ANTELIAS: HH: The role of religion is pivotal in transforming societ

Catholicosate of Cilicia
Communication and Information Department
Contact: V.Rev.Fr.Krikor Chiftjian, Communications Director
Tel: (04) 410001, 410003
Fax: (04) 419724
E- mail: [email protected]

PO Box 70 317

Watch our latest videos on YouTube here:


Antelias – Harris School of Public Studies (University of Chicago) — On
Friday, 28 October 2010, His Holiness Aram I Catholicos of Cilicia was
invited to address a conference organized by the International Council of
the Harris School of Public Studies (University of Chicago) in Beirut
(Lebanon) on the topic, “Religion as a geopolitical fact in the Middle East”.
In his introduction, proclaiming that “religions are called to unite people
and not divide them,” Catholicos Aram I spoke of the values that are at the
heart of the teaching of all religions. He explained why, particularly in
the Middle East, speaking about the region meant speaking about religion.

He went on to say that in the Middle East, “religion permeates the whole
life of the region in all its aspects and manifestations. We see the impact
of religion on events taking place around us and in the shaping of peoples’
attitudes continuously.” “Therefore,” he continued, “to grasp the dynamics
in the region correctly, to discern its specificities accurately, to analyze
geopolitics realistically, and to seek efficient ways of addressing the real
issues facing the Middle East, one must take religion seriously and develop
a holistic and realistic policy towards it.”

The Armenian Catholicos noted that religion can be misinterpreted and
misused. He spoke of the potential ambiguity of religious concepts, such as
faith and reason, religion and politics and religion as reconciler or

Speaking of faith and reason, he said, “the three monotheistic religions may
have different positions and perceptions concerning the interconnectedness
of faith and religions.” According to him, “faith is beyond and above reason
and yet it must not be distanced from reason; faith and reason must not be
separated from each other”.

He went on to say that “religion must be considered as an important factor
in policy-making because religious life is also public life, with the
wholeness of life at its core. Wholeness of life should not give legitimacy
to religion to become an ideology. If governance claims that its political
blueprint is based on God’s will, this is manipulation of religious beliefs
for political ends. Religion and politics must not become identical.
Religion must not lose its raison d’être; it must affirm its prophetic role
and remain a moral voice and a critique of society”.

The Catholicos continued by considering the question of religion as
reconciler or divider. He said, “religion is an important identity marker
and has established lines of demarcation among people and within societies.
If we look at the conflicts around us, we realize that religious conflicts
are complex and difficult to solve. All religions teach their believers
love, compassion, good deeds and values that lead to reconciliation and
transformation. In any strategic planning the uniting aspect of these core
values over and against the divisive role of religion should be calculated.”
Catholicos Aram I concluded this part of his presentation by stating that
“today, monotheistic religions must look into these ambiguities. They must
correct the false images and stereotypes they have about each other,
liberate themselves from narrow interests, stay away from provocative
actions and confrontational language and work together as partners for a
morally sustainable and healthy society.”

In the last part of his speech, His Holiness Aram I identified five areas
of common action for religions in all regions: respecting and accepting one
another, promoting peace with justice, working towards participatory
society, building societies that are responsive to peoples’ needs and at the
same time helping these societies meet challenges of globalization, and
preventing conflicts and wars.

As for the Middle East, he said, “The region is facing new threats and
opportunities, new risks and hope. Hence, any regional development may
either deepen the distrust and hostility, or open new avenues of mutual
understanding and new horizons of real peace. Before discussing road maps,
the Middle East needs a new vision sustained by common values and interests.
To help shape the destiny of the Middle East, religions must open dialogue
and seek their points of convergence. They must explore solid and broader
grounds of common engagement; they must respect differences and address
those core issues that cause tension and polarization; they must transform
the concept of cohabitation into a living community of diversity; they must
reject the culture of fear, mistrust and alienation, confrontation and
death, and they must promote a culture of hope and mutual understanding for
a better life for all”.

View photos here:


The Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia is one of the two Catholicosates of
the Armenian Orthodox Church. For detailed information about the history and
the mission of the Cilician Catholicosate, you may refer to the web page of
the Catholicosate, The Cilician
Catholicosate, the administrative center of the church is located in
Antelias, Lebanon.

From: A. Papazian