Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan attended the opening of a conference on freedom of religion or belief in Armenia, Georgia and around the world. Armenian Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Netherlands to Armenia and Georgia Johannes Douma, UN Resident Coordinator for Armenia Shombi Sharp, Eurasia Partnership Foundation (EPF) Director General Gevorg Ter-Gabrielyan and others participated in the event.
Addressing the conference participants, Prime Minister Pashinyan said: “It should be noted that freedom of religion is one of the most important freedoms because I am at least convinced that a person believing in God first of all believes in himself. Consequently, freedom of religion, freedom to believe in God is first of all the freedom of an individual to believe in himself.
Of course, there are such people who believe in themselves, on the contrary, by not believing in God. But in the same way, the human being becomes a key player in the process of self-confidence. This is very important. I mean that freedom of religion is human being’s freedom.
Freedom of religion is one of the most important freedoms, and it relates directly to all those values that are universally recognized by mankind - whether democracy, transparency, human rights, freedoms, justice or the like. In this regard, I am pleased to note that the Republic of Armenia is a country that is pursuing freedom of religion, freedom of belief and conscience. And especially, the New Armenia is fully committed to these values. The fact that the national minorities feel comfortable in Armenia is a vivid evidence of what I just said. I mean that providing guarantees for the preservation of national, religious minorities’ identity in Armenia is a matter of principled approach for the Government. They should feel free to preserve, develop and be proud of their ethnic identity.
Generally speaking, religion and inter-religious relations are perhaps the most important topic because it has long been accepted that the differences between religion and religious perceptions are usually separated from each other. But we consider this situation quite strange also because most of the popular or major religions originate from the same God. And this makes us say that the dividing lines do not emanate from people who deal with religions but from their interpretation, because our faith and conviction is that religion is actually supposed to unite peoples; religion is indeed for peace and harmony; religion is in fact a way to happiness.
And if it is true that the dividing lines were drawn by virtue of religious doctrines, that is, by giving different interpretations, then dividing lines can be removed in the same way by those who gave such interpretations with new approaches, and the most important precondition here us mutual respect for others’ beliefs, emotions, ideologies and perceptions.
Bearing this in mind, I attach special importance to this forum which highlights the need for mutual respect. Conferences like this should help us come to a common interpretation of the general idea of religious consciousness of peace, freedom, love and harmony.
I do believe that this is possible. I know how challenging it is, but no one should beware of hardships, especially in New Armenia. I want the forum to pursue this difficult task with vehemence and courage.
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The aim of the annual conference is to provide comprehensive discussions between Armenian, Georgian and international partners on developments and challenges in the field of freedom of religion and belief, strengthening Armenian-Georgian ties and promoting international cooperation. It serves as a platform where key stakeholders from different angles discuss issues of freedom, situation and development of freedom of religion and belief in the world, in Armenia, in Georgia, as well as develop appropriate recommendations for its improvement.
The forum will be addressed by: UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Ahmed Shahid (OSCE / ODIHR) Senior Adviser on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Kishan Manocha, Senior Advisor to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in the South Caucasus Vladimir Shkolnikov, Director of the Religious Council attached to the Office of Public Defender of Georgia Beka Mindiashvili, Director of the Institute for Tolerance and Diversity Mariam Gavtadze, Vice-President of RA National Assembly Standing Committee on Education Hovhannes Hovhannisyan and other experts specialized in this field.