Only a week prior to his attack on Poland in September, 1939, Adolf Hitler reportedly delivered a secret talk to members of his General Staff, urging them to wipe out the Polish race. "After all," he argued, "who remembers today the extermination of the Armenians?"

Hitler was referring to the genocide of nearly 1.5 million Armenian Christians at the hands of Ottoman Turks from 1915 to 1923 in what is now eastern Turkey. Turkish authorities deny the atrocities ever took place, but the story of bloodbath in Armenia is one of the well-documented tragedies of our time.

Still, it's unfortunate that Armenia (today located directly east of Turkey and west of the Caspian Sea) is now known for this story above any other. It says nothing about the people of Armenia, or the part they have played in global Christianity. For contribute they did, in a manner that might surprise even a seasoned church historian.

Tortured for Christ

No man has more stature in the Armenian church today than Gregory the Illuminator. While not the first to bring Christianity to Armenia, Gregory is, at least in the minds of Armenians, the nation's spiritual father and the people's patron saint.

Born into a wealthy family around 257, Gregory nevertheless had a rough beginning—his biographer, Agathangelos, tells us Gregory's father murdered the Armenian king and paid for it with his life. But the boy was rescued from the chaos following the murder, and his new guardians raised him as a Christian in Cappadocia (east-central Turkey). There, according to Agathangelos, Gregory "became acquainted with the Scriptures of God, and drew near to the fear of the Lord."

When Gregory's tutors told him of his father's wickedness, Gregory approached the murdered king's son, ...

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