Pope Francis, Kim Kardashian, and 100 Years of Silence

Kim Kardashian, the woman who broke the Internet, married Kanye West, and created a strangely addictive mobile game can now boast a connection to Pope Francis. The queen of reality television, Ms. Kardashian is a proud Armenian-American and recently visited her ancestral home with her family. 24 April marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide and the Kardashian family brought pop culture’s attention to the horrible atrocities that took place a century ago. Pope Francis has weighed in on the anniversary too, saying that the 1915 killing of nearly 1.5 million Armenians was the first genocide of the 20th century. This upset Turkey immensely—the country has never recognized the conflict as a genocide, saying while a number of Armenians were killed, Turks and people in other countries were dying too, as it happened during wartime.

Image courtesy of Narek, © 2007, public domain
Image courtesy of Narek, © 2007, public domain

Tensions surrounding the century-old conflict are still high. Turkey recalled its ambassador to the Holy See in response to Pope Francis’ public show of support for Armenia’s side and the pontiff further stirred emotions by drawing a comparison with the persecution and killing of Christians today, specifically by the Islamic State (IS). The connection highlights that unfortunately, discrimination is still alive and well in the world and the problems the world had a century ago are still visible. Further from that though, Pope Francis also linked the mass killings of Armenians by Turks to the genocide carried out by the Nazis.

These comparisons, while very powerful coming from the leader of the Catholic Church, also emphasize what little action was actually taken by the Catholic Church in response to these global crimes. In 1998, the Roman Catholic Church formally apologized for not playing a role in preventing and speaking out against the Holocaust, and it also apologized on behalf of Pope Piux XII, who was head of the Church as the genocide was happening. Many leaders in Jewish communities still harbour animosity towards the Catholic Church today because of its inaction in one of the most tragic times in the world’s history. Expanding on the Church’s inaction in times of previous crises, a book uncovering past secrets of the Vatican, God’s Bankers by Gerald Posner, has brought to light a great deal of corruption surrounding the Holy Church. For example, the Vatican’s bank invested in insurance companies that profited from the Nazis’ mass murder of Jewish people: by keeping the assets from the life insurance policies of the deceased instead of paying the families. So now, with Pope Francis speaking out on behalf of the persecuted, it seems he is moving in a different direction from traditional behaviour.

Now, there is the comparison between the Armenian genocide and the conflict with the Islamic State, too. A video recently released by the group purports to show the brutal execution of 30 Ethiopian Christians in Libya, reminiscent of previous targeting and mass murder of Coptic Christians in Egypt.

In many ways, the world seems to have changed very little over these past 100 years. As these aforementioned points show, persecution is still just as widespread as it was during the Armenian genocide. The only thing that seems to be changing is the involvement of public figures in bringing attention to these causes and recognizing how wrong they are. Pope Francis calling the killing of Armenians genocide, bringing attention to the atrocities the Islamic State is committing, and allowing an investigation into the Vatican bank to do away with corruption are steps in the right direction.

Now, how does Kim Kardashian fit in with all of this? She is just another example of how publicity and the media are so important in bringing attention to world events. Whether you like her and her family or not, she has huge star value and her visit to her ancestral home of Armenia right before the 100th anniversary of the genocide has had great effect. Every picture she posted on Instagram of Armenia will have reached millions of followers, crowds of journalists documented and published every stop, and the trip will even be shown on the infamous reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians. The high-profile visit has had the desired politically, too. The Turkish media unsurprisingly found fault in trip, calling it ‘genocide propaganda’ and the Kardashians ‘genocide ambassadors.’

Gaffur Turkay, the grandson of a survivor of the genocide, said Armenians have passed one whole century, screaming to the world that this happened.’ Even though a number of countries have already recognized the genocide, these high profile discussions and public appearances have drawn even more worldwide attention to the issue. Turkey may now finally be forced to take responsibility for the atrocities that occurred a century ago and Armenians may finally have their justice.     

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