1855) Contribution Of His Beatitude Mesrob II - Dallas Speech

Dear Friends,

I think that it is important to make an attempt to analyze the Ottoman system since it provided the possibility for peoples of different identities in the Ottoman Empire to live together and because in a shrinking world that requires people of increasingly different religions, languages, races and nationalities to live together in the same cultural mosaic, crowded side by side. Therefore it will be no mistake to refer to the experience of the Ottomans. . .

I would like to share with you some of my personal thoughts about the event that is often called the "Armenian Question" by some circles and by the Turkish Press.

The way we look at history is an ethical matter with universal consequences. Our way of presenting history to today's generations is also an ethical matter. It often requires courage and freedom to convey the bare truth. If we are are squeezed into a certain mold, if we are slaves to a certain ideology, and especially if we have a nationalist, racist or militarist temperament, we will sometimes have difficulty in speaking the truth and communicating realities to the new generations.Our having a realistic historical viewpoint depends on whether we can be freed from the value judgments of the day and from subjective opinions.

It is certainly not possible to idealize every phase in the history of Ottoman-Armenian Relations and to say that the Armenians never had any problems. Being Christians, the Armenians of the Otoman Empire were never first class citizens. And they certainly did suffer discrimination. However we know that the first acquaintance between Turks and Armenians goes back at least 1300 years. [1] If the historian Elise actually did write his work on the Persian-Armenian War in the Fifth Century, then this mutual acquaintance has a 1500 year history. [2] In this long history of commercial and political interactions between neighbours, there are relatively few instances of exchanges of physical violence.

Just as the nationalist movement that started with the French Revolution in time affected all other governments, so all peoples connected to the Otoman Empire came under its influence. Especially towards the end of the 19th century there was an increase in tension in Relations, whether responsibility for this was due to the Otoman Government, or the German, American, French, British and especially Russian governments, or Armenian political parties, or even the Armenian Patriarchs of Istanbul of that period, who discharged their obligations under the surveillance of the Temporal Affairs Council that then consisted of Armenian secularists in Turkey. Even if the various parties were not all equally responsible, it is not a moral approach in view of the painful aftereffects for any one of them to speak up and deny any accountability in the development of these events, or to place all responsibility on the other parties.

Both Turks and Armenians must leave aside their cliches such as, "We really used to love the loyal nation" and "We really did love the Turks". In place of nostalgic expressions such as, "My grocer was an Armenian" and "My army officer was a really good Turk", we must accelerate those historical and scholarly endeavours that offer concrete examples from the past of the fact that the Turks and Armenians did coexist peacefully, despite the fact that the Christians in the Otoman Empire had never been first class citizens. Instead of wasting time and Money in publishing boks that only re-state in various ways the usual Turkish and Armenian claims that everyone has memorized by now, Armenian Works that can make an important contribution to the history of Turkish-Armenian Relations should increasingly be translated into Turkish and English for the consideration of academicians and the public in general. What are fundamentally needed at this stage in the impasse are new primary sources, rather than new interpretations of what already exists.For instance, the minutes of the Armenian National Assembly which, according to the 1863 Constitution of the Armenian Millet, appeared in print with the approval of the Sublime Porte and were collected regularly from 1863 to the time of Sultan Abdulhamid are one of the black holes in Turkish history.These texts should be published urgently as a paralel text, with Armenian on one page and the corresponding Turkish translation on the opposite page. The writings of Patriarch Nersess II(1874-1884), the correspondence of Patriarch Madteos III (1894-1896 and 1908-1909), the three volumes of memoires of Patriarch Malachia I Ormanyan (1896-1908), and the one-volumepatriarchal memoires of Patriarch Zaven I (1913-1915 and 1919-1922) should be available in Turkish. Instead of boks about the Armenian Church and its culture, and boks that are sometimes highly unscholarly, Patriarch Malachia 's three huge volumes of the history of the Armenian Church should be read in Turkish by university students. In addition, the archives of the Istanbul Armenian Patriarchate that were moved to Jerusalem in 1916-1918 must also be brought into academic circles by the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

In order to create the possibility of collegial work on a common platform by the next generation of Turkish and Armenian academicians , the teaching of the Otoman, Armenian and Turkish languages and their literatures must begin without delay, whether in universities in Turkey or in Armenia.

To rescue today's Relations from a dead end, dialogue is inescapable, and for dialogue mutual respect is a must. It is difficult to bring together parties who belitle each other and engage in verbal assaults. Therefore activities between groups of academicians, young people, artists, and members of the press from Armenia and Turkey, in which they Exchange visits, for acquaintance and mutual understanding, are very important. Respect must also be shown to the other's history. We have to change the mentality shown by some Armenian historians who still see the Turks as uncultured barbarian emigrants from Central Asia and who bellitle their ability to establish a Turkish state and ensure its continuity.We must likewise change the mentality of some Turkish historians who say, "Armenians never had a state , and they couldn't found one," and who even turn the Native American peoples into Turkish clans who crossed the Bering Strait. Both the Turks and Armenians are peoples who, both in their own capacity have made a significant historical mark in politics and culture. In the museums of Anatolian civilisations, the mentality that sees the historical Armenian Kingdoms as only vassal states or completely non-existent, even neglecting the mutual pacts between Armenian Kingdoms and western governments, can only deceive its own citizens, since it cannot destroy the documents in western archives and libraries.

However, when there is a mutually respectful approach to the histories of the two sides, where each others successes are praised, it will be possible to create mutual empathy.

Turks and Armenians are people of the same geographical area. Almighty God has put these people together. It will not be possible to change this, now or in the future. Turks and Armenians have to learn tol ive together, or side by side. Stragetists sin by by ignoring this reality and by turning the youth of the two countries against each other. People will either be enemies or friends. Is friendship not much beter than enmity. I have a dream of one day seeing Turkey and Armenia, as allies as France and Germany have become.

However, fanatical nationalism claims that its own country and race are chosen, that its language is perfect, and that its culture is unsurpassable, but this is nothing other that collective narcissism.

These kinds of baseless claims serve no purpose other than to cause similar narcissism in others. To count the other as nothing, to see in ythe other a foreigner or enem yor potential saboteur not only creates a chaotic condition in the country, but, because such an approach always needs to create windmills to fight, it also leads to uneasiness because it hatches speculation about which group of citizens will be the next target of racism or ultra-nationalism. I think that the often-heard expression, "Turks and Kurds are the original elements of this country", is also a sort of discrimination. If our Turkish and Kurdish brothers and Sisters are the original elements, then even the rosiest of definitions puts the Armenians and others into second place. However, the Armenians have a written history in this land since the Sixth Century A.D. and the Syriacs and the Jews have even older records.

Today in our country of 70 millian people, the number of Christian Armenians who are citizens of the Republic of Turkey has fallen to 70 thousand, as opposed to . According to some government departments, there are about 30 thousand people of Armenian origin living in Turkey who have come from abroad. In this situation solutions are needed for religious, charitable and social issues pertaining to minority communities, including the local Armenian community, whose total population is probably less than one in a thousand of the total population in Turkey. These are matters that arise from regulations for religious foundations, and matters that lead to the struggle for existence in the face of massive problems generated by a changing world. Tis is one of the clearest areas where abstract concepts such as "tolerance," "livingtogether," and "pluralism" can be concretized and can turn from word to deed. Otherwise we shall be witnesses to our country's multi-hued character gradually fade away, becoming pale and monotonous.

The normalization of Relations between Turkey, to which we Turkish Armenians are bound by citizenship and the dialogue of life, and Armenia, where we have common ethnic and religious roots, is the goal of the Armenians of Turkey, where we find ourselves between two countries, between two loved ones, if you will. But unless there is mutual sacrifice, it is evident that it will be difficult to make progress in these relations.

We must think of what binds us together as human beings beyond religion, race, nationality, and so on.

In this context, what we leave behind for our children, for the future, is important. Thus in addition to scientific and technical education, we must also see the humanities as of utmost importance and give this area the necessary encouragement. We must accept that studies of language and literature are also significant bonding elements.

No matter how much the secular form of government guarantees freedom of religion and conscience, it can be said that the implementation of so-called Jacobin secularism in our country, which we sometimes encounter, prevents the richness of the spiritual meaning of Islam's ethical dimensions from contributing to analyses, and consequently this is also sometimes true of approaches to history.

I wish, as is done successfully in some countries for their own history, that pre-Ottoman civilizations could be considered as part of our historical heritage and that we could be enriched by the contribution made to Turkey by Byzantine, Armenian, Syriac and Jewish cultures. In this context, I see the Turkish Ministry of Tourism and Culture's Project to restore the Armenian Church of the Holy Cross on the Aghtamar Island in Lake Van, which was lately successfully completed, a very positive step in the right direction.

Both Turks and Armenians need to break out of the straitjacket of exclusive nationalism and racism. Otherwise it is clear what will happen. The harm and cost is evident wherever the practice of nationalism and racism predominates. The results are always bloody wars, tears, and hate campaigns that last for generations, i.e. exactly the opposite of what our respective faiths are promoting. I believe that for peace and goodwill to obtain the upper hand, we must be able to escape from this straitjacket. Instead of nationalism and racism, it is much more in line with our religious and ethical values to practice love and appreciation for our national cultures.

I would like to thank the Southern Methodist University Institute of Dialogue for organizing this Conference in Dallas, Texas, which may be a milestone on the road to peace, and I would Express my deepest respects to all who are following the proceedings. I pray that peace and goodwill may prevail in our country, for the happiness of all our citizens, and for unity. Thank you.

[1] C.J.F. Dowsett tr., Movses Dasxuranci, The History of the Caucasian Albanians, Oxford, 1961, Book Two, Chapter 12.

[2] Elise, "Vasn Vardana ew Hayoc Paterazmin", Yerevan, 1957, p. 12, 141, 198. While some academicians state that this work is from the Fifth Century, others think it is from the Seventh Century.

Contribution Of His Beatitude Mesrob II
Armenian Patriarch Of Istanbul & All Turkey

Dallas Speech



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