knowledge generates love, a key for better life : archbishop

January 6, 2016 - 0:0

TEHRAN - If people of different nations know each other, there would be no misunderstanding and gradually they will love each other, says the archbishop of Armenian community and the primate of the diocese of Tehran.

“The new year is, willingly or unwillingly, a new chapter for all people of the world. So, I greet 2016,” Sebouh Sarkissian said, wishing a year full of peace and friendship all over the world.

“We should know each other. That means you have to acknowledge and know your neighbor. Knowledge generates love. That is the key for a better life,” Sarkissian told the Tehran Times on December 30, 2015.

He said he believed that differences between nations should be narrowed, so that they can develop mutual respect and understanding. This leads to the birth of love in heart and minds of people, Sarkissian noted.

“The problem is that countries do not have trust in each other. So they try to protect themselves and attack others. This issue causes problems and difficulty and enmity.”

“People go away from world of God. No religion in the world encourages killing, war and harming human being. We are all creatures of God. Killing somebody is killing God. Unfortunately, people are not conscious about this fact,” he lamented.

He added human beings are “essentially and existentially religious creatures but nowadays people in different parts of the world suffer from inhumanity caused by politics and worldly interest.”

He called “trust and mutual understanding” the most important things within societies.

--------- Celebrating New Year in Armenian style

“Historically speaking, until the 4th AD, all Christians celebrated the birth of Christ on January 6. After Rome accepted Christianity as the state religion, some Christians began to celebrate December 25 as the birth of Sun-God. However, Armenian churches kept the old tradition and celebrated January 6 as the revelation of God,” he stated.

“In Tehran, Christians gather on the eve of January to celebrate Mass, however, we don’t have such religious rituals and rites related to the New Year,” he explained.

“Before the Armenian genocide [in 1915], we had some traditions to celebrate the New Year in our country. At that time, people lived in their own lands, cities, and villages and they celebrated traditions that came down to them,” he said.

Sarkissian said today Armenians have some traditions and rituals, which depend on the place they live in to celebrate the New Year. For example, he added, in some villages people go to rivers and at 00:00 of January 1 enter the water to clean themselves symbolically for the New Year.

“Actually, such traditions have nothing to do with religion. Most of them are national traditions,” he explained.

He went on to say that in Iran and some Arab countries like Syria and Lebanon, Christians celebrate their New Year freely.

“Our Muslim brothers accompany us during the celebration. However it is not the case in all countries. For example, in Saudi Arabia there is no such thing.

“When I served in Kuwait, I was responsible for the Persian Gulf area, including Saudi Arabia, but I never went there because they don’t allow any religious person enter any Christian region. So, you can imagine how life would be for Christians in that country. They don’t have churches, they don’t have any clergymen. They have to move around and go somewhere else to have their religious rituals,” he lamented.

----------- Iranian Muslims and Armenians are long time neighbors

“I served in Iraq in the beginning of 1970s for four years. I have been in Syria for three and a half years. I was in Lebanon and Kuwait and I have been here since 1999.

“Shia Muslims have always been open-minded toward others and toward Christianity and Iran, especially, has always been the land of coexistence for people of different religions,” Sarkissian boasted.

All Armenians around the world consider Iran as a part of their identity because of the same root, being long time neighbors, and sharing common culture, he pointed out.

“Depending on broad-mindedness and narrow-mindedness of rulers in Iran, the Iranian-Armenian relationship has changed during history, but most of the time they were in peace with each other.

“Our relationship is not new. The good relationship between Persians and Armenians dates back to before the birth of Christ and some of our countrymen moved to Iran during the Safavid era,” he explained.

“Nowadays, Armenians have over 3,000 churches in Iran, including Qareh Kelisa and St. Stephanus, which are part of Iran’s cultural heritage and are supported by the government,” the archbishop noted.

--- Inter-religious trust and respect

Iranian Muslims and Armenians have a good understanding of each other’s beliefs and rituals. On the last days of December, shops in Armenian neighborhoods in Tehran are decorated with Christmas tree and ornaments.

“Armenians respect their Muslim neighbors during mourning season of Muharram for the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (AS) and his companions by good willing gestures.

“I am respecting you because you are keeping firmly to religious tradition. I understand Islam because I studied about Islam and my master thesis is about event of Karbala and martyrdom of Imam Hussein (AS),” he remarked.

He was right. We were old good neighbors who were with each other during hard days of Iran’s history. When I was leaving the church, I was imbued with good feelings of respect and friendship and I think that is all it should be!