Event Promotes Peace, Honors Genocide Victims
About 200 people got up early Sunday morning and gathered at the Balboa Sports Complex to participate in an event to remember the victims of the Assyrian, Armenian and Greek genocides of World War I.
The Assyrian 5K, 10K & Kids Walk/Run for Peace also brought awareness of the Assyrians still at risk of persecution in places like Iraq because of their Christian religion.
“No less than 62 churches were bombed and so many were killed. They have been kidnapped and people have tried to force them to convert to a different religion,” said Noray Betbaba, chairman of Seyfo Center USA, an affiliate of Seyfo Center 1915, an Assyrian genocide and research center in Europe.
The purpose of the Walk/Run for Peace was to show people that Assyrians around the world just want to live in peace with others, especially in Iraq, which is their original homeland.
“To see this support makes me very happy. We appreciate that other people recognize that this genocide is inhumane, it’s barbaric and there is no reason for it,” Betbaba said. “As Assyrians, we just want to be like any other people. We want to live in peace and harmony.”
Father George Bet-Rasho of Assyrian Church of the East lost most of his great-grandparents to the genocide during World War I.
“I barely have any relatives because of what happened, and all these people did was practice their religion,” Bet-Rasho said.
“Some were slaughtered right in their homes, a lot of women were raped, taken as wives or concubines and forced to change their religion. Some died from illness, some from hunger or cold—just misery, misery, misery.”
The event included a 5K, 10K and a 1-mile Kids Run/Walk with everyone finishing back at the Sports Complex for food and entertainment that celebrated the Assyrian culture.
Trisha Makris-Hexum of Studio City participated in the 5K portion of the event in honor of her Greek heritage.
“It’s really great to see all of these people showing their support," Makris-Hexum said. "I understand that this is the first time this event is being held, so I’m excited to be a part of it.”