“The contribution of Orthodoxy in the dynamics and development of statehood of the countries of Eastern Christian tradition”
In the framework of the 17th annual General Assembly the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (I.A.O.) met in Yerevan (Armenia), to discuss the background and the current situation concerning relationships between Church and State in the countries of Eastern Christian tradition, deeming important to stress the undisputable fact that Orthodoxy has always been inherent both national self-consciousness and the very statehood of our countries. The recognition of Christianism as the official state religion in Armenia, Byzantium and other countries during the early middle Ages, has paved the way for the foundation of national identity and contributed to the functioning of state institutions in critical periods of human civilization development. Thanks to Orthodoxy, many European and Asian peoples were enabled to enjoy the advanced civilization of their time and then evolved into independent centers of Orthodox Christianity and its culture.
The present General Assembly of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy met in Yerevan, capital of Armenia, the first country to have recognized Christianism as its official state religion and one which still remains today committed to its historical and spiritual choice. Modern Church – State relations in Armenia illustrate the eastern Christian practice of such relations as a politically vital model.
The choice of the Assembly’s topic is not random. It is based on the realization that the political perceptions of modern countries are gradually moving away from the traditional relations between State and Church, the traditional spiritual and cultural values which formed our civilization upon Christian foundations.
The followers of traditional – mainly – Christian values consider State as an institution responsible not only for the military-political security and social welfare of society, but also for established moral views, family happiness and high spirituality of the people. Starting from there, they consider Church as partner of the state, an inherent and important part of society, constituting its spiritual and moral foundation.
The followers of the “other view”, the so-called radical and liberal, perceive State exclusively as an administrator, devoid of social and moral responsibility, which does not obstruct any form of human self-assertion and self-expression, free from conventional traditions and ethical standards. It is obvious that followers of such a perception of the State, pursue relieving themselves of any kind of Church’s influence, excluding it from public life, restricting it from publicly expressing its moral assessments and making judgments on the authority’s actions. The effort to build a “civil society” without the Church’s participation is increasingly leading to a new “secular totalitarianism”. Even a simple public expression of positions in favor of the commonly accepted traditional values is sometimes considered an offense. A characteristic example are some trends within the European Union, as well as documents, such as the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly’s (COEPA) declaration on sexual preferences of a part of the population, according to which any reference to such particularities cannot be called a “sin”, while states are called to refrain from considering such phenomena as calling for care and restriction.
Meanwhile, standpoints against family and Christianity have not been adopted by general vote or referendum in any European Union country. Is it democratic to approach issues concerning the distinction between the so-called “good” and “evil” on the basis of life’s traditional values by voting procedures in the COEPA, something that in fact deprives peoples and states from the possibility to defend established religious values?
This practice is overtly opposed to traditionally Christian values and its adoption equals relinquishing peoples’ national identity. Such radical changes in human life have only been imposed under conditions of harsh foreign occupation.
It is obvious that the accession of a series of traditionally orthodox countries to European institutions has not resulted in Orthodoxy’s voice being heard in the modern world. European integration did not make Europe more Christian, while the very existence of the Orthodox peoples themselves is, thereof, less and less in harmony with evangelical teachings and orientations.
It is well known that Orthodoxy lies in the roots of fostering national self-consciousness and statehood of our countries, whereas in our times, various secular geopolitical plans pose a threat to identity, traditional statehood and our values. Our isolation from Western Europe is not the alternative to these secular plans, but on the contrary, the rallying together of the eastern Christian world, the coming into being of our cultural vision, which will allow our partners to better understand and respect our values.
In countries where the Orthodox are a minority, particularly in the Middle East, what is obvious is the danger of the state sliding rule to protectionist policies of the dominant religious view, as well as the failure to respect the religious and cultural particularities, which lead to violations of fundamental civil and political rights.
Such kind of acts, when Christians are experiencing different kinds of exploitation, violence, exile and killings, cannot be tolerated. Under any circumstance, the state must unswervingly uphold principles of religious freedom and peoples’ social values, as well as their civil, political and cultural rights in the context of a functional democracy.
We are convinced that the I.A.O. has the duty to more actively develop its dynamics as a field for the development of synergies between political and cultural factors belonging to the Eastern Christian tradition countries. Taking into consideration the fact that the role of Orthodoxy in developing traditional statehood in Eastern Christian tradition countries is becoming more and more actual, we the members of I.A.O.’s 17th General Assembly declare the need for:
- intensifying our efforts within Parliaments, aimed at taking the necessary initiatives, which shall make politics a rule for public life,
- participating more actively in international organizations, such as the World Council of Churches, the Council of Europe, continuing dialogue with all Christian churches and other religions, in the name of peace-making and sustainable growth of mankind, reinforcing traditional state institutions and values.
The I.A.O. General Assembly calls, once again, each Member of Parliament individually, to intensify their work in the frame of their political parties, so that the necessary decisions and initiatives we have drafted further strengthen democracy, thus confirming Parliamentarians’ mission as expressing public interest. In their long-standing history, our countries and people have evolved under the Eastern rays of light, maintaining their place in the world thanks to the Orthodox choice of our ancestors. Despite the various challenges of our era, nothing can change this choice.