Damascus (AINA) -- The synod of the Assyrian Orthodox Church made a surprising decision on May 30th to form a committee to prepare for the commemoration of the centennial of the 1915 Turkish genocide of Assyrians. The decision came as the newly elected Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II held his first meeting with the bishops of the church in Damascus.
The decision marks a dramatic shift by the church on this sensitive issue, putting the Assyrian Orthodox Church on a collision course with Turkey, which continues to deny the genocide.
The decision is welcomed and even encouraged by the Syrian regime given the current enmity between Turkey and Syria. Patriarch Aphrem II has been vocal in his support for Bashar Al Assad's regime.
In the past the church refrained from any action which could have been interpreted as support for the recognition movement among Assyrian political organizations, fearing any such action would have jeopardized its parishioners, monasteries and churches in Turkey.
The Turkish genocide of Assyrians occurred in World War One. It began on April 24, 1915 and lasted to the end of 1918. The genocide claimed 750,000 (75%) Assyrian lives, as well as 1.5 million Armenians and 500,000 Pontic Greeks.
Sweden is the only country which has recognized the Assyrian genocide. The International Genocide Scholars Association officially recognized the Assyrian and Greek genocides in December, 2007.