* "Reconciliation" is theme of Catholicos Karekin II’s Aug. 29 address in UN General Assembly
UNITED NATIONS–His Holiness Karekin II–the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenia’s–took part in the inaugural ceremonies and opening sessions of the "Millennium World Peace Conference of Religious and Spiritual Leaders."
The gathering of over one thousand religious figures from around the world is meeting at the United Nations building in New York City–from August 28 through 31. His Holiness has traveled to the United States specifically to take part in the conference–and arrived with a small entourage in New York on August 19.
The opening session on the afternoon of Monday–August 28 began with an eclectic mix of religious invocations–including an Islamic prayer–an Inca blessing–and the harmonious blowing of a conch-shell by a Hindu swami. After welcoming remarks by the conference’s secretary-general–Bawa Jain–a series of thirty brief blessings were pronounced–by representatives from fifteen distinct religions. His Holiness Karekin II offered the sixth blessing–situated between an Islamic grand mufti and a Shinto high priest.
Speaking in English–Catholicos Karekin prayed: "We are aware–O Lord–that religious differences have brought strife in the past. But we also know that faith in a higher good–in something greater than human power–is the only solid foundation on which to build just societies–tolerant communities and decent lives. While our respective traditions may not always agree on all things–with your guidance–Lord–these differences need not be so great that they stand as barriers to friendship–goodwill and common purpose."
He concluded: "Finally–we ask you to bestow your blessing on this great country of America–which has been a beacon of light for all the nations of the world–among them our own Armenian people–who escaped persecution and found safety on these shores. In this land–the shared values of many people from many different places can grow into true brotherhood. May you guide all your children–and all nations–along this path–O Lord."
On the afternoon of Tuesday–August 29–His Holiness delivered formal remarks in the UN General Assembly. His address was delivered during the third of the day’s session–entitled–"Towards Forgiveness and Reconciliation," chaired by Dudu Chili–a member of South Africa’s well-known Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Also speaking during the session was the Rev. Anne Graham Lotz–daughter of American evangelist Billy Graham–as well as representatives of the Hindu–Jewish–Buddhist–Bahai–Sikh and Islamic faiths.
The Catholicos of All Armenia’s is also scheduled to play an important role in the second working session of Wednesday–August 30–entitled "Conflict Transformation: Russia and Central Asia." Chairing that panel will be Rabbi Arthur Schneier–president of the New York-based Appeal of Conscience Foundation. His Holiness will be joined by Orthodox Christian and Islamic figures from throughout Russia and Central Asia.
Also on the same panel will be Archbishop Khajag Barsamian–Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America. Archbishop Barsamian–Archbishop Vatch Hovsepian–Primate of the Western Diocese–and Archbishop Zaven Chinchinian–Primate of Egypt–have also been officially invited to attend the summit.
Other well-known figures taking part in the conference include: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan–Dr. Konrad Raiser (secretary-general of the World Council of Churches)–Dr. Firoze Korwal (high priest of Zoroastrianism)–sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar–Rev. Calvin Butts (pastor of New York’s Abyssinian Baptist Church)–Abdullah al-Obaid (leader of the World Muslim League)–Rabbi Meir Lau (Israel’s chief Ashkenazi rabbi)–Iran’s Ayatollah Abdollah Vaeze Javadi–American preacher Rev. Jesse Jackson–theologian Dr. Hans Kng–Audrey Shenandoah (clan mother of the Native American Onondaga nation)–Ted Turner (founder of CNN and the honorary chair of the Millennium World Peace Summit)–and Dr. Jane Goodall–the great chimpanzee scientist.