Although the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia states that the church and the state are separate, the Constitution also states:
“The Republic of Armenia recognises the exclusive mission of the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church, as a national church, in the spiritual life of the Armenian people, in the development of their national culture and preservation of their national identity.”
Also, “The relations of the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church may be regulated by law.” (Article 8.1)
One religious organisation, thus, is given special privileges. There is also law on freedom of conscience and on religious organisations. Among other things, it states that “the State shall not obstruct the efforts of the Armenian Church in pursuing the following activities which we expressly reserved to be her privilege solely:
— To preach and disseminate her faith freely throughout the Republic of Armenia.
— To re-create her historical traditions, structure, organizations, dioceses and communities.
— To construct new churches, make historical (monument-churches) belonging to her functional whether at the request of the faithful or on its own initiative.
— To contribute to the spiritual edification of the Armenian people and to carry out the same in the state educational institutions within the law.
— To take practical measures which enhance the moral standards of the Armenian people.
— To expand benevolent and charitable activities.
At the same time, Armenian Apostolic Church as the national Church of Armenians, which also operates outside the Republic, shall enjoy the protection of the Republic of Armenia, within the framework of international legal norms.”(source)
OFFICIALS AND SOCIETY
On September 2 2014, the Deputy Minister of Education and Science Manouk Mkrtchian has announced during a meeting with principals of public schools that “FAITHLESS SCIENTISTS ARE THE MOST DANGEROUS PEOPLE” in Armenia! He went on: “Our dangerous people are faithless scientists and intelligent people. They are dangerous, they are too smart, too kind, too selfless and they have great reputation among the society, their words are very influential.” He also said the following: “Nearly 70% of teachers are faithless. That is very bad.” (source)
Armenian Apostolic Church is taking care of one public school in Yerevan from this year on. The aim is to “strengthen the national, moral, spiritual education and the process of sharing comprehensive knowledge.” The government has decided to “give the school a status of a foundation to make the cooperation between Holy Seat and school more effective.” (source) Here is an analysis of what is happening in public schools today: Issues of religious education at public schools of the republic of Armenia Another useful article on the matter can be read here.
If some European societies fear the rise of far right and religious aggression from both ultra-Christian and ultra-Muslim forces in Europe, current Armenian government endorses such political and religious elements, and they get the full support of the ruling conservative Republican party (which in the past was called a Christian party on their website). We therefore feel the urge to act, to act in a society where well-known priests think that it is a “pity we don’t have Inquisition” (source) and that “atheist Armenians are not purely Armenian” (source) which reminds the concept of “mudbloods” and “true wizards” from “Harry Potter”, not to speak about other, more realistic examples…
The ruling regime is overtly religious and is interested in supporting one particular religious organisation which is even legally recognised as the only “Church” which differs from “Religious organisations”.
The society is vulnerable, too, as Armenia faces many challenges, poverty and unemployment rates are quite high. Having gone through many turmoils and facing all kinds of challenges, (e.g. corrupt political system which values the idea of conserving the existing hierarchy instead of progressing toward better future for all), entire communities are often hopeless and pessimistic about their present and future in Armenia which makes them more vulnerable mentally and spiritually, too.
This all means that both de jure and de facto the secular order is made unstable, it is diminished, and contradicting principles are injected into the Constitution and law. Some political and religious institutions which are rich in financial and other resources crave for authority, power and monopoly and propagate the ideas of superiority and monopoly.
Armenian society has gone through serious torments during the 20th century which include terrifying earthquake, war, economic, financial and social crisis and other misfortune. We want to offer other paradigms, other ways of thinking, cherish the culture of life, love and acceptance, and pluralism instead of the cultures of war, death, superiority, conservatism and monopoly. We believe that secularism, biophilia (love towards all forms of life) and humanism, human rights, science and education of mind together with education of heart will help make Armenia, the region and the world a better place.
See also About the movement