U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) was a guest at an event today commemorating the 100th
anniversary of the Armenian genocide. The event included the opening of two exhibits and a book release, and was sponsored by the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights, and Genocide Education (Chhange) at Brookdale Community College in the Lincroft section of Middletown, N.J.
“Genocide is the most terrible crime a people can undergo, or another people can commit. It must never be forgotten–to forget it would be to dull our consciences and diminish our own humanity. It must never be denied, but fully acknowledged – otherwise any meaningful attempt at reconciliation will be thwarted,” said Smith, a longtime human rights advocate in Congress, senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of the House global human rights subcommittee.
“For my part, I am preparing to chair a congressional hearing on April 23—the day before Armenian Remembrance Day (April 24)—which this year marks the 100th anniversary of the genocide,” he said. “When political leaders fail to lead or denounce violence, the void is not only demoralizing to the victims but silence actually enables the wrongdoing. Silence by elected officials in particular conveys approval—or at least acquiescence—and can contribute to a climate f fear and a sense of vulnerability. History has taught us that silence is not an option. We must do more.” Click here to read his statement.
Smith has long been a passionate voice in support of the moral duty of governments, including the U.S. government, to recognize the Armenian genocide. In 2000 he chairedCongress’s first hearing on the Armenian genocide. He has long been one of Congress’s strongest voices in support of passing the Armenian genocide resolution, which calls on the President to officially recognize the genocidal nature of the terrible crime committed against the Armenian people beginning in 1915.
On display at Brookdale are the two exhibits, A Journey to Life : Armenia, which teaches the history of the Armenian Genocide through the lives of local Armenian Genocide Survivors who settled in Monmouth County, and Illuminating Images: A Hundred Year Remembrance is an art exhibit created by middle school, high school and college students from across the county and beyond. Also released on Sunday was Hundred-Year Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide: Celebrating the Lives of Armenian Genocide Survivors in Our Community, which features the personal histories of 54 Survivors who lived in Monmouth County.
Smith (NJ-04) has been a strong supporter of Chhange. In December 2014, he hosted “100 Days of Silence,” a unique art exhibition coordinated by Chhange to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. The collection brought together works created by over 450 New Jersey students and includes more than 60 life-size human forms which illustrate students’ artistic responses to learning about the genocide, the silence of the world, and the importance of becoming involved, concerned citizens.
The 100 Days of Silence exhibit corresponded with the 100 days in 1994 when some 800,000 Rwandan men, women and children were killed by Hutu extremists. Originally exhibited at Brookdale from April through August 2014, Smith helped arrange an exhibition on Dec. 4 in the Rayburn House Office Building Foyer.
Smith is Chairman of U.S. Helsinki Commission and an Executive Member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.