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Preventing mass atrocities against members of religious groups is an absolute priority for Armenia. We know what it means to be a persecuted religious group within the oppressive framework. It is a duty for us to pledge support to all those who are persecuted, including on the basis of their religion and belief today. This is what Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan declared in his speech at the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom hosted by the US Department of State.

The full text of the speech of the Minister of Foreign Affairs reads as follows:

Dear Colleagues,

It is the second time that Armenia participates in the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom hosted by the U.S. Department of State. We view this  Conference as a great opportunity to collectively identify effective ways and partnerships for better protection and promotion of the freedom of religion or belief. 

As a strong supporter of the universality of human rights, Armenia promotes adherence to international human rights instruments and firm commitments to ensuring freedom of religion within the framework of the overall democratization of the society.

The non-violent Velvet revolution that took place in Armenia in April-May last year once again demonstrated the powers of tolerance, non-discrimination and respect for human rights and their value in our society. 

Colleagues, 

Religion represents an institution of identity and the protection of the identity. Our history is a telling story about that. Tolerance and respect for all religions is based on our national experience, Christian heritage and long history of living together and  sharing with other faiths. 

Freedom of religion and belief is an absolute human right which cannot be abolished or curtailed under any circumstances including in conflict situations.

Protecting religious minorities played a crucial role in establishing modern systems of human rights which clearly established that grave and massive violations of human rights cannot be considered as a domestic affair but should be of legitimate concern of all members of the international community.

Protection of religious groups has been well-defined in the crime suppression international instruments such as the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Preventing mass atrocities against members of religious groups is an absolute priority for Armenia. We know what it means to be a persecuted religious group  within the oppressive framework. It is a duty for us to pledge support to all those who are persecuted, including on the basis of their religion and belief today. 

Armenia became a safe haven for a number of vulnerable religious minorities particularly Yazidis and Assyrians. Today Yazidis are the strongest minority group in Armenia, and we are very proud that the biggest temple of this ancient people very soon will open in their Armenian homeland. Together with the most ancient Christian churches of the world and magnificent Blue Mosque of Yerevan it will symbolize beauty of faith and tolerance.  

Unfortunately, we have been witnessing recurrence of mass atrocities including acts of genocide against Yazidis and Christians in the Middle East. These persecutions occur in the name of religion, as religion is often misused and abused by those who perpetrate violence or justify it. 

Attempts to equalize victims and perpetrators by referring to their religious differences is misleading for a simple reason: perpetrators unlike the victims do not represent any religion and attempts to justify grave crimes including genocide by summoning religious solidarity or hiding behind religion is an insult to any religion. 

The rehabilitation of persecuted communities, the return and restitution of the places of worship, educational and other property are essential components of protection of the freedom of religion.

Today we have received more than 20 thousand refugees from the Middle East and provided assistance to them on the ground.

Armenia stands ready to cooperate with all interested parties to recover ancestral presence of Christians in the Middle East by rebuilding their lives, communities and churches. The Armenian people historically have been significant contributors to diversity, harmony and prosperity of the countries and societies of the Middle East.  This conference provides an excellent platform to initiate partnerships to this end. 

Colleagues,

We welcome this conference and we would welcome this conference to become an annual event.  We are convinced that it would amplify opportunities to build up on international consensus and networks for advocacy on religious freedom. 

The freedom of religion is essential in unleashing potential of any religion as a force striving for peace, harmony, sense of belonging and optimism for the future of humanity.   

Thank you!

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