European Syriac Union hosts conference in Brussels with Pontian Greek and Armenian representatives to mark 109th anniversary of Sayfo Genocide

BRUSSELS — On the 109th anniversary of the 1915 Sayfo Genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire against the Christian peoples in the territory under its control, the European Syriac Union (ESU) held a conference in the hall of St. John the Baptist Church in Brussels to discuss the events surrounding the genocide and pay tribute to the many lives lost.

The conference began with a welcome speech by journalist David Vergili, followed by a minute of silence in honor of the martyrs.

Subsequent speeches were delivered by ESU Co-Chair Fehmi Vergili, President of the Association of Pontian Greeks in Brussels (Association de Pontos Kamian ken Argos de Bruxelles) Sakis Sidiropoulos, and Head of the Committee of Armenians in Belgium Robert Unusyan. The leaders of the three institutions discussed progress made towards Sayfo recognition and outlined future steps, emphasizing the importance of collaborative efforts.

In the second segment, several attendees shared poignant stories passed down from their parents and grandparents, leaving a profound impact on the audience.

The third segment focused on the damage inflicted on Christian churches during the Sayfo. Father Fikri Gabriel, who has written a doctoral thesis on the genocide, spoke about the divisions between the Syriac (Aramean–Assyrian–Chaldean) Churches that significantly weakened the Syriac (Aramean–Assyrian–Chaldean) community. Father Habib Gejer addressed the ongoing consequences of Sayfo for the Syriac (Aramean–Assyrian–Chaldean) people, underscoring the need for unity.

“Syriac people, with their various historical names, are one people, and if we do not recognize this, our fate will be dissolution,” stated Father Musa Yaramish, calling for solidarity.

In the fourth segment, Syriac (Aramean–Assyrian–Chaldean) and Pontian Greek youth highlighted the importance of understanding their respective and joint history, particularly the Sayfo genocide. They stressed the need for the younger generation to continue commemorating the Sayfo martyrs to ensure global recognition.

The conference concluded with the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer by the priests and the 140 attendees.