March 12, 2001

Seminar Recalls the Horrors of Armenia

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Members of the Cornell and Ithaca communities gathered Friday in the Founders Room of Anabel Taylor Hall in an attempt to better understand the mentality behind religious persecution — particularly of the Armenian genocide.

E. Scott Ryan, a criminologist representing the Millennial Masonic Society, sought to dispel the notion that the individuals that perpetrated such atrocities as the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide acted completely independent of rational and calculated thought.

Ryan said that a “criminological metaphysic hasn’t been identified as the cause of many of these atrocities where evil is often done in the name of something good.”

George Peter, trustee emeritus, whose family members are Armenian descendants, gave his personal perspective to the audience, most of which had only read about the events that took place in Armenia in history books. His recollection of his uncle’s execution by Muslim Turks, his aunts being sold into slavery and his father narrowly escaping the same fate brought many in the audience to tears.

“When you talk about the [genocide], it touched my bones,” one audience member told Peter. “It touched my soul.”

Despite the families that have come forward to tell their story of what happened during that time in 1915, Peter noted, there are many who deny that it had ever happened all.

Toward the end of the lecture, Peter asked if anyone had been particularly offended by the presentation.

Tamer Onder ’03 raised his hand.

“Just because those incidents happened to your family doesn’t mean that there was a genocide,” Onder said.

“Some of [the presentation] was not historically accurate,” he continued, adding that the presentation was biased because it failed to “talk about the attacks that the Armenians have done to the Turks.”

The debate began to grow heated as many Armenian audience members shook their heads in disapproval and responded directly to Onder, stating that he was the one who was wrong.

Others tried to quell the tension that divided the audience members.

“We need to be objective,” said Margaret Marczewski ’03.

In an attempt to assuage the speakers, Ryan stressed that his group was neutral and was not out to attack or defame anyone. He emphasized that progress would be slow in reconciling the tensions and differences of the past, noting that the French government formally acknowledged the Armenian Genocide only two months ago.

The Millennial Masonic Society is an international non-profit society that tries to bring about universal spirituality, freedom and justice in coordinating its educational and conflict resolution activities with other organizations that reflect similar or related goals.

When Peter was asked why the United Nations had not stepped in to do anything about the situation he said, “[Turkey] is in the United Nations. You have to understand this: Turkey is one of the most strategically valuable real-estates in the world.”

“The Turkish government has bought chairs at many prestigious universities,” Peter continued. “They tell only their side. It was not until 1997 that the University of California refused their money after an increase in percent of Armenians.”

Archived article by Stacy Pace