This is from Division 48 of the APA The Society For the Study of Peace, Conflict & Violence Spring/Summer 2012 Newsletter.
Prof. Dennis Papazian, PhD, noted expert on genocide, Professor Emeritus of the University of Michigan Founding Executive Director of the Armenian Assembly of America in Washington, D.C., Grand Commander of Knights & Daughters of Vartan, emphasized three elements that allow or encourage genocide among any people: sovereignty, nationalism and language. He elucidated that the concept of sovereignty is related to the idea of the “divine right of kings,” a concept well established in history. The king, as representative of the deity, has complete power over life and death of his subject. The king can kill with impunity, having the ultimate right of life or death over his subjects. It is because of the idea of sovereignty, total power within the state, that post-medieval states have legally been known to deal with inconvenient minorities by slaughter and massacre, an act that was not punishable until recent times.
In modern times, nationalism, pre-nationalism, and religious exclusiveness have been some of the drivers of genocide. States kill minorities in part because they are recognizable, they are different, and they are the “other,” not forming part of the predominant group which has the power of the state in their hands. He suggested that nationalism and racism are often closely intertwined. He reminded the audience that in certain times and places white people mistreated black people, and in far fewer instances black people have been known to persecute white people, such as in Zimbabwe. But nationalism goes far beyond color racism; it can include various forms of mythical racial purity and the division of people by religion. He offered several examples including Egypt today where the Christian minority is persecuted by the Muslim majority; however, if it were not for the numbers of Muslims they might have become victims of genocide. Language can also be a divisive factor. Often, a linguistic minority can be despised by a linguistic majority and thus persecuted, but more often there must be other distinguishing factors involved that can lead to genocide. Those distinguishing factors are either racism, nationalism, or some combination thereof.