Yesterday (April 24th) in 1915 the Ottoman Turkish army slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Armenian Christians, many of them by crucifixion. Turkish army commanders gave these Christians the chance to save their lives by converting to Islam. Few of them took up the offer, thus demonstrating that their Christianity was not merely skin-deep or cultural.
Their Christian courage prompts the question: how many English Anglicans like me would be faithful unto death if the UK fell to militant Islam?
In 2000, The Independent’s Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk met a survivor of the Armenian holocaust. His 2006 book, The Great War of Civilisation, The Conquest of the Middle East, describes his encounter with 93-year-old Haroutioun Kebedjian at an Armenian home for the blind in Beirut.
The old man told him:
“Until I was twenty-three, I was filled with rage because the Turks took my sister and beat my mother in front of my eyes until she died. But when I was twenty-three, I felt this was not the right way to be a man, so I began to pray to God so He would see me. I was making peace with myself. Now I am ready to meet my God. I am at peace. Last year when the big earthquake happened in Turkey, it killed so many Turks. And I prayed to God for those Turks – I prayed for those poor Turkish people.”
Mr Fisk records that the survivor’s right hand was fingering the embossed paper letters of a braille Bible while he was talking.
The Ohio Anglican blog has produced a lovely Prayer Book-style Collect to commemorate the Armenian Christian martyrs:
“O Almighty God, by whose grace and power thy holy martyrs of Armenia triumphed over suffering and were faithful even unto death: Grant us, who now remember them with thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to thee in this world, that we may receive with them the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
(Image: George Bannister)