The Foreign Minister of Armenia, Edward Nalbandian, delivered an address Monday in Geneva, Switzerland, during the discussion entitled “Supporting the Rights of Christians, particularly in the Middle East”
“This region has been one of the unique places of the world where multiculturalism was not a mere aspiration, but reality. The contemporary civilization has been largely shaped by values, knowledge which emerged in the Near and Middle East, which was the cradle of many civilizations and religions, including Christianity. Regrettably, today the survival of Christianity in these lands is under a serious threat. The alarming headlines about targeting the Christian minorities are disseminated with terrible frequency. Beheading of 21 Egyptian Copts and brutal attacks against Assyrians in Syria are only the recent episodes of horrors faced by Christians in the Middle East. However, the persecution of Christianity in this region is not just a modern phenomenon. Suffice to say, that the percentage of Christians relative to the region’s overall population has gone from more than 20% at the beginning of the 20th century to less than 5% in the beginning of the 21st century. The Middle East Christians may be regarded as one of the most vulnerable groups close to disappearance, hence requiring immediate actions for their protection and support.
“We should not be misled by the fact that the ongoing violence against religious groups, particularly Christians in Syria and Iraq, is being perpetrated in the very name of religion. What we are countering here are crimes against civilization perpetrated by ISIS, Al Nusra and other groups. Barbarism has declared a war against the civilized world. These terrorist groups greatly profit from the flow of the foreign fighters and financial assets and pose an eminent threat to the life of entire religious and ethnic groups. Thus, combating those terrorist groups should be a part of genocide prevention efforts.
“Armenia has unequivocally condemned the atrocities committed by these terrorist groups, including against Yazidi minorities in Iraq, and on numerous occasions called on international community to take firm actions against this new scourge. We have continuously emphasized that any support to the terrorist groups should be immediately stopped, including using of the territory of neighboring countries in initiating their cross-border attacks. In this regard, Armenia strongly supports full implementation of the UN SC resolutions 2170 (2014), 2178 (2014) and 2199 (2015).
“On March 21st, 2014, Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist groups attacked the predominately Armenian populated town of Kessab situated on the borderline territory of Syria with Turkey, resulting in the forced expulsion of local population from their homes. The extremist groups have desecrated and vandalized Kessab’s Armenian religious and cultural heritage.
“This year the whole world commemorates the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide. Syrian town Deir el-Zor and its surrounding desert was the final destination of death marches of hundreds of thousands of victims of the Armenian Genocide. Every year Saint Martyrs Armenian Church in Deir el-Zor, a sanctuary for the remains of many victims, used to be one of the main places of commemoration. However in the Centennial year it will not be possible to pay tribute to the victims in Deir el-Zor, since in September 2014 terrorist groups destroyed the church and vandalized the holy site.
“Destruction of cultural masterpieces, usually followed after ethnic cleansings, is an attempt to erase the memory of other people, destroy millennia old cultures and civilizations. Less than a week ago we all saw the chilling video footage of how the ISIS militants were smashing the 2.700 years old statues in the Mosul museum. This crime against civilization is an appalling reminder of earlier similar barbaric acts of destruction of Bamian Budda’s statues, Mausoleums of Timbuktu and thousands of Medieval Armenian cross stones in Nakhijevan. Several thousands of these giant sculptures were bulldozed under the Azerbaijani government’s watchful eyes. With regard to this vandalism the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) stated: ‘this heritage that once enjoyed its worthy place among the treasures of the world’s heritage can no longer be transmitted to future generations.’
“In an era when the protection and promotion of human rights are considered to be the underpinning concept for the civilized world, intolerance towards the values of civilization belonging to others, damaging or destroying cultural or religious heritage intentionally, consistently, repeatedly, must be condemned with the same resolve and determination as violence against people.
“The violent acts against minorities and religious groups in the Middle East unfortunately increase the concerns on the so-called ‘clash of religions and civilizations.’ The international community should exert its utmost efforts to ensure that this region, which once used to be a place of co-existence for different nations and religions, to be again a land where Muslims, Jews, Christians and other confessions could live in peace and harmony.
“The protection of religious and ethnic groups should be further mainstreamed in the work of the Human Rights Council. In this regard, our firm commitment to the genocide prevention should be further strengthened and Armenia will continue to bring its contribution for this noble cause,” the Armenian FM specifically stated in his address.