I've been thinking about courage recently.
There is so much going on in the world that is challenging, disheartening, and complex. Sometimes we think of courage in big acts:
- Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. leading enormous, history-changing non-violent movements
- the heroism of a firefighter entering a burning building
- the choice to go in to the heart of a conflict, bringing the stories of others to the world through reporting or physically saving others' lives
I think that courage also comes on a daily and individual level just in making the commitment to stay engaged with the world, to learn about difficult moments and to be willing to question what we have grown up believing, assuming, or simply not knowing.
The New Yorker began this year with a thought-provoking article, "A Century of Silence." 2015 marks 100 years since the genocide of the Armenians began during World War I. The author, Raffi Khatchadourian, journeys to Turkey to uncover the history of a grandfather he did not personally know. Along the way, he shares the story of a city, Diyarbakir, a church, and an individual, Abdullah Demirbas.
The Turkish state has denied the Armenian genocide, but as mayor of Diyarbakir's old district, Demirbas acknowledged wrongs committed in the past. His simple actions to return the city to a multilingual, inclusive community have resulted in being charged in as many as a hundred cases, but he persists.
The cathedral Sourp Giragos was rehabilitated from deteriorating building with no local Armenians left to attend it, to a beacon for those wishing to learn about their own history. It attracts Turks, Kurds, and Armenians willing to question their history. For some, it is even a place to ask about their own identity - could they have some Armenian in their personal family background?
Both civic actions and confronting one's personal or communal past express courage.
I gained hope from what Demirbas told the author,
This government has an unusual aspect to it.... It punishes us, but it also implements our projects. I was dismissed as mayor for providing multilingual municipal services, but then the state started multilingual TV programming."
It is a complex and difficult history. And, an equally complex and challenging present to understand.
- Join us for an online workshop exploring the Armenian Genocide and International Justice the week of January 26th. Southern CA educators can receive a free copy of our resource book, Crimes Against Humanity and Civilization following your workshop participation. Click here to register.
- Read more about this history on our sister blog, Facing Technology. Click here for a post by Adam Strom, Chief Officer for Content and Innovation for Facing History and Ourselves.
- Explore the photography and reflections of artist Kathryn Cook in The Aftermath Project: War Is Only Half the Story. Click here to see her image gallery.