In collaboration with Georgetown University in Qatar’s Student Affairs department, CIRS organized a lecture on February 23, 2011, by His Holiness Aram I, Head of the Armenian Church in Lebanon on the subject of “Interfaith Dialogue.”
Introducing the themes of the discussion, His Holiness Aram I highlighted the increasing importance of religion in today’s world. He argued that “Religion has become a major public player in the world today. Religion has become an integral and inseparable part of international and inter-community relations.” Globalization and its ensuing pluralism have, in fact, increased the importance of religious participation, rather than decrease it. Religion is part of the geopolitics of every region, therefore, “inter-religious dialogue today has become a necessity […] Inter-religious dialogue is no more a question of options; it is a must,” he said. The question is not whether we should engage ourselves in dialogue, but how to go about doing this.
As with many countries in the world, Lebanon unifies various religious communities and confessional identities within the borders of a single nation. In order to understand the relationship between religion and everyday lived experience in the Middle East and elsewhere, His Holiness argued that inter-religious dialogue need not be a discussion based on intense metaphysical, theological, and scriptural issues, but, rather, should be a conversation that highlights the practicalities of religious worship and co-existence in the modern age. He argued that “diversity is a source of enrichment that should not polarize us.”
When people are faced with tremendous and radical change, they need to keep pace with changing realities. There are times, he noted, when religion is hijacked by political agendas; “the role of religion,” he said, “has sometimes been as a stabilizer and reconciler, and sometimes, it has been a destabilizer.” For this reason, His Holiness argued that “I warmly welcome the initiatives in inter-religious dialogue taken by Qatar.”
In conclusion, his Holiness said that “In this world, we need to talk to each other and to dialogue with each other, instead of talking about each other and against each other.”
His Holiness Aram I was elected Catholicos (the Head of the Armenian Church) in 1995. Called to serve as Primate of the Armenian Community of Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War, His Holiness is a strong supporter of inter-religious relations, dialogue and co-operation. In addition to his numerous articles and reviews in Armenian, English, and French, His Holiness has authored over 15 books.
Article by Suzi Mirgani, CIRS Publications Coordinator