The Speech of the Catholicos Of All Armenians at the Special Meeting of the Sharjah State Informational Council

The Speech of the Catholicos Of All Armenians at the Special Meeting of the Sharjah State Informational Council 21.05.2019

On May 19, at the invitation of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians; left for Sharjah, to attend the event organized within the framework of the Year of Tolerance in the United Arab Emirates Sharjah State Informational Council.

Members of the retinue of His Holiness were His Grace Bishop Armash Nalbandyan, Primate of the Armenian Diocese of Damascus; His Grace Bishop Moushegh Babayan, Director of the Administrative Department of the Mother See; Very Rev. Fr. Shahe Ananyan, Director of the Ecumenical Relations Department of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin; and Rev. Fr. Karekin Hambardzumyan, Dean of the Gevorkian Theological Seminary. During the visit the Catholicos of All Armenians was accompanied by His Grace Bishop Mesrop Sargsyan, Patriarchal Vicar of the UAE and Armenian Diocese of Qatar (Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia).

On the same day, His Holiness Karekin II met His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi.

His Holiness expressed his appreciation and gratitude to Sheikh Al-Qasimi for the invitation sent by the Sharjah State Informational Council, as well as highlighted the steps towards tolerance and peaceful coexistence, preservation and restoration of religious and cultural values undertaken by the Sharjah Government.

In the evening of May 20, at the Sharjah at Al Majaz amphitheater, at the Press Club acting under the auspices of the State Informational Council, His Holiness made a special speech, presenting the perceptions of tolerance and peaceful coexistence, based on the Christian doctrine and the spiritual-national experience of the Armenian people.

His Holiness expressed gratitude to Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, father and renowned political leader of the United Arab Emirates, and His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, as well as to the Chairman of the Sharjah Media Council, as well as His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al-Qasimi for an invitation to attend in this important meeting.

“Throughout its history, the Armenian people has seen many trials, sufferings and genocide, and has often asked in the prayer of a grieved spirit for peace from Heaven, setting its gaze upon the holy, Biblical Mount Ararat — a symbol of the revitalization of the new life of humankind and realization of peace after the Flood.

The centuries long experience of humankind is witness, that the paths of tolerance are not easy, but are always possible, if we truly have the desire to love each other and the longing for coexistence in solidarity. God created all of the humanity from the same blood and the Holy Bible establishes exactly this, emphasizing the universal value of love of the other (Acts 17.26). The love of God for each and every human creature is inviolable.

Without a dedicated empathy toward human life, his creation in the image of God and fundamental values it is impossible to believe in and glorify God. The guarantee of equal rights for all people, therefore, means to affirm the grand work and perfection of God’s Creation.

Tolerance, from the ethical viewpoint of monotheistic religions, is seeing the presence of the divine image and likeness in the individual person and is witnessing God through it. It is the continuous conversation with others in the large human family, the exception of the subordination of others and the definition of the correct boundary of freedom. In the Christian understanding, beginning from the 4th century, this approach has been summarized in the following conceptual phrase: “unity in essentials; liberty in secondary matters and love in everything” which has been a guidepost for the Armenian Church throughout all centuries. Accordingly, tolerance is presented by consolidation of efforts and cooperation in all questions affecting humanity as a whole, lovingly defending all of those individual characteristics with which nations and people are endowed.

It is noteworthy, that one of the logos of the Year of Tolerance is one which is united and open to each other, pointing toward outward bound palms. It is similarly like this in the case of tolerance: if dedicated faith toward the divine, the realization of the great value of the human life and the holiest principle of freedom and love toward the foreigner and fraternity are not united to tolerance, it will not open and increase, as a call spreading throughout the world, emanating from the divine message to live together and peacefully co-exist.

In the interrelated paths of modern times, the insistence that the World is becoming smaller is turning into reality: any troublesome event taking place in one corner of the world becomes a universal worry in need of consolidated efforts and solution to unitedly care for and bedeck our common home in peace and goodwill. The times have changed and are changing, humanity’s knowledge and abilities are continuously growing, but the need for the spiritual-ethical source of tolerance to be at the forefront in the public consciousness is ever timely.

The Almighty has put the faith and the understanding of ethics in all people, as a unique opportunity to be like Him. All of us live in the house built by the Lord and we are co-workers of the Creator”, stated the Catholicos of All Armenians, adding that being different nations, different people, but being the children of one God, called to fill each others lives abundantly with the spiritual fruits of love, peace, mutual understanding and cooperation.

His Holiness stressed that the undeniable advancements in tolerance, mutual understanding and collaboration, our societies are still confronted with ever-new challenges in the 21st century. Of these it is especially important to point out the dangerous intention to present conflicts and disagreements under religious light. In this sense, the correct interpretation and presentation of tolerance in the international, interreligious and intercultural platforms of dialogue, in the spheres of education and media, is an imperative.

“It is the result of absence, also the biased expressions of tolerance, that tragedies, wars and genocides have taken place in the history of humanity. Today as well we often become witness of awful actions based on racial, religious and cultural grounds. Throughout its history, the Armenian people has been subjected to every kind of expression of intolerance, of which the most horrific was the Armenian Genocide committed in the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 20th century, which was also led with a cultural genocide.

In the same manner of politics at the end of the 20th century, when the Armenian people announced its right to live freely on its own land with a declaration of independence, mass deportations and massacres of the Armenian population were undertaken by Azerbaijan. Another expression of intolerance and hatred took place within the borders of the autonomous republic of Nakhichevan. Thousands of khachkars, [traditional Armenian stone crosses] and singular artifacts of Armenian Christian culture were destroyed by Azerbaijanis in the cemetery of the Armenian city of Julfa. In support of a peaceful resolution, and in cooperation with international efforts and the work of the OSCE Minsk Group, We continue to take steps with the religious leader of Azerbaijan, through the mediation of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

The Catholicos of All Armenians confirmed that the Armenian and Arab peoples centuries-old history of mutual relations is rich with expressions of tolerance and benevolence

“Especially after the Armenian Genocide, hundreds of thousands of Armenian refugees found their safe haven in the host countries of the Arab people, forming a true and vital example of peaceful co-existence and cooperation. The life, unified participation in the country’s development and fraternal relationships of the children of the Armenian and Arab peoples in Sharjah are decorated with similar testimonies. We again express the gratitude of the sons and daughters of our people to the honourable President of the United Arab Emirates and to the Governor of the Emirate of Sharjah, His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, who in a spirit of the strengthening of friendships between peoples, beneficently help the local Christian communities. We wish to reflect in particular that thanks to Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi philanthropic efforts, the Armenian community of Sharjah has a place of prayer, in order to organize its national-spiritual life. With thankfulness and gratitude We remember, Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi’s God-pleasing decision during his visit to Armenia in 2006, to rebuild one of Armenian’s most famous monastic complexes, Haghartsin — an exceptional and exemplary expression of tolerance and respect for religious-cultural values. We offer our prayers and express our appreciation to His Highness for his admirable spirit of philanthropy and friendship.

The Armenian people, spread all over the world, living in various environments, have remained faithful to the divine message of benevolence and love of foreigners, always respecting the religious, cultural traditions and everyday life customs of other people. They bring their important input toward enhancement of hosting countries, being their loyal and law-abiding citizens. The great testimonies to this are the Armenian communities, which, live with love for others in Sharjah and throughou centuries in other Arabic, Muslim countries. Other witnesses of solidarity and peaceful co-existence are the Blue Mosque, operating in the center of the Armenian capital of Yerevan, the different religious denominations which live in Armenia, preserving and developing their spiritual-national life”, stated His Holiness Karekin II.

At the conclusion, extending gratitude to the organizers of this event, we commend the steps that are being undertaken for the Year of Tolerance, which serve the encouragement of dialogue between religions and cultures, peoples and civilizations, to the strengthening of the spirit of mutual understanding, respect and cooperation, His Holiness asked the Heavenly Father so that tolerance may bear abundant fruits in the world and adorn human lives with good results of love, peace and God-pleasing conduct.

Following the speech, the Catholicos of All Armenians also answered to questions raised during the discussion.

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