ANTELIAS–Initiated by His Holiness Catholicos Aram I and organized by the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia–an International Conference on Armenian education–held in the Armenian Theological Seminary in Bikfaya–Lebanon from August 5-7–came to a close. The conference–whose theme was "The Armenian Education in the Diaspora," succeeded in bringing together nearly one hundred participants from various diaspora communities worldwide–with different political–cultural–and religious perspectives–to focus on issues pertaining to the Armenian-Christian formation in today’s world.
In his opening address–His Holiness Aram I identified the concerns and challenges facing Armenian-Christian education in the context of pluralistic societies. Regarding the issue of defining today’s Armenian Christian and how to shape the Armenian-Christian identity for tomorrow–His Holiness stressed the crucial importance of re-evaluating and renewing educational methodologies–strategies–and programs by making them more relevant and reliable. In order to achieve this goal–His Holiness proposed that Armenia and the diaspora must together engage in a process of developing a Pan-Armenian educational policy–with particular attention on the worldwide Armenian diaspora.
On the agenda of the conference were topics including: the actual state of education in different continents where Armenian communities live; the implications of globalization on education; the role of the church in Armenian Christian formation; the family as an important educational instrument; the impact of pluralistic societies on Armenian Education; the use and misuse of technology in education; the role of the textbooks and the extra curricular activities; human resources: formation and training; the contribution of the Saturday schools–Sunday schools–and children’s camps to education; the importance of new community schools for the Armenian communities established in the West.
These and a number of related matters were discussed through papers–panel discussions–and hearings. The active participation of young educators and women provided new perspectives and dynamism to the discussion as they challenged the traditional views and approaches and constantly reminded that in a new world context–a renewed perception and vision of education are imperative. They echoed the challenge of His Holiness that in the present world of globalization and communication–Armenian Christian education must become more responsive.
His Holiness personally attended all the sessions–highlighting the emerging views and concerns at the end of each session.
The conference–an unprecedented event in contemporary Armenian history–summarized its findings in a declaration–stressing the importance of putting words and thoughts into action.
In his closing remarks–His Holiness Aram I identified three words which he said must occupy a central place in Armenian diaspora educational work: relevance–coherence–and integrity. "We are living in different contexts. We must–therefore–develop different educational procedures and strategies. We are citizens of different countries–yet we are Armenia’s and part of the globalized world. We have our own convictions–values and norms–but we are living in a new environment. Hence–it is vitally important that we develop the kind of educational policy that provides integrity–relevance and coherence to our educational work–at the same time preserving our distinct Armenian Christian identity. This is a great challenge before us and we must take it seriously and responsibly," said His Holiness.