“We won! We are here!
“We won against the plans of the genocidaires because we are here and remind them of their crimes.”
This was the essence of the address by the keynote speaker, Professor Nikos Lygeros, a research fellow at the University of Lyon, France, to a well attended Commemoration of the Genocide of the Hellenes of Pontos, Asia Minor and Thrace, held at New South Wales Parliament House last week.
The commemoration was the result of the cooperation of a number of organisations including the Order of AHEPA NSW and NZ (main sponsor of Professor Lygeros’ visit), the ‘Pontoxeniteas’, ‘Panayia Soumela’ and ‘Diogenes’ Pontian associations of Sydney and Wollongong.
‘Unity is strength’ was another of the Commemoration’s main messages, conveyed as much by the organisers as by the keynote speaker. Professor Lygeros emphasised the significance of the unity of the victims – be they Hellenes, Armenians, Assyrians or Jews. This was underlined by the delegations of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, the Assyrian Universal Alliance, Sydney’s Armenian community and others who lent their support for the Hellenic Genocide Commemoration in their own ways.
“The purpose of the genocidaires is the extermination of the victims, the cessation of the continuity of the Hellenes, the Armenians, the Assyrians, the Jews and others,” continued Professor Lygeros. “To deny to those yet unborn even the right to life. This is why we must persist in demanding recognition of the genocides by all the parliaments of Australia.”
Speaking about his visit to the Sydney Jewish Museum, Professor Lygeros stressed the importance of such installations for the continuity of historical memory, of the continuity of the peoples who have endured genocide. He stated further that there must be created in Sydney a similar museum for all genocides, so that we do not forget, so that such events are not repeated.
The Master of Ceremonies, Dr Panayiotis Diamadis (state secretary of the Order of AHEPA NSW and NZ and lecturer in genocide Studies, University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) opened the commemoration with a phrase from the 6th century BCE mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras: ‘ΤΑΣ ΛΕΩΦΟΡΟΥΣ ΜΗ ΒΑΔΙΖΕΙΣ’ – Do not follow the well-trodden path.
Those who attended last week’s commemoration did not follow the well-trodden path. In their addresses, David Clarke MLC (Parliamentary Secretary for Justice, Liberal Party) and the Rev. Fred Nile MLC (Christian Democratic Party) related the threats, pressures and bribery attempts they had been subjected to by Turkish authorities in Ankara and Australia, and their local adjuncts. The two supporters of the Australian Hellenic community, who played leading roles in the formal recognition of the genocides of the Hellenes, Armenians and Assyrians by the parliament of New South Wales in May 2013, re-emphasised the significance of the unity of peoples against genocidaires, especially today, when a new wave of genocidal action has been unleashed against the indigenous Assyrians and the Armenians of Syria and Iraq.
Fred Nile told the assembly of his pride in having the framed photographs of the Holy Monastery of Panayia Soumela Trapezountas in his parliamentary office, gifts of the Pontian associations of New South Wales at the 2013 Genocide Commemoration.
In his message to the commemorative event, Consul-General of Greece in Sydney Dr Stavros Kyrimis stated that it is our obligation to humanity to remind everyone of the values of Western civilisation: acceptance of difference, human rights, democracy.