Westminster Abbey Service in memory of victims of Genocide

Westminster Abbey is considered one of the grandest churches in London. Home to royal weddings and many other momentous occasions, this spectacular abbey is a stunning piece of architecture located in the heart of the hustle and bustle of the capital. This incredible location was where, on Wednesday 28th October 2015, two and a half thousand people gathered to witness a special service to celebrate the lives of the newly-sainted Armenian martyrs of 1915. Community dignitaries, representatives of Armenian organisations, other members of the community and general supporters of the cause stood side by side in worship for the service in the presence of Serzh Sargsyan, president of the Republic of Armenia, His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Partiarch & Catholicos of all Armenians, and Prince Charles of Wales. The mass was conducted by The Very Reverend Dr. John Hall, Dean of Westminster.

The magnificent setting of the Abbey made for an enchanting and moving atmosphere as the mass was led bilingually, with the hauntingly beautiful echoes of the St. Yeghiche Church Choir drifting through to the Nave in accompaniment with the organ. The service also featured input from the family members of survivors of the Armenian Genocide, as well as His Excellency Dr. Armen Sarkissian, Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to the UK.

The event was concluded with the singing of both the Armenian and British national anthems, after which followed the familiar ringing of the Abbey church bells.

This momentous service is of great importance to the Armenian community of the UK, particularly to those of us born and raised in this country. Every year, the community works tirelessly towards raising awareness of the genocide in the hope of recognition from the UK government. Despite these efforts, the issue rarely receives sufficient coverage or acknowledgement from official bodies, and there hasn’t been much significant indication of any movement towards our cause from the government. However the service at the Abbey exposed the issue in the most high profile venue, in the presence of well-known and respected figures. It showed the Armenians of the UK that the issue has not been forgotten; it motivated us to work harder for the cause, and to never forget our ancestors who lost their lives at the hands of the Ottoman government.

The Armenian community of the UK has a long way to go before recognition by our home nation, but the moving service at Westminster Abbey was a loud reminder that whilst the atrocities of 1915 have not formally been recognised as genocide, our cause does have the support of key figures in our country. We continue in the hope that one day in the near future, the Armenian Genocide is recognised by the UK government and the rest of the world, and that due reparations are granted.

— Arshak Danielian

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