Adelaide – May 24, 2012
On Sunday, May 20, 2012 in the city of Adelaide in South Australia, a special ceremony was organised to commemorate the unveiling of a monument dedicated to the victims of the Armenian, Assyrian and Pontian Greeks genocide committed by Turkey’s Ottoman government during World War I, 1914-1923. The genocide perpetrated against the Christian population of Anatolia, a shameful act by the Ottoman Empire in its final years, claimed the lives of one and a half million Armenians, half a million Pontian Greeks and 750,000 Assyrians.
Erecting the South Australian genocide monument was the result of great efforts made by three brotherly organizations: the Pontian Brotherhood of South Australia, the Armenian Cultural Association of South Australia, and the Assyrian Universal Alliance-Australia Chapter.
The commemoration began with a mass held at St. Dimitrios Greek Orthodox Church of Salisbury in memory of the victims of the said genocide. It was conducted by His Grace Bishop Nikandros of Doryleon and Rev. Fathers Christos Tsoraklidis and Silouan Fotineas, and was attended by more than 20 representatives from local, state and federal government.
After the mass, all the guests gathered at the mausoleum of the Holy Family reception in a friendly atmosphere, where the Master of Ceremonies, Ms. Anna Volis, started the program by welcoming the guests and calling upon them to deliver their speeches. Among those present were:
Dr. Joseph Masika, member of the South Australian Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission, representing Mr. Hieu Van Le, Lieutenant Governor of SA, H.G. Bishop Nikandros of Doryleon and Rev. Fathers Christos Tsoraklidis and Silouan Fotineas, Her Worship Ms Gillian Aldridge, the Mayor of the City of Salisbury, the Honourable Jack Snelling MP, Treasurer of South Australia, the Honourable Jennifer Rankine MP, Minister for Multicultural Affairs, the Honourable Tom Koutsantonis MP, Minister for Manufacturing, Innovation and Trade, Ms. Isobel Redmond MP, Leader of the Opposition, the Honourable Michael Atkinson MP, Member for Croydon, Ms. Leesa Vlahos MP, Member for Taylor, Ms. Vickie Chapman MP, Member for Bragg, the Honourable Jing Lee MLC, Parliamentary Secretary to the Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Mr. Tony Zappia MP, Federal Member for Makin, Mr. Nick Champion MP, Federal Member Wakefield, Mr. Christos Maniakis-Grivas, Consul-General of Greece in South Australia, Cr. Donna Proleta who is representing Cr. Chad Buchanan, Cr. Shiralee Reardon JP, Aunty Josie Agius, Mr. John Kiosoglous, Chairman, Ethnic Schools Board, Mr. Nick Chryssostomidis, President of Pontian Federation of Australia, Ms. Anna Volis, President of the Pontian Brotherhood of South Australia, Ms. Elena Harrison, President of the Armenian Cultural Association of South Australia, Mr. David David, President of Assyrian Australian National Federation, Mr. Paul Azzo, Adviser to the Assyrian Universal Alliance of Australia, Mr. Ben Jabro, Executive Board member of the Assyrian Universal Alliance of Australia, Mr. Hermiz Shahen, Deputy Secretary General of the Assyrian Universal Alliance, Mr. Hovig Melkonian, Representative of Armenian National Committee of Australia, Peter Louca, Chairman of the Justice of the Cyprus Coordinating Committee, Mr. Chris Ioannou, President of Cyprian Association, Mr. Andrew Steiner, sculptor and holocaust survivor, Mr. Louis Kalogiannidis, architect of the monument.
Upon completion of the speeches all guests moved to the vicinity of the genocide monument to start the unveiling ceremony. After a blessing prayer by the Bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church the formal proceedings began with the singing of the Australian, Greek, Armenian and Assyrian National Anthems. Then, the monument was unveiled with pride by representatives of the three organizations that had participated in the creation of this memorial.
This great event has left a deep imprint in the memory and hearts of all those present who blessed this high convergence between the three nations in order to unify their call for justice and their efforts to obtain international recognition of the genocide committed against their people by the Ottoman Turks during World War I .
During his speech, Mr. Hermiz Shahen thanked members of the Monument Project Committee, who worked diligently to bring this project to reality, particularly Ms. Anna Volis, President of the Pontian Brotherhood of South Australia and Ms. Elena Harrison, President of the Armenian Cultural Association of South Australia for their leadership and commitment to bring this project to fruition.
Mr. Shahen Said, “Today’s unveiling of this extraordinary monument, which honours the victims of the Greeks, Assyrian and Armenian genocide, is a significant event in the life of the three nations and our communities in Australia and abroad; communities that have been established as a direct result of the continuous assaults on their nations.”
For the Assyrians this memorial monument brings memories of one of the worst policies of systematic annihilation of human beings conducted against the Assyrian nation; a heartless campaign that almost eliminated our presence in Southeast Turkey. By 1918, nearly three quarters of a million Assyrians of different denominations had fallen victim to this mass murder conducted by the Ottoman Turks.
Mr. Shahen urged the Australian Federal Government, as well as other countries, to condemn these heinous acts committed against the Christian citizens of Anatolia and to pressure Turkey to acknowledge and apologise for the atrocities that its Ottoman leaders committed against their Assyrian, Armenian and Pontic Greek citizens during World War I. “Let us recognize and condemn these acts for what they are: genocide” Mr. Shahen said.
Ms. Anna Volis, thanked all government departments, institutions and volunteers who contributed to the success of this project. She blessed the convergence that delivered this remarkable achievement, which was the result of the ongoing work between the three communities of the Armenians, Pontian Greeks and Assyrians. She strongly encouraged our institutions worldwide follow the lead in unifying our voices in demanding the recognition of the genocide that was perpetrated against all Christian peoples in Anatolia by the Ottoman Turkey.
In her address, Ms. Elena Harrison made reference to the dramatic story behind the construction of the Genocide Memorial in Yerevan, Armenia, when Kremlin finally agreed to allow a genocide memorial to be built. The former Soviet Union allowed only half the finance and a short time to build such a large memorial. Armenians feared that Moscow would cancel the project any minute. But a miracle happened. Without invitation or demand, people came in busloads from different regions and cities of Armenia in order to lend a hand. Most of them were descendants of Armenians who had lived in different regions of Turkish Western Armenia. Whatever work they did, they did it with pleasure and when they had nothing to do they sang patriotic songs. They used the same indomitable spirit that helped us survive through the dark pages of our history. And, I can proudly say that this spirit is still alive today not just in the Armenian community here in South Australia, but with my Pontian Greek and Assyrian brothers and sisters.
Ms. Elena ended her words by saying, “my hope is that this monument in Salisbury, South Australia, will become a shrine for our three nations to remember our fallen ancestors.”
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