New York, NY- The Armenian National Committee of America Eastern Region (ANCA ER) joined with a broad range of Greek American associations, yesterday, at the second annual commemoration of the Pontian Genocide, held at Bowling Green Park. The solemn program coincided with a special flag raising ceremony to mark the occasion.
Organizing the event was the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York and the Pan-Pontian Federation of USA and Canada. Dimitris Molohides, General Secretary of the Pan-Pontian Federation of USA and Canada, serving as the master of ceremonies, addressed the crowd and urged for decisive action for recognition of the Pontian Genocide. Molohides also read proclamations recognizing the 90th Anniversary from Governor Charlie Crist of Florida, State Senator George Onorato from New York, as well as a statement from Congressional Hellenic Caucus Co-Chair Carolyn Maloney (NY-D-14), which was submitted into the Congressional Record (see below).
Speaking on behalf of the ANCA, Birazian noted that, “Our responsibility doesn’t end with recognition and reparations. We have seen what happens when perpetrators get away with murder; when they feel no consequence to the crimes that are committing. We have seen it throughout the last several years – genocide occurring in Darfur, conflicts now in Chad, Congo, Sri Lanka. We as victims must also be the voice for those suffering today.”
Birazian also reflected on the working relationship with the Pontian community in Chicago and their ongoing efforts to educate students on the Armenian and Pontian Genocides. Materials containing the history of the Pontian Greek Genocide can be viewed at www.pontiangreeks.org.
Birazian’s remarks may be viewed at:
Distinguished speakers included Reverend Father John Romas from the nearby historic St. Nicholas church that was destroyed on 9/11; The Honorable Leonidas P. Raptakis, State Senator of Rhode Island; Dr. Mary Marangos, Executive Director representing the Honorable US Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney; The Honorable Mrs. Aghi Balta, Consul General- New York for the Republic of Greece; The Honorable Mr. Andreas Panayiotou, Consul General for the Republic of Cyprus- New York; Mr. Demetrius Kalamaras, Esq., President of the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York; Mr. Elias Tsekerides – President of the International Confederation of Pontian Hellenes; Mr. George Tsilfidis – Deputy President Pan-Pontian Federation of USA and Canada; Mr. Tassos Efstratiades Esq., Chairman Greek American Chamber of Commerce; Ms. Karine Birazian – Eastern Region Executive Director Armenian National Committee of America Eastern Region, and Mr. Ioannis Fidanakis – President of Pan-Thracian Union of America “Orpheus”.
The Ottoman Turkish Empire, under the cover of World War I, undertook a systematic and deliberate effort to eliminate its minority Christian populations. This genocidal campaign resulted in the death and deportation of well over 2,000,000 Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks.
PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES OF THE 111 TH CONGRESS
IN HONOR OF THE SURVIVORS AND VICTIMS OF THE PONTIAN GENOCIDE HON. CAROLYN B. MALONEY OF NEW YORK IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENT-ATIVES
Mr. Speaker, I rise to honor the survivors and victims of the Pontian Genocide of 1915 -1923. On May 19 we remember the treacherous actions of those who murdered hundreds of thousands of Pontian Hellenes and destroyed their communities, and we remember the survivors and the fallen.
Nearly a century ago, there were large communities of Hellenes living across the Ottoman Empire. In a few short years, these communities were destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of lives were taken at the order of the Ottoman government. Hellenic Pontians had lived along the southeastern coast of the Black Sea in what is now northern Turkey for more than three millenia. The perfidious decision to destroy these peaceful communities resulted from the fear that foreign populations under Ottoman rule would join with their mother countries and destroy a crumbling empire.
During a bloody eight year reign of terror, the Ottoman government orchestrated the killing or displacement of hundreds of thousands of Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians who had been living in the Pontus region. Thousands of people were murdered outright. The rest were uprooted and forcibly marched across the Anatolian border, without food or other provisions, to the Syrian border. Mass rapes and abductions of women and children also occurred. More than half of the Pontian population perished from violence, starvation or disease.
Roughly 400,000 Pontians refugees survived the onslaught and fled to Greece, Russia, and the United States. Despite the huge number of people who died or were displaced, most of the world paid no attention to their suffering. The fact that so many people could be murdered or removed from their homes without facing any consequences empowered future genocidal regimes to take similar actions.
One of the greatest tragedies of genocide is that the aggressors often succeed in eliminating the memory of those who fled. Few Americans today know about the
Pontian Genocide. We have an obligation to honor the memory of those who died and teach our children about those dreadful times in hope that they will never be repeated. On
May 19th, 2009, on the annual day of remembrance, members of the Pan-Pontian
Federation will pay solemn homage to the victims. Although the genocide almost caused the extinction of the Pontian people, their traditions and culture still resonate today.
Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues to join me in honoring the Pan-Pontian Federation as they honor the sacrifices and memory of their noble ancestors. I commend the Pan-Pontian Federation in their efforts to preserve Greek culture and history. May the victims of the Pontian Genocide rest in peace.
Member of Congress
Note to the Editor: Photo Caption: ANCA ER Director with members from the Pontian Greek Community