Armenian Church welcomes dialogue with Islam

Etchmiadzin, Apr. 2, 2008 ( - The Armenian Apostolic Church has responded warmly to an invitation from Muslim leaders for inter-religious dialogue, saying that all religious leaders should unite to condemn hatred and terrorism.

In a reply to the 138 Muslim leaders who signed the "Common Word" initiative last late year, Archbishop Yeznik Petrosian, the chief ecumenical officer for the Armenian Apostolic Church, remarked: "We therefore deem it imperative to begin a true dialogue among the monotheistic religions, the aim of which should be the strengthening of eternal and common human values, the reinforcement of relationships between different faiths, and the protection of all that God has created."

Archbishop Petrosian addressed his message to Prince Ghazi bin Talal, director of the Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Jordan. The Jordanian leader has been the focal point of the Common Word initiative, previously arranging for in-depth talks with Vatican officials, which have been scheduled for November 2008.

Archbishop Petrosian's letter mentioned the long history of relations between Armenian Christians and their Muslim neighbors. He recalled that in the early 20th century many Islamic countries sheltered the survivors of the Armenian genocide. That show of compassion, he said, "can serve today as the best example of how Christians and Muslims can live together in harmony, support one another in times of hardship, and enjoy the God-given benefits of a peaceful and creative life."

The history of Christian-Muslim relations has also been marked by violence and tragedy, the Armenian prelate acknowledged. He said that Church leaders today would join to "deny and renounce violence and enmity." The archbishop concluded his message with an appeal for peace "in the Caucasus and Middle East-– the origin of life, the cradle of ancient civilizations and the birthplace of the world’s largest monotheistic religions."

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