It takes more courage to love than to hate

Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish Dialogue 2019

08/08/2019

 

The Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish Dialogue took place during the Tools for Changemakers conference, bringing together people of Armenian, Kurdish and Turkish backgrounds to explore sensitive issues that affect the relationships between their communities. John Bond gives an overview of the dialogue and its progress in the past four years.

During the First World War, 1.5 million Armenians were killed and left to die on the orders of the rulers of the Ottoman Empire. Ever since, Armenian communities all over the world have kept alive their hatred of Turks, successors to the Ottomans. The attempts of Turkish governments to deny the genocide has only served to exacerbate Armenian feelings of hatred of the Turks.

In 2015, a mix of 15 Turkish and Armenian young professionals met at Caux to search for ways to break the deadlock. These discussions have since become an annual event at the Caux Forum. Members of the Kurdish community have joined in, so it is now an Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish dialogue.

 

Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish Dialogue 2019

 

Many Armenian participants have come from Lebanon, where their forebears fled in 1915. ‘I am a fourth-generation genocide survivor,’ said Arshalouys Tenbelian, who has taken part in three dialogues and is back as dialogue co-coordinator. ‘The Lebanese kindly gave us Lebanese nationality. In Beirut I went to an Armenian school, and we spoke only Armenian at home to maintain our culture.

‘For us, Turks were always the enemy. So when my professor urged me to attend the dialogue at Caux, I resisted. She pointed out that I am studying journalism, and that a good journalist should sit with everyone. So I agreed to come, purely to fight for our cause.

‘At Caux, when we introduced ourselves, I only said my name – I didn’t want the Turks to know anything else. Then we started the dialogue. Among the diaspora in Lebanon the history is fresh and bleeding. We argued, we yelled, we screamed. Years of suppressed emotions poured out.’

 

Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish Dialogue 2019

 

‘It was like a cold war,’ says Turkish participant and dialogue co-coordinator Burak Cevik. ‘The Armenians fired questions at us. “Will you give my grandmother’s house back? Will you apologize for the genocide?” An Armenian girl said, “I am only here to hear an apology from a Turk so that I can move on.”

‘A Turkish girl stood up, went to the girl and made this apology. That made me leave the room. After the session I asked her why she had apologized for something she did not do. She replied, “This is not about what I did, it is about what happened to them. It is about caring for someone who wants understanding from our side.”

‘Slowly we started to connect. At one point a girl sang an Armenian song. A Turkish girl said, “I know that song in Turkish.” Five minutes later we were all singing it. That was when we started making peace with each other.’

‘We learnt how to listen,’ says Arshalouys. ‘I accepted that I cannot force anyone to recognize the genocide. I will continue to work for this recognition. But now I can accept the other as he or she is.

‘This was a huge breakthrough. At Caux I realized that if I can learn to hate, I can learn to unhate. To do this, I need the other. I need Burak and he needs me to reach this healing of memory that will liberate us from the burden of hatred.

Many Armenians see us as traitors because we are friends with Turks. But I reply that it takes more courage to love than to hate.’

Over the past four years several participants have visited each others’ countries. Burak went to Beirut earlier this year. At an Armenian museum, he read a letter from a Turkish mother in 1915 to the Armenian children in her care. ‘Amidst tragedy, she turned hate into love,’ he said.

Arshalouys says this is what they are working to do today. ‘The bleeding will continue until we discover that the other is also a human. This is why dialogue is so important. We can get rid of our hatred; love is the greater weapon.’

 

Text: John Bond, Secretary of Initiatives of Change International

Photos: Paula Mariane and Leela Channer

 

 

Featured Story
Off

related stories

Caux Palace view night

Climate and the economy in the post-COVID world

As pandemic-related lockdowns and travel restrictions slowly begin to ease and a return to normal life seems nearer at hand, we are at a critical juncture as to how we choose to act towards our enviro...

Nazarene Mannie

My Learning Story: Nazrene Mannie

Nazrene Mannie is the Executive Director of the Global Apprenticeship Network (GAN) and talks about her learning experiences. Our interview series 'My Learning Story’ hopes to become a global learning...

Daniel Clements

From personal change to conference leadership: Daniel Clements

Daniel Clements, the coordinator for this year’s Creative Leadership conference, would not have become involved with Initiatives of Change Switzerand without his father, who recommended that he attend...

Sezan Eyrich

‘[Borders] are actually quite fragile – they are only built on the idea that we cannot connect to ourselves and to others’

In 2018, Sezan Eyrich spent a semester in Warsaw, studying political science and searching for a comfortable way to discuss political issues. When a friend recommended the Tool for Change Young Ambass...

COVID 19 slider EN square

The Caux Forum is going online!

Our team together with the international IofC Network is working hard to give you an online 2020 Caux Forum, trying to get you as close as possible to the “Caux experience”. Although we will not be ab...

COVID 19 slider EN final

COVID-19 : The Caux Forum 2020 is being transformed

In light of the global health crisis surrounding coronavirus, as well as its organizational and financial implications, the Council of Initiatives of Change Switzerland has decided to adapt the Caux F...

Caux_Palace_Sunset

Job offers for the Caux Forum 2020

For the Caux Forum 2020 IofC Switzerland is looking for a Dining-room Manager, a Cash Desk Manager, a Buffet Manager, an Allocation Manager and a Support Team Manager....

Open House Day group with kids

Internship: Open House Day & Project Support (40%)

IofC Switzerland is looking for an intern who will be in charge of the Open House Day on 5 July 2020. The intern will also support IofC's projects in the area of trustbuilding, in particular with rega...

Caux Palace, credit: Paula Mariane

3 Job Offers: Dining-Room Assistant / Technical Services Assistant / Reception Desk Assistant

You would like to work in an inspring place with people from all over the world? IofC Switzerland is looking for a Reception Desk Assistant, a Technical Services Assistant and a Dining-room Assistant...

Michael Akampa

Making investment work for the people

The Caux Dialogue on Land and Security (CDLS) in 2017 was a ‘turning point’ for sustainable investment professional, Micheál Akampa, who was invited to speak at its Invest in Peace conference. ‘I met ...

CDLS 2019 Tom Duncan

Empowering communities to restore mangroves

Tom Duncan is CEO of Earthbanc and passionate about problem solving and strategic systems thinking, primarily in regenerative economics, green finance and financial technology, as a means of restoring...

Nhat Vhuong

Plucking water from the air

Webmarketing consultant and social entrepreneur Nhat Vhuong is passionate about tackling water scarcity. A Vietnamese refugee, who grew up in Switzerland, he worked in Japan for eight years before ret...

Meghalaya CDLS 2019 Conrad Sangma

Meghalaya’s lighthouses of sustainable development

‘Our goal in Meghalaya is to build a low-carbon economy through complete involvement and ownership of communities,’ Conrad Sangma, the Chief Minister of Meghalaya, told the opening session of the Caux...

CDLS 2019 Chau Duncan

Bridging the financial divides

Chau Tang Duncan is applying over 20 years’ experience in banking, trade and commercial diplomacy to improving the financial access of disadvantaged communities. ...

Aibanshngain Swer CDLS 2019

Protecting Meghalaya’s water sources

Some billion people rely on water sourced in the hills of Meghalaya, in North East India. One of those responsible for water conservation in the State, Aibanshngain Swer, took part in the Summer Acade...