Between the years 1915-1923 what has come to be known as the Armenian genocide took place. It is estimated that the Turkish authorities killed around about 800,000 Armenians. It began with the confiscation of their properties , the burning of their homes and their towns, the systematic murder of the male population and the forced expulsion of the women and children. Over this period waves of terror descended on the population, a systematic policy to kill and injure and harass the men, women and children took place. Although to this day the Turkish government rejects the use of the word genocide for what happened, 29 countries have recognised that what happened to this people in this period was genocide, a systematic and organised plan to destroy and wipe out a people. It was the first genocide of the 20th century but it was followed by others, against the Jews, in Bosnia, in Rwanda and other places. Pope Francis has called it the first genocide of 20th century and has called on all leaders around the world to tell "the truth of what transpired and oppose such crimes without ceding to ambiguity or compromise." Its interesting the some countries have called it what it was but other nations like our own, USA and Israel refuse to use the term.
Its unimaginable this level of violence. That a government or a governing body, or a group of people can set out to eliminate people on such a scale. That it can be planned and executed in such a way. Its frightening what we are capable of as human beings to do against one another.
Just a few weeks ago in his visit to Poland Pope Francis went to visit the death camps of Auchwitz Birkenaw where many hundreds of thousands of Jews met their deaths. The pictures saw him walking alone through the streets of the camp. He gave no address, he said nothing, he simply walked those streets and held out his hand to touch the buildings where such human misery had occurred.
Before such violence, before such human misery, before such evil we are struck dumb. No words can explain it, no words can ease the suffering. We are silent before the mystery of such overwhelming human misery, before such violence visited by one group of people on another.
The readings of today’s Mass runs completely contrary to genocide. Instead of driving a nail hard down which divides people, sets people against one another the first reading speaks about how God will bring nations together. He will send out people to the far ends of the earth and bring those on the margins of the world to him in chariots and horses and dromedaries. In peace to Jerusalem and to the holy mountain. This is a scene described is not of division, not of ethnic superiority, or the triumph of one race over another. Everyone is invited to sit down, everyone is invited, everyone is gathered, all can be as one. That message is underlined in the `Gospel “people will come from east and west and be sat down at the table in the kingdom of God”. Jesus goes further, if you think your first, then you’ll end up last.
The Christian message is about inclusivity, its not about doors shutting but about doors remaining open. Its not about the few but about the many. Its about universality, everyone included rather than some excluded. The invitation is to all not to the few. Its not a message to the deserving bit the whole.
He sends out messengers to the ends of the earth to say that none are excluded. His message is that al can sit down together. His desire is that horses and chariots and dromedaries should bring people to the feat of the kingdom of God.
It is hard to think of anything less likely than his plan than the great genocides of 2th century. It’s hard to think of anything that sounds less than he would like, the planned killing of men, women and children, the burning of homes and towns and villages, the mass expulsion of millions of people from their homes.
His ways are ways of peace and justice not the violence and terror that we can visit on each other.