001. In both the polytheistic and monotheistic societies, there was no such thing as homosexual marriage. However, in 2001, the Netherlands legalized homosexual marriage, and, Ireland recently legalized it, as well. Many in the United States of America and in countries of Europe are arguing that homosexuals should be allowed to marry. Their main arguments are, “If two people love each other, why shouldn’t they be allowed to marry?” and, “Who are we to tell someone that homosexual marriage is wrong, if that is the way they feel?”
The movement away from a society based on morality, justice, and goodness, to one based on individual and relative emotions and feeling marks a monumental change in how polytheistic and monotheistic civilizations have understood what is right and what is wrong. There is no historical precedence for it, and there are many problems that arise out of this understanding of what is good for society. Will polygamy be possible, if three or more people want to marry each other? Will children in schools have to be taught that homosexual marriage is healthy for individuals and society? If two people feel it is alright to murder each other, does this make it right? What happens when we base a society on individual feelings and emotions?
1. How did polytheistic societies determine what was right and wrong?
2. How did the Hebrews determine what is right and wrong?
3. What are two reasons proponents of homosexual marriage give to support legalizing homosexual marriage?
4. Before 2001, which society of the world legalized homosexual marriage?
5. Why do you think many Americans believe homosexual marriage should be legalized?
The way in which leaders remember the past is how they tell us their vision of the future. This is evident in how Russian President Vladimir Putin and American President Barack Obama celebrated the defeat of Nazi Germany. May 8th, 2015 marked the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany, or “V-E Day, Victory in Europe Day.” For Putin, V-E Day was used to enforce his vision that his country is one of strength and greatness. Putin showed his own people and the world that his nation will rise to meet any challenge with military force. For Obama, V-E Day was used to enforce his idea that the U.S.A. was grateful to be a part of a group of countries that were victorious. Obama showed Americans and the world that the U.S.A. will play a shrinking role in world events.
On May 8th, 1945, the United States of America, and countries around the world, celebrated the official end of World War II in Europe. Nazi Germany unconditionally surrendered its armed forces to the Allies of World War II (United States of America, Great Britain, and The Soviet Union). World War II is the deadliest conflict in history, involved nearly 80% of the world’s population, and over 55,000,000 people were killed. The United States of America led the Allied forces fighting in Western and Southern Europe, Africa, and Asia, and the Soviet Union conquered Germany from the East. Without America’s sacrifice and leadership, no historian has ever argued that Nazi Germany would have been defeated.
Last week in Russia, President Vladimir Putin led the celebration of the defeat of Nazi Germany and the end of World War II in Europe in Victory Day Parades throughout the country. The parade in Moscow featured over 16,000 Russian soldiers, tanks, missiles, and impressive military hardware. It was the largest military parade in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. Throughout Russia, there were over 20 such parades, featuring over 80,000 soldiers and impressive weaponry.
In the United States, President Obama marked the day in comments he gave to the Air Force football team. Also, National Security Advisor Susan Rice “conveyed the gratitude of the U.S. nation to the Allied countries” at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.
President Putin sees his country as a leader in the world, wants to have people forget about the horrors of communism the Soviet Union inflicted on the globe during the 20th century, and is willing to use the Russian military to conquer its neighbors. In the past few years, Russia has invaded Ukraine, killed thousands, implemented martial law on conquered people, and imposed its will on Ukrainians. Russian airplanes continually invade airspace of its neighbors, and Russia is supporting the ruthless dictator Assad of Syria, as well as supporting the terrorist regime in Iran. Meanwhile, there is no freedom of speech in Russia, as dissenting journalists are murdered.
American President Obama sees his country as one of many, “leading from behind,” wants to have people forget the U.S. leadership in great conflicts such as World War II and the Cold War, and wants the Americans to retreat. In the past few years, America has withdrawn its forces in Iraq and allowed ISIS to invade and reconquer land held by American and Iraqi forces. Obama backed down from an American threat to use military force to punish Syrian dictator Assad for using chemical weapons against his own people (Assad is still using these weapons against Syrians). The U.S.A. has lost allies in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen and the President has done nothing to regain American trust in those regions.
Celebrations of V-E Day are more than just honoring those who served their country. These events are calculated to show what each country values, and how each country views itself. Putin’s Russia is an aggressive country that is eager to use its military to exert influence in the world. Putin’s Russia wants to ignore or its communist past, silence its detractors, and expand. Obama’s America is a weakened country that is embarrassed of its past and eager to retreat. Obama’s America wants to deny its role in defeating communism and expanding liberty, silence those who honor the U.S., and radically transform itself. Which of these visions prevail may determine the direction of the world for the next half century.
1. What happened on May 8th, 1945?
2. How did President Putin of Russia celebrate it?
3. How did President Obama celebrate it?
4. How does the author of this editorial think this tells us of how Putin and Obama view their own country?
5. What is your opinion of how the U.S.A. and how Russia remembered this day?
John De Gree
John De Gree writes the current events with a look at the history of each topic. Articles are written for the young person, aged 10-18, and Mr. De Gree carefully writes so that all readers can understand the event. The perspective the current events are written in is Judeo-Christian.
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