Foreign Minister of Armenia participated in the conference on “Preventing and Countering Hate Crimes against Christians and Members of other Religious Groups - Perspectives from the O

22 November, 2017

On November 22, in Yerevan, Edward Nalbandian participated in and delivered an opening statement at the conference on “Preventing and Countering Hate Crimes against Christians and Members of other Religious Groups - Perspectives from the OSCE and beyond”, organized by the OSCE Austrian chairmanship and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

High level delegations from the OSCE participating states took part in the conference, which is held with the support of the MFA of Armenia, including Antoine Camilleri, Vatican’s Vice-Secretary of relations with states, Gennadiy Gatilov, Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia, Klaus Kögeler, Ambassador, OSCE Austrian chairmanship representative, ambassadors accredited to Armenia, representatives of civil society, religious and national organizations, scholars and analysts.

In his opening remarks, Minister Nalbandian, attaching importance to holding of the OSCE conference in Armenia, said: “Historically being situated on the crossroads of different civilizations Armenia has cultivated deeply rooted traditions of coexistence and respect towards other cultures and religions. Being the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion, Armenians stand among 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.”

Touching upon Armenia's active involvement in international efforts aimed at preventing identity-related discrimination and violence, the Foreign Minister noted: “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.

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.”

With regards to hate crimes against Christians and other religious groups in the Middle East, Minister Nalbandian particularly said: “Today nowhere the hate crimes against Christians and members of other religious groups are as widespread as in the Middle East where three major world religions were born. For centuries the Armenian nation has constituted a part of the multicultural and multi-religious mosaic of this region. This diversity of the Middle East was once a remarkable asset. However, the interchanging waves of nationalism and religious fundamentalism have significantly altered the religious and ethnic structure of the region. As a result Christianity in the Middle East declined from about 20 percent of the population to less than 5 percent in the course of the 20th century and the numbers went even less in the beginning of 21st century. In Iraq, Christians declined by 80 percent in the past decade. In Syria, the Christian population has fallen from 1 million 250 thousand to less than 500,000 in the course of just past six years. The once thriving Armenian community in Syria has also sharply declined. Armenia has received more than twenty two thousand refugees only from Syria, making our country the third largest recipient of Syrian refugees in Europe on per capita basis.”

Edward Nalbandian also underlined: “Unfortunately, religious dimension has often been invoked to mobilize support in the conflict situations that have never had anything to do with the faith. Some organizations, which are based on religious solidarity, support these claims potentially exacerbating already complex conflict situations. We believe that the OSCE and first and foremost those participating States that are members of such religion-based organizations should resolutely reject such threatening practices. In reality most of the current destructive conflicts take place not between but within the same religion and this is evident especially on the example of the modern Middle East”.

In relation to the fight against racism, xenophobia, discrimination, anti-Semitism and intolerance within the framework of the OSCE, in the speech of the Foreign Minister it was said: “In the OSCE alone we have developed a broad range of commitments to combat racism, xenophobia, discrimination, anti-Semitism and intolerance, including against Christians, Jews, Muslims, other religious groups and to prevent and respond to hate crimes. There is a consensus among participating states that adherence to these commitments is crucial for the maintenance of peace, stability and security. Thus, 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”.

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