Resistance and Redemption

A few days ago, while listening to NPR, I heard a report about a Turkish journalist, of Armenian descent, Hrant Dink, who was shot and killed just outside of the newspaper office at which he worked. Ever since moving to Fresno, in my early twenties, I have become increasingly aware of the Armenian people: their culture, their history, and of course, the tragic genocide of the early twentieth century. Hrant was a voice that would not let this tragedy be forgotten in the passing years, and on several occasions was charged with insulting Turkish national character, for daring to write articles and speak publicly about the Armenian genocide. Several sources have characterized Hrant as a peaceful man who pushed for recognition of the genocide as a step to bring reconciliation between Armenians and the larger Turkish community.

In hearing the report, I must admit that though I felt outraged that a peaceful voice for truth was silenced, I also felt some sympathy for the Turkish people. My sympathy is not one that excuses evil, but one of a personal connection that comes from not wanting my own dark deeds to be dredged up for all to see. In short, I can understand Turkish resistance to confessing such a heinous deed, as it certainly mars their national character. I particularly understand this resistance when I consider that it is this generation of Turkish people who would have to bear the shame of their forefather’ deeds. However, as I continued to reflect upon this matter, I couldn’t help but think that a confession of truth is the only path upon which they can establish their dignity.

Drawing from the Christian tradition, I would assert that truth and dignity are hand-in-hand realities, and that a commitment to truth is the only means by which one can build a noble life. Of course, a commitment to truth will inevitably mean a confrontation with darkness and brutality; as such things are all too common of the human condition. Moreover, this confrontation will not only be with evil forces out there, but with evil forces within ourselves, and this is where the problem arises for many. For what hope of nobility or dignity do we have, when all of us have done things, individually and collectively, that are far less than noble and dignified? In responding to this, I again draw upon the Christian tradition, at the heart of which is the belief in redemption. Though the doctrine of redemption has been understood and defined differently throughout Christian history one thing that has been consistent is the idea that one’ past need not determine one’ future. Spoken in more particular terms, a person need not be bound by his or her past misdeeds (or that of a father’), but through God’ grace may be restored and may begin a new journey that is not propelled by the momentum of past dishonor. However, this journey of redemption can only begin by embracing the truth, an embrace that is often at first difficult.

When I think about Hrant Dink, and all that I have read about the work he was doing, I see an irony, in that this man, who so many Turks saw as a threat to their well being, was actually giving them a chance to find redemption. In saying this, I realize that the Turkish people are largely Muslim, who, as a whole, value truth and righteousness, but who also don’t have, as central to their faith, a redemptive framework. And thus, I wonder if part of their resistance to acknowledging the genocide comes from their religious worldview. I also wonder if my position about the Armenian genocide, or my affirmation of Dink’ work, would be the same if I were raised in that culture, with their worldview. In the end, I have reason to believe that this is a good possibility as I have also read that when news of Hrant Dink’ death spread across the nation of Turkey many mourners flooded the streets carrying signs and chanting phrases such as, “We are all Hrant Dink and we are all Armenians.”

One Response to “Resistance and Redemption”

  1. ROG  

    Sounds like white and (black people, American Indians) in the US, e.g.
    You know what ticks me off? An egregious act takes place by the powerful, then the wronged party/group is told, “Get over it. It’s time to move on.” The Armenians will not “move on” until it’s acknowledged; nor should they.