At the presidential residence, President of Armenia Armen Sarkisian hosted the participants of the conference on International Religious Freedom and Peace - representatives of sister churches, Christian organizations, scholars and public figures from different countries.
The Director of the Foreign Relations and Protocol Department of the Mother See, His Grace Archbishop Nathan Hovhannisyan presented the purpose and agenda of the conference, noting that the current challenges of the world, as well as a number of problems facing our people in the post-war situation were discussed during the conference organized by the Mother See’s Propaganda Center and the Artsakh Committee for the Preservation of Cultural and Cultural Heritage.
“We focused on the issues of preservation of Armenian religious and historical-cultural monuments in the territories outside the Armenian control, not only in terms of preserving their physical condition, but also in terms of their continued functioning,” he said.
President Sarkissian stressed that the issues raised during the conference are of great importance for our people. “The issues you have been discussing are of paramount importance to all of us, the people of Armenia, the people of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), all Armenians and humanity,” President Sarkissian stated.
The President noted that different peoples define their own national identity differently, and the Armenian identity is based on the Christian faith and the church. “It is not only about faith, the role of the church, but also about the national identity of Armenians. You can lose in battle, you can lose in war, but if you do not lose your identity, you will always be ready for further victories, because you have faith, a strong identity, you are a surviving nation. We are really a surviving nation. Survival includes respect for others, as well” said President Sarkissian.
“Visiting every city and village in Artsakh, you discover the history, rich cultural and architectural monuments. As President of Armenia, I felt proud when I was in Shushi. I was proud not only for the fact that the city had wonderful churches, but I was also proud that my compatriots had invested effort and finances to restore the mosque in Shushi. This speaks not only of religious freedom, but also of human behavior,” the President continued.
The President emphasized that today, like any Armenian, he is concerned about the fate of thousands of historical and religious monuments, which are not under the control of the Armenian side. “These concerns are justified, because when we go more than a hundred years back, we remember the Armenian Genocide, when Armenians lost not only their homeland, but also most of our churches, cultural centers, architectural monuments, which were systematically destroyed. Taking into account all that, we can say that the territories that are under the control of the Azerbaijanis today will have the same fate,” the President said.
“We all have differences, even being Christians, we have differences, but “these are no Berlin walls.” By respecting these differences, we can appreciate and learn from each other. In the case of Artsakh, the voices must be united to protect the people of Artsakh, to exercise their right to vote, as well as to protect the cultural and religious values created over thousands of years,” he continued.
President Sarkissian thanked the guests for participating in the conference and for visiting Armenia. “I am sure that our nation has enough strength to stand up, to fight for our faith, our God, our culture, our church. We will have enough strength to stand up together with our friends. You are our friends.”