NEW YORK–"Violence is no longer a conceptual notion. It is an omni-present reality. Therefore–churches must deal with this reality responsibly," declared Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia. "The whole question of justice is at the core of the problem. We cannot build peace without justice."
His Holiness made this strong statement in an eloquent address to the World Council of Churches USA convention–at the Interfaith Center headquarters in New York–on Wednesday morning–October 4–during their discussions focusing on violence–and its remedies. At that time–he announced that in January 2001–during the Fourth assembly of this organization–there will be the official launching of the "Decade to Overcome Violence."
Catholicos Aram I was accompanied to the Interfaith Center by Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan–Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy– Bishop Moushegh Mardirossian–Prelate of the Western USA– and Bishop Khajag Hagopian– Vicar General of Canada.
His Holiness who is the Moderator (Chairman) of the Central and Executive committees of the international World Council of Churches– paid a visit to this ecumenical body’s two-day convention–during his two-day stay in New York City. He arrived on Tuesday–October 3–to preside over the Prelacy’s 1700th anniversary celebrations in the United States and Canada. On Tuesday evening–there was a Hrashapar service at St. Illuminator’s Armenian Cathedral in New York. On Wednesday evening–October 4–he will officiate at an ecumenical service and concert of sacred music at St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York.
Speaking extemporaneously in fluent English at the World Council of Churches convention–His Holiness stated–"You are here to reflect on violence. It is a global and existential reality. It is part of our lives. It is not on the battlefields–but in our families–streets–communities–and churches. It is an integral part of our society–and is manifested in different ways. Though it has been a permanent concern in the ecumenical assembly– it has acquired crucial urgency in the last ten years," he stated–adding that it has also become the central issue in the woman’s decade.
"Violence is an issue involving all of humanity. We can’t look at it in a theological way. We must address the root causes of the problem. The whole question of justice is at the heart of this process. We can overcome the problem by establishing justice. It is the sustaining force of humanity," he declared with great emphasis. "In January–through the commitment of our faith– we are embarking on this question."
During the question and answer session–His Holiness was asked about the current violence in the Middle East (Jerusalem). He stated that the church should have a "prophetic role. The church’s role is becoming marginalized. We need a comprehensive holistic approach."
Proposing an "active nonviolent resistance"–he stressed again and again that the "security of ALL–must be considered–not just the security of one group. There must be justice for ALL–rights for All." It should be a trust-building process." And in this regard–the "role of the United States is crucial!"
He concluded his talk by paying tribute to the ecumenical work of the WCC USA. "In the last 50 years–there has been a formidable task in bringing the churches together. It has been a dynamic–creative process–by working and praying together. The World Council of Churches is with you as one family," he stated.
His Holiness is the first Orthodox cleric–the first from the Middle East–and the youngest person to be elevated to the highest position in the World Council of Churches.