LANSING, MI — The Armenian-American community of Michigan and Metro Detroit received a shock this past week as the mayors of three major cities in the region signed proclamations declaring April 23, 2021 as “Turkish Sovereignty and Children’s Day.” The shock was intensified by the fact that one of the three cities was Southfield, home to two of the state’s four Armenian churches and the state’s only Armenian day school.
As the local Armenian community attempted to regroup and respond to the situation, a proclamation from the governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, was also released to the same effect, with a change of verbiage to “Turkish Heritage and Children’s Day.”
The offensiveness of the proclamations is, of course, not due to their celebration of Turkish heritage, but to their timing to the day before Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day on April 24.
The proclamations also caused offense by, rather than discussing the heritage of the Turkish culture in a neutral way, instead actively promoting the supposed positive contributions of the Republic of Turkey in world affairs with the following statement: “The Republic of Turkey, a secular democratic state, has made significant contributions to United States foreign policy in the Balkans, the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Caucasus and has played a crucial role in international efforts for peace, prosperity, and stability.” (italics in the original)
Where It Happened
Southfield is home to St. John’s Armenian Church of Greater Detroit, one of the largest parishes of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, and the only Diocesan parish serving Michigan.