The Symposium today at the United Nations entitled, Towards Preventing Genocide, Nations Acknowledging their Dark History: Transforming Denial, was well-attended and most interesting. Kudos to Dr. Ani Kalayjian, coordinator, the speakers, sponsors, all involved in organizing the conference, and the young student winners of the Krieger Essay Contest.
Some thoughts to walk away with:
- History despite its wrenching pain cannot be unlived…
(however)…if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
- Prevention is the best cure.
- Aspire towards inclusivity, resilience, and responsibility.
Explanations put forth re genocides:
- Denial: it never happened. Hammer this away long enough and often enough and people wonder and question, “did it ever happen?”
- And when it did happen and denial doesn’t cut it, the justification is: “they deserved it.”
Perhaps the biggest highlight for me was the big surprise when Ani acknowledged some people in the audience and said, “Father Gergerian.” I immediately thought about a Dr. Gergerian I had known decades ago. She asked him to stand up, and I turned towards my left and saw a man rise right behind me and one seat to my left. I looked up and immediately recognized the face. My eyes caught his and he smiled at me. Sure enough, it was Edmund Gergerian, the psychiatrist on the Secure Care Unit I ran at Kingsboro Psychiatric Center. I had not seen him since I left KPC in 1985. Fate could not have planned it better: right behind me, one seat away. We caught up a bit after the conference and plan to get together. After all these years, he has an office not too far from my Queens office.
As it turns out, Dr. Gergerian established the Krieger award:
…in memory of his late uncle, Father Krikor Guerguerian, aka Krieger. Born in 1911 in Gurin, Sebastia, Turkey, Father Guerguerian was the tenth child of a prosperous Armenian Catholic family, whose ancestors originated from Gargar, a fortress-city dating from the time of the Crusaders. He survived one of the forced death marches, which ended in Syria. He witnessed the murder of his parents as a child, was taken as an orphan to Damascus, Syria, and then moved to Lebanon in 1916.
Krieger’s own near death experiences compelled him to devote his life to gathering documentary evidence: on the Ottoman Turkish Genocide of the Armenians.
I suppose some things are just meant to be.