News > UAE Armenians > Catholicos Aram lectures at the American University of Sharjah
"Religion must play a positive role in promoting world peace," says Armenian spiritual leader
Religion must promote peace-building and in order to do that successfully, it must address the root cause which is justice and the sanctity of basic human rights. This was stated by His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia, at a special lecture delivered at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) on February 2, 2009.
Dr. Peter Heath, Chancellor of AUS, introduced His Holiness Aram I to the audience and thanked him for accepting the university’s invitation.
His Holiness began his address by expressing his gratitude to His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah and congratulating him on the tremendous reputation that AUS has acquired throughout the region. “We need such centers of excellence all over the world--centers that bring people together, strengthening diversity and deepening a sense of togetherness,” he said.
"Religion has always been at the center of human society and I believe that today we need to look at religion in a positive and constructive way and to see how religion can play an encouraging role in bringing people and societies and cultures together," said His Holiness during his lecture entitled "From Inter-Religious Dialogue to Living Together." He stressed that in order to achieve this aim, inter-religious dialogue is essential. This dialogue must be more organized, however, and must be held with a clear methodology and agenda.
His Holiness said that in order to be successful, an inter-faith dialogue must take into consideration certain vital factors: it should be completely open to other perspectives and traditions; it should be "realistic" that is, religions must realize their limits; it should be cognizant and responsive to the concrete realities in which it is taking place; it should respect the other, that is, respect the "otherness" of the other; it should have frank and open discussions; and it should be people-oriented.
He said that the agenda of such a dialogue should include seeking to promote spiritual and moral values as well as developing common values. “We need to emphasize what unites us rather than what sets us apart,” he said. He added that the dialogue should also include ways to develop a culture of non-violence that is desperately needed in the world today. “Violence has become a major problem in the world today,” he said. “We also need to do our utmost to combat intolerance, which has become one of the diseases of modern society,” he added.
“I believe dialogue of religions should be seen as a means to building community life. Living together must become the number one priority for all religions,” stressed His Holiness. In building a successful community life and living together peacefully, the basis of the community should be the acceptance of the “other”, he said. “We also need to strengthen our commonalities that bring us together rather than our differences. In such a community, we need to preserve and be faithful to our identity and self-understanding in order to develop a rich and diverse community life,” he said. “Together we should reject alienation and isolation and bring people together; in order to do that we need to build mutual trust and confidence. Living together requires the participation of members and this is a vital element to develop a successful community. Everyone must be allowed to participate with equal rights,” he added. “And finally, I believe integration is extremely important. I am all for integration but not assimilation, as assimilation leads to losing one’s identity.”
He said that education plays a crucial role in community building as it helps in overcoming violence and intolerance as well as in promoting the acceptance of the other and in rejecting isolation.
His Holiness stated that religion has a major and constructive role to play in community building by restoring the broken relationship between humanity, creation and God. “We don’t own this planet. It belongs to God. Therefore, we need to have responsibility and accountability for our actions which have a long term ecological impact on this earth,” he said.
“God should become the center of this world and not transitory human values,” he added. “Religion must remind all that human life is sacred. We don’t have the right to destroy life as life belongs only to God. We must keep God’s household morally, ecologically and spiritually clean,” he said.
The lecture was also attended by Salem Al Qaseer, Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs; Dr. Moza Al Shehhi, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs; Ali Shuhaimy, Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management; George DeBin, Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration; as well as other senior AUS officials. The large audience included faculty and staff members, students, media representatives as well as members of the public.
Source: Website of AUS, 02 February 2009 (with adjustments)
Note by Azad-Hye: His Holiness Aram headed to Dubai, the Unites Arab Emirates on 29 January 2009. During his visit to the country and the community, he delivered a pontifical address at the Saint Gregory the Illuminator Church in Sharjah.
He then presided over a fund-raising event in Dubai planned to gather donations for funding activities related to the Armenian Cause (see special report here).
The Pontiff delivered a lecture at the American University of Sharjah on 02 February 2009 (see above) and hold a number of important meetings.
He returned to Antelias, Lebanon, on 03 February 2009.