Religion and Politics
Following the presidential elections in Armenia that took place on February 19, 2008, participants of the ?opposition? movement were supposed to sign a document urging His Holiness Garegin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians to resign!! The oppositionists were indignant that, His Holiness congratulated Serzh Sargsyan for being elected President of Armenia despite many protests.
Some ?opposition? leaders began to declaim against His Holiness Garegin II for that reason. Armenia?s first president and ?opposition? leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan even refused to receive the Catholicos, who tried to mediate to calm the situation, at the gate of his house. Such behavior is not acceptable and an Armenian wouldn?t ever think to act like that disrespecting, for political reasons, a religious personage in our nation.
The Catholicos is the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which represents the Armenian people, and is the most sacred, popular and respected personality by the Armenians and other peoples through our history. H.H. is elected by the vote of the clerics and laypersons for life term for being the most qualified and devoted person to the Church during his life.
Unfortunately, we notice that some journalists and writers in ?opposition? newspapers began, in the past weeks, to attack the person of His Holiness. They use vulgar expressions making at H.H. wild accusations according to ?rumors?, ?very reliable sources? or supposed ?eyewitnesses? declining to name them. This comes after the failure of the ?opposition? candidate Levon Ter- Petrosyan in the presidential elections and the riot acts his supporters incited in Yerevan in 1-2 March, 2008. If these accusations had been true, why they wouldn?t have written about them since 1999 when Garegin II was elected the Catholicos of all Armenians (and even before that)? A journalist or a writer who respects himself and his pen would never behave in such a way. They should understand that they cannot feed the public with such gossips and scandalous articles for a long time. Moreover, they allow themselves to encroach on the spiritual father of all Armenians while claiming to speak in the name of the Armenian people. The ?opposition? does not gain anything from these actions but the disgust of our people.
We knew that during the ten-day rallies of the ?opposition? supporters several priests of the Armenian Apostolic Church were present at the Opera square to advise and talk to the people gathered there, a fact deliberately neglected by the ?opposition? newspapers.
Some people in Armenia and Diaspora, having misinformed, think the Armenian Apostolic Church has done nothing or a little to calm the situation in Armenia resulted from the presidential elections.
For those we mention that on February 14, His Holiness Garegin II, presided over a meeting of the Supreme Spiritual Council in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. Following the meeting, the Council urged the people ahead of the presidential elections in Armenia “to display a high understanding of patriotism and be guided by the highest awareness of the country?s reputation?. The Council counseled that ?no action or expression cast a shadow on our election or divide the unity of our people?.
On February 29, His Holiness Garegin II presided over a meeting of the diocesan primates and bishops of the Armenian Church in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. Expressing concern about the postelection developments in Armenia, the leaders of the Armenian Church urged the people ?to preserve the spirit of common sense, wisdom and discretion; remain alert and law-abiding, to ignore all voices provoking hatred and enmity?. The leaders also called on ?the representatives of the opposition who do not accept the results of the election, to work within legal frameworks?. Thus, ?the stability of our statehood remains unharmed and the achievements of our people and the tranquillity of their lives are not endangered. Mass rallies and marches are not the ideal methods to dispute the results of a completed election?. At the same time, the church leaders called on ?the state authorities to exert their utmost efforts using peaceful means to find solutions to the unresolved issues and challenges?.
Following foreign agendas, for sure not in the sake of the Armenian people, the ?opposition? supporters, contrary to these messages, provoked hatred, enmity and riot actions that left 10 victims and hundreds of people wounded. Armenia?s image internationally was badly hurt and the unity of our people divided. As mentioned above, Levon Ter-Petrosyan refused to receive the Catholicos, who tried to mediate to calm the situation.
On March 2, His Holiness Garegin II addressed the nation on the events on March 1, stating: “My Armenian nation mourns the loss of its children. During the presidential electoral process, the sprit of intolerance led to disorder, to sad and tragic clashes and confrontations?. His Holiness added: ?Let us practice wisdom and reasoning, refraining from fraternal hostility and actions that deepen the discord. All problems and issues which trouble us, shall be solved through peaceful means, respect for the law and the safe paths of dialogue?.
His Holiness stressed that “Each of us must answer for our actions before history and our generations. Let us not risk the stability of our country with further unwise actions. Let us not see darkened the new sunrise of our homeland. Let us not default on our debts to God, to our forefathers and our children. We believe that through reliance on God, with a spirit of courage, with hope and optimism, we shall overcome this grave and difficult situation, we shall once more find the path of welfare for our lives and our homeland?.
Catholicos of Cilicia His Holiness Aram I sent a delegation to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin to express support to His Holiness Garegin II Catholicos on the Yerevan events, as well as the wounded and families of those killed.
In his message for the inauguration of Armenia's third president Serzh Sargsyan on April 9, 2008, His Holiness Garegin II addressing the president said: ?Mr. President, the events of the past months increase the responsibility you -and all of us- bear: to implement utmost effort toward increasing the spirit of love, brotherhood and solidarity in the hearts of the sons and daughters of our people, and to reject intolerance?. His Holiness added: ?Our Holy Church will assist you on these paths blessed by God, and will always support our native state as it has done for centuries?. His Holiness also noted: ?Through its unity, our people have achieved victories, and today as well, together we shall secure the welfare of our homeland?Through unity we shall be able to find the peaceful solution to the Nagorno Karabagh (Artsakh) conflict, and see our just claims for recognition of the Genocide of the Armenians prevail?.
It is sensible the Armenian people restore its unity by engaging all political forces in a coalition government to face economical hardships and conduct reforms, besides facing external threats. Indeed, in our history ?through its unity, our people have achieved victories? for better future to next generations.
Ara S. Ashjian,
Iraqi Armenian Civil Engineer (M.Sc.), researcher and journalist settled in:
Alina K. Topchian,
MA in Political Science and International Affairs