To a world embroiled in a global war, 1915 was a year of suffering and turmoil. But for the Armenian people, it was the start of their most dire cataclysm. After a further eight years, the Ottoman campaign of annihilation would leave a million and a half Armenians slaughtered; the monuments of a centuries-old civilization in ruins; Armenian towns and villages depopulated; and the remnants of a once vital Armenian presence scattered across the globe.
Historians and statesmen of the time, viewing the carnage, could not conceive that the victims would ever recover from such losses. The Armenians, they lamented, had been written out of the pages of history. But the Armenian people refused to fulfill that dark prediction.
Gradually, tenderly, the survivors began to build again. From the broken shards of their heritage they re-forged families, institutions, whole communities: all burdened with painful memory, but also lifted up by an optimistic hope. After all, the Armenian experience had long centered on a God who took upon Himself the afflictions of humanity, and overcame them—overcame death itself. In reply to the severe divine question, “Can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3), the Genocide survivors answered: “Yes.”
A full century has now passed since the start of the Armenian Genocide, and the descendants of that fateful generation are flourishing and active throughout the world: in great cosmopolitan centers, in remote corners of the globe, and—most astonishingly of all—in a free and independent Armenian republic.
The renaissance of the Armenian people began in earnest around the mid-point of the century between the Genocide and our own time. By the 1960s, Armenians throughout the world were asserting themselves again in public and private; in the sciences, in industry, in the arts of music and literature—even in architecture. Concurrently, the attempted extermination of the Armenians—now definitively associated with the legal term “genocide”—became a subject of scholarship, political activism, and even popular expression.
Despite their dispersal today, Armenians throughout world share the same hopes, joys, and sorrows; the same drive to preserve, build, and contribute to an ongoing heritage. Their persistence as a distinct people is an assurance that the Armenian Genocide will never cease to live in memory.