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Deputy FM Amanatidis’ speech at the Special Session of the Hellenic Parliament Plenary on the Day of Remembrance of the Genocide of the Pontic Greeks
Ladies and Gentlemen MPs,
This year is the 97th anniversary of the genocide of the Pontic Greeks – the second genocide, chronologically, of the 20th century – which took place following the Armenian genocide. The Pontic genocide is one of the saddest moments in human history, as it led to the uprooting, from their ancestral hearths, of a part of Hellenism that struggled for its survival for thousands of years and that followed its own notable course, parallel to that of the rest of Hellenism.
Maintaining of the historical memory of the Pontic genocide and venerating the martyred past through today’s anniversary is in no way a surrender to intolerance or fanaticism. It is a respectful candle lighted for the victims of this shameful act and a contribution towards shaping the course to the future; a course that will ensure that humankind need never and will never again live through such tragic experiences.
It is difficult for the human mind to conceive of the methods and means that led to 353,000 Pontic Greek victims: rape, seizure of property, looting, burning, exile, forced labor battalions, torture, starvation, hangings, massacres.
When the genocide was being carried out, the real and visible fear of the total annihilation of Pontic Hellenism caused the urgent movement of Pontic Christian populations towards Greece, the Soviet Union and elsewhere.
In February 1994, the Hellenic Parliament voted unanimously to declare 19 May the Day of Remembrance of the Genocide of the Greeks in Asia Minor Pontus from 1916-1923. This recognition, despite the seventy-year delay, was moral vindication for Pontic Hellenism and connected modern Hellenism with its historical memory.
No one can question that the cultural imprint of thousands of years of the Greeks of the Pontus never faded, even after the violent displacement early in the last century. With our national consciousness, our rich cultural, ethnic and religious heritage, and our customs, we Pontic Greeks managed, with the passage of time, to become integrated into Greek society and contribute our utmost to the development and progress of Greece on an economic, cultural and social level.
And we mustn’t forget that major Pontic figures from the Church, in science and commerce, strengthened the economic, intellectual and religious life of Greece, maintaining, in parallel, their traditions and customs, as well as the memories of the unforgotten homelands of the Pontus and the Black Sea.
“And lifting onto our shoulders, together with the Cross of martyrdom, the Pontian banners, and taking with us all of the wealth of memories in drama, in tragedy, in saga and in the music-filledlyra, we reached the common Mother of all Hellenes, Greece, firmly resolved to contribute to the reconstruction of its walls,” as Leonidas Iasonidis, a true exponent of the Pontic Greek spirit, wrote characteristically many years ago.
Can further steps be taken? Without a doubt, yes, to make the young more familiar with the “Odyssey” of Pontic Hellenism, how the Pontic Greeks kept alight the ancient lamp of Hellenism, cherishing it with the oil of the Pontian Struggles, how they kept alive the ways, the customs, the traditions, and how we had and have self-sacrifice in our blood.
The difficult task of ending the non-acceptance of historical truth by our neighbouring country –which should undoubtedly go hand in hand with forgiveness – must be undertaken by the societies themselves, in a direct, fruitful and constructive dialogue, so that such a sincere approach can rule out the possibility of such abhorrent acts being repeated, anywhere in the world. This dialogue, in combination with the recognition of, and the eradication of the taboo surrounding, the Pontic genocide, will lead to the dawning of a new era.
In closing, I would like to stress that, despite the fact that humanity at the time was unable to avert this particular crime, today, in the year 2016 – and with an adverse, asphyxiating environment taking shape for, among others, the Orthodox Christian element of the Middle East and Africa – we owe it, more than ever before, to the victims of the genocide, to their relatives and to contemporary Pontic Greeks, to safeguard in our memory this historical fact in its true dimensions and to create the conditions that will lead to the vindication of the demand of Pontic Greeks and to the peaceful coexistence and cooperation of our peoples.
Thank you very much.