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100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide Symposium




March 16-17, 2015

Kayser Auditorium, Hankamer School of Business
Peter Balakian Lecture

3/17/15  – Armstrong Browning – Treasure Room
10:00 am – Nina Shea
1:00 pm – Philip Jenkins
2:30 pm – Thomas Farr

One hundred years ago, in 1915, the Ottoman Turkish Empire made the appalling decision to annihilate its Christian minorities. They chiefly targeted the Armenians, but also attacked other ancient communities such as the Assyrians and Maronites. The carnage that began in the Spring of 1915, and reached its height during that year, claimed some 1.5 million dead. Millions of others – mainly Greeks – were exiled. These events had an epochal significance, not least in establishing the concept of genocide on the global stage, and probably inspiring Hitler.

The events of 1915 marked a decisive turning point in the history of Christianity, marking the end of a historical chain dating back to the Roman Empire.

That genocide also raised issues that, tragically, remain vigorously alive today. Still, today, Christians around the world are subjected to persecution and savage violence. And although Muslims are often the perpetrators of such acts, they are by no means the only culprits.

Then as now, such persecutions raise critical policy questions.

*What, if anything, can outside states do to prevent persecution? When is it justified or necessary for nations to intervene to prevent such horrors?

*How has religious freedom been used as a theme in political debate and legislation, in the United States and elsewhere? What remains to be done?

*What has been the impact of US legislation to monitor and promote religious freedom worldwide?

*Does modern-day political academic discourse on religious liberty served to trivialize real instances of severe religious persecution?

*How have the possibilities for defending religious freedom been assisted – or aggravated – by new technologies of communication?

*How should Christians understand these events? How do such fearful atrocities fit into any divine plan? What do such events tell us about the nature of Providence?

*How can Christians comprehend the apparent destruction of the faith in whole regions?

*Does any effective response lie within the power of Western churches or faith communities?

*How should such acts affect interfaith dialogue worldwide?

*Has the danger of persecution affected the church’s call to mission? Should the threat of persecution persuade churches to postpone or even eschew evangelism for fear or provoking mass violence?

*How has the theme of religious freedom and persecution been reflected in contemporary culture, in film and literature?

Peter Balakian– is a poet, writer and academic, the Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of Humanities at Colgate University. His books include The Burning Tigris:The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response (2004). He also translated Armenian Golgotha: A Memoir of The Armenian Genocide, 1915-1918, by Grigoris Balakian (2010).

Thomas Farr– director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and a visiting associate professor of religion and international affairs at Georgetown’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. A former American diplomat and leading authority on international religious freedom, Farr’s publications include World of Faith and Freedom: Why International Religious Liberty is Vital to American National Security (Oxford University Press, 2008).

Philip Jenkins– Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor, and  Co-Director for the Program on Historical Studies of Religion in the Institute for Studies of Religion.

Nina Shea–  is a human rights lawyer, and a prominent advocate of  religious freedom worldwide. Her books include In the Lion’s Den (1997) She is also the co-author of Silenced: How Apostasy & Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide (2011)