Catholicosate of Cilicia
Antelias - Lebanon
On the first day of the International Conference on Christians in the Middle East, His Holiness Aram I addressed the theme of church unity. In his presentation he spoke of the theological foundations of church unity, he addressed the question of why Christian unity is indispensable for the churches in the Middle East and he commented on the recent tragic experience of Christians in Iraq.
Speaking of Christian unity, His Holiness said that it is a Gift of God. He pointed out that although churches have often divided for political reasons, in essence they remain united. He said that the ecumenical movement, of which all churches are a part, is a reminder of this given unity. He then reminded the audience that unity is the mission and vocation of the Church to continue the salvific work of Christ.
Addressing the Middle East, the Catholicos called the participants’ attention to the fact that Christianity was born in the Middle East and that it is, therefore, imperative for the Churches in the region to express Christian unity and remind the world that although their history has been one of genocides and persecutions, Christians have stayed in the region and contributed to the flourishing of local civilizations. Despite the current crisis, Christians remain united, are aware of their obligations and hold on to their rights.
In the end, His Holiness Aram I addressed the tragic experiences of Christians in Iraq and stated that violence and religion do not go together. He then criticized those who exploit religious teaching for political causes and added, “Churches oppose the emigration of Christians from the Middle East. Christians are part of the Middle East and must remain attached to their lands and rights.” During his speech His Holiness twice reminded the audience of the Armenian Genocide and the persecution of Christians under the Ottoman Empire.