The Promise Behind “The Promise”

An Armenian in the US reflects on a new movie about the Armenian Genocide in 1915, a large scale atrocity still denied shamelessly by the Turkish government.

Public Orthodoxy

by Christopher H. Zakian

The Promise

In 2015 the victims of the Armenian Genocide—long referred to as martyrs—were formally acknowledged as Christian saints, as the world marked the passage of a century since their suffering. Authorities of the Armenian Church proceeded with the canonization ceremony despite some indeterminacy about the precise number of saints being identified, on the assumption that clarity would arise over time.

Nevertheless, with the Armenian Church having identified Christian martyrdom as the deepest meaning of the Armenian Genocide, it’s worth considering how, and to what extent, this theme arises in a new film set during the Genocide, The Promise. While the centuries-old Christian faith of the Armenians resonates throughout the film and is portrayed respectfully, an explicit depiction of martyrdom did not seem present to me at first. On consideration, however, sacrificial death is depicted in an interesting way, faithful to an enduring motif in Armenian Christian…

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