European civilization should respect the cultural peculiarities of nations with ancient Christian roots

Karen Ghazaryan

“In the 21st century we have to unite efforts to build bridges, as this is the only way to create a harmonious environment for the societies in Europe,” Armenian Foreign Minister, Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe Edward Nalbandian said at the 2013 exchange on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue titled “Freedom of religion in today’s world: challenges and guarantees.”

According to the Minister, Armenia has always attached great importance to the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue.

“Respect for the culture of dialogue, religions and traditions has always been peculiar of the Armenian nation. Located in the crossroads of cultures and religions, for centuries Armenia has been developing multifaceted relations with different civilizations. This has enriched our culture and contributed to the development of other cultures,” the Minister said.

The event brought together high-level religious leaders of different communities, representatives of non-religious convictions, human rights experts and media specialists.

The address of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, to the participants was read out at the beginning of the meeting. “The European civilization, which has stepped into a new stage of development, should continue to respect the cultural peculiarities of nations with ancient Christian roots, viewing diversity as pan-European wealth. Contemporary religious freedom is rooted in inter-religious and inter-church dialogue, which the Armenian Church is engaged in at the highest level,” His Holiness said, in part.

In its report on Religious Freedom, the US criticizes Armenia for ascribing an exceptional rile to the Armenian Church. Commenting on the issue, US Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern said “the report is based on international standards, which Armenia has accepted by joining a number of international conventions. The Ambassador added that besides criticism, it notes some positive moves. “We accept the special status of the Armenian Church, but reforms are still needed in some aspects,” he said, adding that there are problems connected with religious minorities, which are mentioned in the report.

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