In this brief clip Father Krikor Guerguerian is faced with a theological question that has challenged many survivors of the Armenian Genocide. The perpetrator confesses to him that he killed his father, three brothers and confiscated their house and garden and asks Guerguerian for forgiveness.
Father Guerguerian survived the deportation, or death marches, became orphaned and was cared for in an orphanage in Damascus, Syria. His experience of the genocide compelled him to devote his life to gathering documentary evidence of the Genocide from multiple countries in their original Ottoman Turkish language. In order to do this, he taught himself Turkish and translated original documents with their official government seal.
With this first hand evidence, he is later faced personally with the theological question of forgiveness when the person who killed his family members acknowledges his guilt. As a clergyman he has to weigh his personal feelings with his belief in a God who forgives.
My father who was a Protestant minister also wrestled throughout his life with the issue of whether to forgive those who killed seven of his nine family members. He frequently would say, “As a Christian I must forgive but as a human being it is difficult.”
Father Guerguerian brilliantly gives the priestly response to his perpetrator. Rather than saying, “I forgive you,” he says to this man, “God bless you, God forgive you,” go to Mecca and ask God to forgive you, thereby placing the initiative on the person who killed his family.
Author: Lorna Touryan Miller is the child of two survivors of the Armenian Genocide. She has spent many years interviewing Armenian and later Rwandan Genocide survivors. She is co-author with her husband, Professor Donald E. Miller of two books on Armenian-related topics: Survivors: An Oral History of the Armenian Genocide (University of California Press, 1993) and Armenia: Portraits of Survival and Hope (University of California Press, 2003). She and Don are currently writing a book on the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda.