“Christians and Muslims stand united against terrorism,” PatriarchAr

“Christians and Muslims stand united against terrorism,” Patriarch Aram I says

AsiaNews.it, Italy
May 21 2004

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Fighting against violence and terrorism are
absolute priorities in cooperative efforts made between Christians
and Muslims, said Armenian Patriarch Aram I Keshichian at the end
of conference on “Iranian-Armenian International Religious Dialog”
which opened yesterday.

Organized at the Armenian patriarchate in Antelias, 20 km from Beirut,
the conference aimed to promote dialog among Eastern Christians and
the Islamic faithful.

At the conference were Iranian Imam Mohamed Al-Iraqi (president of the
Iranian Islamic Affairs bureau) the Iranian ambassador to Lebanon,
university officials and scholars from Tehran as well as members of
Iran’s Religious Dialog Commission. There were also three bishops
from Iranian dioceses: Sebuh Sarkissian of Tehran, Shahen Sarkissian
of Isfahan and Nishan Tobozian of Azerbaijan, in addition to many
more lay and religious exponents.

Patriarch Aram I, in his opening address yesterday, stressed the
importance of religion and culture when considering “the road toward
reciprocal trust and cooperation among people”.

The Armenian patriarch praised the role Iranian Christians have played
in making this possible and the historically good relations between
Christian Armenians and Iranian Muslims. Aram I said religion was a
“basis for development of peaceful solutions to conflict.”

The patriarch said, however, there is no need to “exploit religion for
reasons other than those of theology”, adding that there “the needs of
today’s world force religions to overcome their theological differences
by concentrating on (common) spiritual, ethical and social values”.

“These form the real basis of (Islam and Christianity) working together
and for a continued cooperation,” he said.

Reflecting on the current issues of conflict between Islam and
Christianity, the Aram I said “fighting violence and terrorism are
absolute priorities in any cooperation between our faiths.”

The patriarch warned that “terrorism, in all its facets, has
become dividing force” in the world. Hence, he said, it has become
indispensable (for Christians and Muslims) to work together put a
stop to such attitudes by fostering principles of spirituality and
ethics and by making common efforts for peace and justice.”

The head of the Iranian delegation, Mohamed Al-Iraqi, said that
“today’s society needs the guidance of religion more than ever.” Each
day, he added, “we hear about the occupation (of countries), human
rights being violated, cases of immorality and many other actions
contrary to God’s will.”

Armenian Catholics are the largest Christian community in Iran
(360,000), where they enjoy rights of religious worship and expression
and are even represented in the country’s parliament (the Majliss).

In Iran there are also Armenian schools and news publications in the
language. (PB)