The funeral oration delivered by Mesrob II, Patriarch of the Armenians of Turkey, at the last rites held for Hrant Dink in the Surp Astvadzadzin [Holy Mother of God] Church in Ýstanbul
He was brave, emotional, and indomitable
My beloved, sorrowing community,
Our dear friends,
We have gathered today, under the historic roof of the Surp Astvadzadzin [Holy Mother of God] Central Church of the Patriarchate, to say farewell to a cherished son of our community who has fallen victim to a most heinous murder : the late Hrant Dink, the editor in chief of the journal AGOS, on his final journey into eternity.
The life-line of the deceased that once began in Malatya herewith reaches its conclusion. A life full of hardship and struggle made Hrant Dink into a brave, emotional and daring person. He thus became a defender and standard-bearer of justice, freedom of conscience, and human rights. He was given to saying whatever he thought and believed, and doing whatever he thought had to be done, regardless of the price.
Hrant was loyal to his country as well as to his ethnic origins. He was capable of cherishing his place of birth, the country where he grew up, the people of the country where he lived, without rejecting the values of his origins. The courageous stands that he took were so many expressions of an honest Anatolian personality that embraced all humanity without regard to differences of race, religion or origin. Hrant was thereby disposing of himself in conformity with God’s commandment : “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18) At the same time he was abiding by what God’s Messenger taught : “Those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.” (1 John 4:21) Hrant put both his identities in the service of removing the prejudices currently prevailing between people. He became a fervent advocate of democracy, which he held to be a prerequisite for an ideal society.
In the course of the visit that I paid to the deceased’s wife in order to offer my condolences, I came to learn with great pleasure that Hrant had regarded Our Lord Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour. For us as Christians, this, indeed, is what redemption is all about. “Because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) Dear believers, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Our Lord Jesus Christ further said : “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) But unfortunately, many people are unable to attain this “abundant life”, as their innumerable sins comes between them and God. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of god,” wrote St Paul the Apostle (Romans 3:23), going on to add : “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). My beloved Community, God has revealed his love to us through Our Lord Jesus Christ. For it was while we were still steeped in our sins that the Lord Jesus Christ died for us. “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and he was buried, and he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and he appeared to Peter, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time” (1 Corinthians 15:3-6). On one occasion, this is what Our Lord Jesus Christ told St Thomas the Apostle : “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Hence we Christians believe that we must receive Jesus Christ in person as our Lord and Saviour. We must receive Christ, because “to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13) It is only through faith that we can receive Christ. So it is said in the letter to the Ephesians : “By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing ; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) The Lord Jesus Christ stands at our hearts’ doorstep and calls : “Listen ! I am standing at the door, knocking ; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” (Revelation 3:20) In his Sermon on the Mountain, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled,” Jesus Christ said (Matthew 5:6). All messages of condolences that we have received on the occasion of the late Hrant’s death kept elaborating the same idea, which is that he laboured out of a love of justice and desired with all his heart to partake of the fruits of justice. For “a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.” (James 3:18)
A great majority of those who knew Hrant only as a journalist are likely to have been unaware of all that he was doing on behalf of orphaned children as an expression of his humanitarian character. In his own childhood, Hrant had been deprived of the happiness that most children possess. He later found consolation in serving children. He loved children ; he cared for them as he did for his very own. He came to share in children’s gladness and in this way to console himself for the bitter memories of his own childhood.
Hrant was an Armenian citizen of the Republic of Turkey, and that is how he toiled away all through his life. I would like to take this opportunity to pose the following question : How fitting is it, in view of a universal morality, to engage in politicking over the victim’s shroud after such acts of assassination ? The suffering belongs to all of us. The loss is a loss for all of us. Condolences are for sharing this sorrow and for lessening it. Hence, statements which, while condemning the incident, also come out against our country are tantamount to opening new wounds in our hearts. Such acts stand in total contradiction to the late Hrant’s approach.
We would like to take this opportunity to offer our thanks to the President of the Republic, Mr Ahmet Necdet Sezer, as well as to all state and government leaders, to all public organs and institutions, and to all our well-wishing fellow citizens for the concern and support they have demonstrated, over these days of sadness, for the family of the deceased as well as for our community. The extraordinary sensitivity that has been displayed, resulting in the culprit’s quick arrest, gives us cause for comfort. But it is absolutely not enough. It is imperative for our country’s peace and stability for the real instigators, too, to be identified.
As a Christian clergyman and a human being, I once more condemn those who have trampled upon the right to live, which at all times and under all conditions has to be upheld as our most sacred right. As human beings who respect and cherish freedom of thought and conscience, even though we might not share the same views with some of our people, we still cannot accept their being tried and sentenced for their views, let alone being murdered for them.
We persistently retain our belief that our government and the entire Turkish people will come to accept Armenians as citizens of the Republic of Turkey who have been living in this land for thousands of years, to agree that we are neither aliens nor potential enemies, and to move to change the attitudes, practices and mentalities that have led to our being perceived as enemies, so that all the work needed to eradicate this hostility toward Armenians from society, starting with our schools and textbooks, can be launched in all urgency.
At the top of all that Hrant fought for was fostering Turkish-Armenian dialogue. He waged a major struggle for this and he bravely confronted all the reactions that arose in opposition to his struggle. What a wondrous mystery it is, that his own funeral rites should have become the occasion for bringing together state authorities from Turkey and Armenia. We know that like all of us, he too would have been happy to see this occasion grow and develop into a genuine dialogue.
Let us pray, then, for God to preserve our country, to strengthen bonds of brotherly affection between all our citizens, to establish peace on earth and to sow seeds of love in human hearts. Let evil be removed, let despair be overcome, let God’s holy will reign supreme everywhere.
Let the Holy Spirit of God the Omnipotent remove from our bodies the hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh, so that His spirit is within us, and makes us follow His statutes and be careful to observe His ordinances (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
Last Sunday, the deceased was mourned in Armenian churches all over the world through special prayers following the Holy Mass [Surp Badarak]. We would like to take this opportunity to offer our brotherly thanks to the representatives of the Republics of Turkey and Armenia, as well as to the representatives of all friendly countries, and, moreover, to His Holiness Karekin II the Catholicos of All Armenians who is being represented here by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, as well as to His Holiness Aram I the Catholicos of Cilicia who is being represented here by the Very Reverend Father Shahe Panossian. We also offer our thanks to Archbishop Dirayr Mardikian, the Spiritual Leader of the Armenians of Romania and Bulgaria, and to Archbishop Karekin Bekchian, the Spiritual Leader of the Armenians of Germany, who have joined us for the deceased’s funeral.
May our merciful and forgiving God now receive Hrant’s soul. May He show mercy on him on the Day of Judgment, may He absolve him of his sins, may He render him deserving of His heavenly ever-shining crown. Let him rest in peace. Once more I offer my condolences to the deceased’s beloved wife Rakel, to his children, to all members of the community, to members of the press, and to all our citizens, wishing them to receive consolation from the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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