Over the last year, Berj Najarian, the Patriots director of football/head coach administration, has stepped out from behind the scenes and started using his public Instagram to lend his voice to an important cause,. As a proud Armenian-American, Najarian has been vocal about the attack on Armenians and conflict with Azerbaijan.
The 106th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide (also known as Red Sunday) is April 24, and though up to 1.5 million Armenian people were killed at the hands of the Ottoman Turkish empire, the fight to recognize this as a genocide has been on-going, even in the United States. Turkey has never acknowledged the genocide for what it was.
In light of this, Najarian invited Jakob Johnson, who grew up in Stuttgart, Germany, for a conversation about the way we talk about, remember and honor the lives lost in global atrocities. As a German citizen, Johnson grew up learning about Germany's gruesome past, but rather than denying the existence of the Holocaust and the six million Jewish people killed, Germany makes sure its students and people learn from the past.
In an interview posted to Najarian's Instagram page, Johnson talked about his experience visiting a concentration camp with his history class. That was when the gravity of his country's history truly hit him.
"When I got there and I got to see it firsthand and I got to see the piles of clothes of people that were you know just destroyed, I think I started to understand it," Johnson said. "It's not about me being guilty, but it's about the responsibility going forward for this not to happen again. I think that's a big lesson because we you spoke about how they're trying to essentially erase your people. They're trying to erase their history, and even when you go out to ask people for help to try to reason with people, sometimes people, they say, 'Oh, it's not my fault. Things happen in the past that I have nothing to do with.' It's not about what you did or what you didn't do in the past. It's about your responsibility, going forward to make sure this doesn't happen again."
The conversation spans two parts, both on Najarian's Instagram account, and covers the differences between the ways both genocides are remembered and recognized, honoring the victims and how talking about and teaching history is imperative in preventing such atrocities from happening again.
For Najarian's part, he believes conversations like this are important because acknowledging the pain and the loss is the first step towards reckoning, and he is encouraging President Joe Biden to be the first president to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.
"The path to healing and moving forward starts with the truth," Najarian wrote on Instagram. "Please recognize the Armenian Genocide, President Biden. It is time."
It is a meaningful and impactful conversation worth listening to in full. You can watch part one above and part two below.