“According to Christian thinking, freedom is manifested in the harmony of the human will with the will of God … Indeed, without a sublime religious understanding of the ideas of freedom and peace it is impossible to achieve an accurate understanding and realization of human freedoms and rights,” Garegin said as he hosted an international conference on religious freedom and peace on Thursday.
The two-day conference held at the Echmiadzin-based Mother See of the Armenian Church brought together representatives of the main Christian denominations, including senior clergymen from the Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodox, Anglican, Coptic and other eastern churches. The heads of the world’s leading ecumenical organizations, notably the U.S. National Council of the Churches of Christ, and international scholars also attended and addressed it.
In his speech at the conference, Garegin also denounced the “abuse of religious freedom” by non-traditional religious groups branded by him as “modern-day totalitarian sects.” He accused them of causing “divisions in families and public life.”
“In this regard, every effort should be made so that the ideas of religious freedom do not become an excuse for evil,” he said.
The Apostolic Church, to which the vast majority of Armenians nominally belong, has long been advocating restrictive government measures against such groups that established their presence in Armenia following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The ancient church enjoyed strong government support until the 2018 “velvet revolution” that brought Nikol Pashinian to power. The latter’s frosty relationship with Garegin has increasingly deteriorated since then.
Pashinian openly attacked the church when he campaigned for the June 2021 parliamentary elections. He said “corrupt clergymen” are part of Armenia’s traditional political, intellectual and spiritual elites that “did everything” to prevent the 2018 regime change. Garegin’s office rejected the “unfair accusations.”