09, 2014

Speech by President Serzh Sargsyan at the opening of the photo exhibition “A Fable of the East: Challenges Facing Christianity in the New Millennium” in Rome


Your Eminences,
Honorable guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I watched each exhibit of this exclusive exhibition attentively and silently. At this moment, I continue to be under their strong impression. If I have not had the honor of making a speech, perhaps I would have long kept silent like the photographs I watched. Telling me about this exhibition, our ambassador described it as a silent yell; a yell for the blows received and yet to be received by Christianity in the homeland of Christianity the Middle East. Yes, as it was very aptly said, a silent yell.

I think that today at this hall we have more questions than answers.

Do we do everything right?

Is not all this the consequence of the steps and half steps we failed to take previously?

Have we always and everywhere properly characterized the realities subject to radical denial to prevent their repetitions?

Have we always been resolute enough in our efforts to encourage tolerance and coexistence?

Do we stand together against any manifestation of xenophobia and fanaticism?

I do not know; I do not have the complete answers to these and all the other questions stemming from the photographs being exhibited at this hall.

The only thing I am confident in is that not giving a clear and unambiguous characterization of genocides, dissemination of xenophobic sentiments, barbaric annihilation of cultural values and all other phenomena of such kind in due time results in the repetition of all that. I can give you a lot of examples.

I will give you only one of them. Some time ago we had the opportunity to watch how Jugha's medieval Armenian cross-stones, the prominent monuments of the Armenian people's identity, culture and belief, were deliberately exterminated. The extermination of Jugha's century-old cemetery with its thousands of finely-designed and unique cross-stones dating from the 9th to 16th centuries in the last two decades is the brutal manifestation of the policy aimed at complete extermination of the Christian-Armenian cultural heritage across the entire territory of Nakhijevan and Azerbaijan which has not yet properly characterized by the international community. What do you think how many people in our region and the whole world concluded that in fact the age-old cultural monuments of an entire people can be wrecked to the ground with picks and simply remain unpunished. Of course, very many of them did so. In that case why not repeat such an easily implemented act in Iraq, Syria and in some other place? And they continue to repeat it as it is plainly demonstrated at this exhibition.

Thus, this exhibition is not about being silent or giving way to despair. On the contrary, it is about consolidation and doubling our efforts. I am confident that it is also possible to hold an exhibition whose message is contrary to that of this one. About how let us say Lebanon silently and without advertising accepts, gives refuge to, protects and provides living conditions for millions of Christians. It could surely be an exhibition of gratitude.

One thing is certain: There is not a moment to lose if we are to inculcate tolerance, including religious tolerance. We do not have the right to remain irresolute: we can see the consequences in the pictures.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The ones who live today are directly responsible for making the tie between the future and the past indestructible and for the eternity of our values.

The modern world is rushing toward the future at a giddy speed. The modern talents of technological progress are continuously bringing the future closer to us: for example, today all of us can watch super quality videos via our mobile phones. Definitely, modern engineers do their work brilliantly. What about us: all of us who are responsible for reinforcing everything modern with our set of values. Haven’t the inventors developed the mobile phone so that people will always be able to experience happy moments by regularly re-watching let us say their children’s christening ceremony or first step videos. If yes then why today those mobile phones are so frequently used to watch horrible videos about beheading of Christian journalists? Why such scenes are still possible nowadays? There is a gap here, don’t you agree: a gap between times, values and efforts we make.

Nowadays oil workers link continents with the help of ultramodern oil pipelines and reduce distance and time. What about us: about all of us who are obliged to take care of natural resources in the interests of peace, development, tolerance and coexistence; do we fulfill our obligations persistently enough? Are we able to overlook the oil pipelines and inexorably point out the dictator who keeps all his people in servitude and threatens to drown his neighbor in blood? We are obliged to do it if are to avoid such and other larger exhibitions.

Dear guests,

After a few months we are going to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, a crime against humanity which, unfortunately, has not been properly characterized by now. However, there is simply no alternative: sooner or later it will be given a complete, comprehensive and unequivocal characterization.

The truth is that we can’t ensure a peaceful and safe future without condemning the crimes of the past. For this very purpose we can’t allow using faith in the name of xenophobia or against other religions. We can’t allow using religion as a crutch to wage war and use violence; rather than we must make use of religious power and strength to promote dialogue and tolerance in all corners of the world.

I am hopeful that the Christian message directed to religious amity and tolerance will eventually prevail, and faith, hope and love will support us in protecting our values and upholding justice.

God bless us.

Thank you for your attention.

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