From the Dean

News items, published articles, and reading recommendations from Dean Timothy George




Bystanders to Genocide

By Timothy George
June 27, 2016

“Who today still speaks of the massacre of the Armenians?”
—Adolf Hitler, August 22, 1939

The visit of Pope Francis to the Republic of Armenia, the first nation formally to adopt the Christian faith, has once again raised what is euphemistically called in Turkey “the Armenian matter.” This is all the more the case because last year, marking the one hundredth anniversary of the start of the Armenian genocide—the slaughter of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks in 1915—the pope dared to use the G-word. In response, Turkey recalled its ambassador from the Vatican (only to reinstate him this past February) and warned the Holy Father “not to make similar mistakes again.”

Undeterred by this snafu, on his current mission to Armenia the pope once again showed moral courage by referring to the Armenian genocide. But in fact, Pope Francis did not break new ground in this statement. He was simply following in the steps of his predecessor, Pope St. John Paul II, who described the slaughter of the Armenians, in words that Francis quoted, as “the first genocide of the twentieth century.” That comment was made in 2001, when John Paul made his own pilgrimage to Armenia to commemorate the 1700th anniversary of the embrace of Christianity in that country.

By 1915, the Ottoman Empire was in terminal decline from the apogee of its power under Suleiman the Magnificent in the sixteenth century. During the Reformation, the Ottoman armies invaded Europe, advancing to the gates of Vienna in 1529, but for some four hundred years one loss after another had left the vast empire bereft of its former glory. Now, having chosen to fight on the losing side of the conflict that was coming to be called the Great War, “the sick man of Europe” (a term for the Ottomans given currency by Nicholas I of Russia) felt besieged on every side. In this context, the Armenian Christians were accused of subterfuge and collusion with the enemy. A Turkish version of the “stab in the back” theory was used as a pretext for open violence against them.

The Armenians, along with other indigenous Christian peoples, had long served as scapegoats for Turkish disasters. For example, during the 1890s, the Hitler-like Abdul Hamid II, the “bloody Sultan,” presided over the murder of some 200,000 Armenians. There were other pogroms, including the massacre at Adana in 1909. However, what is called the Armenian genocide proper began on April 24, 1915 with the assault on several hundred Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople. In subsequent months, this attack was accelerated by the deportation, abduction, execution, starvation, and mass murder of the Armenian people throughout the empire. The Turkish train network, recently developed with the help of skilled German engineers, was used to transport displaced persons. There were also forced marches, killing units, and ethnic cleansing—prefigurements of even greater horrors to come later in the century. Yale historian Jay Winter has said that “the Armenian massacres were a critical event in the history of twentieth-century warfare. The massacre of the Armenians was not the same as, but constituted a step on the way to, the industrialized murder of European Jewry by the Nazis.” Read the rest at First Things.

Posted by Hunter Upton at Monday, June 27, 2016
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The Dean Recommends: Of Saints and Clowns

Fr. Gerald E. Murray
June 16, 2016

Malcolm Muggeridge wrote an op-ed piece in The New York Times on April 23, 1978 entitled “25 Propositions on a 75th Birthday.” That he was invited to do so, and allowed to publish proposition 23, is sign of how relatively better things were back then: “Alas, the terrible inhumanity of the humane! Herod’s slaughter of the innocents was negligible compared with the millions of babies being slaughtered under the legalized abortion procedures now existing almost everywhere. Again, as legalized euthanasia gets under way the Nazi performance in this field pales into insignificance. At Nuremberg the Nazi practice of legalized euthanasia was condemned as a war crime. So, it takes 30 years to transform a war crime into an act of compassion.” I doubt that would survive scrutiny by today’s guardians of “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”

Back in 1978 I was a student at Dartmouth College and had the privilege of hearing Muggeridge speak twice there. I read his magnificent book Something Beautiful for God, which revealed the holiness and love of the soon-to-be-canonized Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The book was the fruit of a TV program Muggeridge did on the saintly friend of the poor. Mother Teresa told him that she wanted to be present at his First Holy Communion when he became a Catholic. That is probably what he was expecting to hear from her.

I reviewed his Jesus: The Man who Lives for the campus newspaper at the time of his second visit and told him how much I enjoyed reading the book. He responded that he never read a book he was going to review; he simply found out what period of history the book dealt with and told some stories he knew about that time. I took this remark as partly a joke, but not entirely false. Read the rest at Catholic Thing.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Friday, June 24, 2016
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The Dean Recommends: Kenneth Bae - How I Kept the Faith in a North Korean Prison Camp

Has a persecuted Christian ever had an unlikelier champion than Dennis Rodman? The eccentric former NBA star made a bizarre cameo in the drama surrounding Kenneth Bae, an American missionary accused of plotting to overthrow the North Korean government and condemned to 15 years of hard labor. Shortly after the April 2013 sentencing, Rodman—who has made several visits to the isolated nation and claims friendship with its reclusive leader, Kim Jong-un—took to Twitter with an urgent request: “I’m calling on the Supreme Leader of North Korea or as I call him ‘Kim,’ to do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose.” (The mercurial basketballer later denied his support during a testy CNN interview.)

At the time of his capture, Bae was visiting North Korea for the 15th time in two years as a guide for his North Korean tour company. Under the Nations Tours banner, about 300 Christians had visited Rason, a special economic zone that allowed international investment. Bae hoped to expose them to the country and encourage them to begin praying for it, all while bringing investment income to the government. Bae’s arrest came after he entered the country with an external hard drive filled with files and photos documenting missionary work. Authorities seized on references to Operation Jericho, a prayer mobilization plan that invoked military metaphors, to justify charges of insurrection. Released in November 2014 after intense American lobbying, Bae was the longest-serving US prisoner in North Korean history. He spoke with CT assistant editor Morgan Lee about his imprisonment, his ongoing love for the North Korean people, and his new memoir, Not Forgotten (Thomas Nelson).

What led you to become a missionary?

In 1984, I attended a retreat with the theme “A Vision in Christ.” I started asking God what I should become, and the word I received was shepherd. But I wasn’t sure what that meant.

After graduating high school, I attended a retreat organized by some Chinese churches. The speaker invited anyone willing to dedicate their life for mission to China to come forward. There were 500 people in the hall, and I was first on the stage. Ever since, I’ve known God was calling me to be a missionary to China. Read the rest at Christianity Today.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Thursday, June 23, 2016
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