By Eleni Santorinaios, Contributing Editor
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, January 25, 2020 – Education, Recognition, and Prevention. These were the resounding themes that took place on January 25, 2020, at the “Christian/ Greek Genocide During the Late Ottoman Period 1894 – 1924 Panel Discussion” located at Estia Restaurant. The program was sponsored by The Eastern Meditteranean Business Cultural Alliance (EMBCA), in association with the Order of AHEPA’s Hercules – Spartan Chapter #26, and AHEPA’s Hellenic Cultural Commission. Panelists included: Peter Stavrianidis, Ph.D., on “Asia Minor – A Journey of Glory, Tradition, and Genocide,” Louis Katsos, President and Founder of EMBCA, Inc., on “The 30 Year Christian Genocide – 1894 – 1924,” and Paul Pavlakos, Supreme President of the Sons of Pericles, on “Ensuring Never Again – How you can get involved in Hellenic Genocide Recognition Efforts.”
From the time of the Ottoman Empire until the aftermath of World War I, Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians of Asia Minor were victims of Turkish genocide efforts. As a result, a total of 3.5 million Christians, 1.4 million Greeks, died or fled to seek refuge. These atrocities left a profound imprint on Greek History and its presence in Asia Minor. “Our vision and our mission should be to learn from history,” states Dr. Stavrianidis. “People make the same mistakes, this is very apropos for us to learn from… I believe in learning from history and teaching it to the younger generation in the equal work of Hellenism to survive and thrive.”
Mr. Kastos addressed the audience, stating, “We have to recognize that it is up to us to educate the Americans… We have to spread the word, the history, but, also understand that it’s a continuous process, and if we’re not careful, the genocide is going to continue, and we do not want to be part of genocide.”
Representing the younger generation of Greek Americans was Mr. Pavlakos. He states, “There’s the education aspect, there’s what we discuss as a historical fact, and there’s the recognition and awareness aspect. As a member of the young Hellenic community, I think modern relevance is the key to getting our youth to understand these things. We can discuss how this is relevant. This was not a regional genocide, this was a genocide of the Greek people and of the Christian people. It happened to us as Greeks…This was a common, collected effort, to slaughter an entire culture and an entire religion. I believe that together, if we remember the importance of these events, if we relay this concise and consistent information, we can contact our local, state, federal and international officials as one Hellenic community, where we will ensure we will never forget and ensure that this never happens again.”
Also in attendance was Tereza Yerimyan, Government Affairs Director for the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). She addressed the audience with “Our success is because we were united. It’s not just because it was unity amongst Armenians, it was a partnership with our Greek and Hellenic friends.” After reading an excerpt from their Resolution to government officials, Yerimyan noted that this was “a shared history amongst Armenians and Greeks, and we wanted to make sure that we fought for that together.”
Cornelios Anastassiades, President of the Order of AHEPA’s Hercules-Spartan Chapter #26, first thanked all sponsors and those involved in making the event so successful. He notes, “We have been here for fifty centuries, and that should hold something. We need this forum today to pursue the remembrance of what happened and what this has done to our families and what this has done to us; And I’m including the Armenians, Assyrians, and the rest of everyone in the same boat, that have spread over Europe, Russia, South America, and so on.” Anastassiades also shared his family’s incredible story and their deep-rooted connection with the Christian/ Greek Genocide. He reminds us that it is a pivotal part of Greek history and one that we can not forget.
“It is our duty to our people and to Hellenism, to spread awareness, to continue to educate and inform the public about this horrific act in history perpetrated by the Turks. It is our duty to continue to fight for justice in recognition of all victims of genocide. It is our duty to ensure something like this never happens again. I want to thank Tereza Yerimyan, ANCA Government Affairs Director for accepting my invitation to attend the panel discussion Thank you to my brother AHEPANs and sponsors for making this event a success. Lastly, I would like to thank our presenters Dr. Peter Stavrianidis, Mr. Ilias Katsos and Supreme President of the Sons of Pericles, Mr. Paul Pavlakos for sharing their expertise with us,” expressed Paul Kotrotsios, Founder & Chairman of the Hellenic News of America.
Supreme President, George Horiates, thanked the organizers from Hercules – Spartan Chapter #26 of Center City Philadelphia in District Four. He also thanked the AHEPA Hellenic Cultural Commission and the Hellenic News of America. He also applauds the overwhelming audience, which spanned from states all across the East Coast. The Supreme President was most proud of the involvement of ANCA, Director, Tereza Yerimyan, and Sons of Pericle Supreme President, Paul Pavlakos. He states, “ANCA was with us side-by-side on the issues, and continues to be. The fact that the local AHEPA chapter understood the concept of working together across nationalities should not be lost upon us. Tereza was at the fall rally and ANCA played a tremendous role. It seemed that each day, AHEPA and ANCA were on the phone communicating as to which member of Congress each could approach. This is an important part of the story. Working together, we can accomplish so much more. The recognition of the Christian Genocide is a crucial component of being a just society. America is second to none and to see this come to fruition is what makes AHEPA and the causes we fight for so important. There is nothing more ‘American’ than recognizing injustice. It is a Hellenic principle that is at the core of Western Civilization.”
“The program itself has been honed and developed by these unique speakers, including Lou Katsos, our District Governor from New York. For him, Peter Stavrianidis, and others to come from afar to do this updated version to yet another community, is indicative of the dedication to the preservation of Hellenism. As for the Sons of Pericles President, Paul Pavlakos, I ask which young adult would not want to be a member in the Sons of Pericles or our Maids of Athena, along with the Maids Grand Vice President, Ms. Pantelous, who was in attendance. Yes, AHEPA promotes these programs worldwide to our communities, so we can learn from history and never forget. However, we are also building the leaders of tomorrow, not by words, but by actions. The future of Hellenism indeed looks bright,” expressed Supreme President Horiates. The Hellenic community is urged to continue spreading global awareness of the Christian/ Greek Genocide and promote unified involvement for prevention.
If you would like to read the Draft Resolution, created by the Sons of Pericles, please visit: SonsofPericles.org/recognition.
Main photo caption: L-R: Ilias Katsos, Tereza Yerimyan, George Horiates, Paul Kotrotsios, Kehila Kedosha Janina, Paul Pavlakos, Dr. Peter Stavrianidis.