San Joaquin Valley Town Hall presents panel reflecting on Armenian Genocide centennial

San Joaquin Valley Town Hall will present a panel of two clergy members, a scholar and a diplomat to reflect on the Armenian Genocide on its 100th anniversary, The Fresno Bee reports.

“Man’s Inhumanity to Man … The Last 100 Years” is scheduled at 10:30 a.m. March 18 at Saroyan Theatre.

Speakers are: Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, excecutive director of the Ecumenical Office of the Armenian Church in America, based in Washington, D.C.; Taner Akcam, a Turkish-born professor of history at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, and a scholar on the Ottoman Empire and human rights; Kenneth Segel, former rabbi of Temple Beth Israel in Fresno who now lives in Las Vegas; and Berj Apkarian, honorary consul for the Republic of Armenia assigned to Fresno.

Apkarian is a late replacement for Constantine Orbelian, the guest conductor of the Moscow Philharmonic who canceled due to traveling difficulties.

Before the Town Hall panel, Aykazian, Akcam, Segel and Apkarian also will be honored at a special dinner at Pilgrim Armenian Congregational Church in Fresno.

The panel is designed to reflect on the Armenian Genocide, when the Ottoman Turkish government killed as many as 1.5 million Armenians from 1915 to 1923, as well as discuss issues from reconciliation to contributions to the American culture, arts and sciences for the past century by people who have been subjected to genocide and inhumanities.

Segel, who served as rabbi at Temple Beth Israel, 1987 to 1992, says he is excited to return to Fresno for just the second time since he left.

“Fresno was a wonderful time in our life,” he says.

Segel has remained an active humanitarian for social causes. He has been invited by Armenian universities to speak on their campuses on Armenian Martyrs’ Day.

In Fresno, Segel says he wants to talk about the connection between the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust, the genocidal destruction of more than six million European Jews by the Nazis before and during World War II.

“We all know there are no limits to evil,” Segel says. “Both histories are stained with people’s tears and blood. … I want to sow parallels between the Genocide and, how we are connected to, the Holocaust.”

Segel says it is important to reach out to “our own people” wherever they are suffering and “not keep our eyes closed.”

He says, “We have to work for good causes in behalf of those who might not have a voice, who are being decimated as well in massacres. We have to work for a better day when all humanity will know the blessings of God and life and peace and with human dignity.”

Aykazian is making his first trip to Fresno, which has a large Armenian population.

He says he wants on the panel to make two main points — acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide as well as forgiveness.

“I don’t believe in retribution,” says Aykazian, representative of the Armenian Church on the World Council of Churches and former president of the National Council of Churches in the United States. “It does not bring anything to us.

“The best thing is to find a common language with our Turkish friends, to find a peaceful solution to the problem that has been taking place for 100 years. Of course, it is not that easy. I think they are very nervous, because they don’t know if they will acknowledge.”

Aykazian says he hopes the Town Hall discussion creates a better understanding of Armenians.

“They don’t hate Turks,” he says. “The majority of Armenian people are not for revenge. The majority is ready for peaceful solution. The most important thing is acknowledgment.”

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