Armenia hosts a conference on “Preventing and Countering Hate Crimes against Christians and Members of other Religious Groups – Perspectives from the OSCE and beyond”
“Historically being situated on the crossroads of different civilizations Armenia has cultivated deeply rooted traditions of coexistence and respect towards other cultures and religions,” Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbanian said in his opening remarks.
“Being the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion, Armenians stand at the foundations of the Christian civilization. We always have had very strong relations with Muslim nations and states, as well as with others. As a nation that has communities in around hundred countries of the World Armenians have first-hand knowledge on the value of tolerance and on the problems of discrimination and hate speech. We consider this Conference in Yerevan as an opportunity for presenting and sharing our national experiences,” Minister Nalbandian said.
“Being historically persecuted in their homeland under foreign domination, including based on the religious grounds, after rejoining the family of sovereign states Armenians cannot close eyes to the sufferings of those who continue to experience religious discrimination and hate-motivated crimes,” Edward Nalbandian stated.
“We actively contribute to the international efforts aimed at preventing identity based discrimination and violence. Our most recent initiatives in this regard include the adoption of the resolution on Genocide prevention at the UN Human Rights Council in 2015 and the adoption in the same year of the resolution on International Day of commemoration of the victims of genocide at the UN General Assembly. These efforts will continue,” Armenia’s top diplomat stated.
The Minister reminded that “countering hate speech, intolerance and xenophobia was one of the main priorities of Armenia during its Chairmanship of the Council of Europe in 2013.” “At the wake of terrorist activities of Daesh and other terrorist groups, Armenia has been among the first in the United Nations and the OSCE to raise the issue of protection of religious and ethnic groups and strongly advocate for the strengthening of the international commitments in this regard.”
Minister Nalbandian emphasized that the conference is a further step in Armenia’s efforts to raise awareness on the plight of endangered religious groups. He recalled the two high level events on “Supporting the Rights of Christians, particularly in the Middle East” and on “Mutual Respect and Peaceful Coexistence as a Condition of Interreligious Peace and Stability: Supporting Christians and other Communities”, held respectively in 2015 and 2017 in Geneva in the frameworks of the UN Human Rights Council, co-organized by Armenia, Russia, Holy See and Lebanon alongside with other partner countries.
“We have also supported the initiatives of on streamlining issue of protection of religious and ethnic groups in the Middle East. Armenia contributed to the International Conference on the Victims of Ethnic and Religious Violence in the Middle East, in Paris in 2015 and the Conference on victims of ethnic and religious violence, in Madrid this June,” Edward Nalbandian noted.
“Armenia has also focused on the plight of refugees and migrants from the vulnerable groups of the Middle East during such recent international events as the 2016 UN Summit to Address Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, 2016 Leaders’ Summit on Refugees, 2017 OSCE Mediterranean conference on large movements of migrants and refugees,” he added.
According to Minister Nalbandian, it is high time now to ensure that the OSCE possess effective mechanisms and expertise to assist participating States in taking appropriate action to protect Christians and members of other religions.
“I would like to bring one example in this regard. The Cracow Document endorsed by the 1994 OSCE Budapest Summit stipulates that “the participating States will pay due attention to monuments and objects of religious origin whose original communities no longer use them or no longer exist in the particular region.” Numerous Armenian churches, monasteries, cemeteries destroyed, erased, confiscated and appropriated in the 1990s and 2000s in the places from where the indigenous Armenian population has been expelled stand as a stark reminder of the cleavages between the commitments and their implementation. Such situations should not be permitted,” he said.
According to the Armenian Foreign Minister, “safeguarding the remnants of diversity in the Middle East is important for restoration of regional safety and security. It may contribute to the prevention of the spillover effect that threatens the neighboring regions and far beyond. We believe that the OSCE and its Mediterranean partners have strong shared interest in this regard. The phenomenon of the terrorists returning from the Middle East battlefields threatens not just the security of the countries of their origin, but may become a destabilizing factor in other regions, stimulating crisis situations and regional conflicts. The Daesh style beheadings and other despicable atrocities are already not limited just to the Middle East. The recent research showed that there are considerable numbers of fighters in the ranks of Daesh from OSCE participating States that are neighboring to Armenia. This is a matter of concern for us and I am sure many OSCE participating states share similar concerns.”