Welcoming 1st Armenian Church in Erbil and US Senate Recognition of Armenian Genocide
In 2019, Dr. Widad welcomed both the U.S. Senate recognition of Armenian genocide and the opening of the first Armenian Orthodox Church in Erbil, asking regional leaders to respect the rights of MENA-region-Christians.
“We are pleased to see the Church of the Holy Cross opening its doors for Christian Armenians who have fled to Kurdistan Region, leaving their homes behind because of religious intolerance and the rise of Islamic extremism… The importance of religious tolerance cannot be overstressed. The protection of religious liberty and the recognition of religious plurality are critically important in the promotion of tolerance and social cohesion.”
Dr. Widad Welcomes US Senate Recognition of Armenian Genocide
In December 2019, Dr. Widad Akreyi, a multiple award-winner for her human rights activities and co-founder of Defend International, has issued a statement that reads:
“We welcome that the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution recognising Armenian genocide,” Dr. Widad said. “This is a happy, historic moment. We thank everyone who played a role in making this happen. Finally a step in the right direction. Justice will prevail, eventually. We must recognise the past and ongoing genocides to prevent new ones. Together, we can build a better world!”
It is worth noting that Dr. Widad Akreyi has been raising awareness about the Armenian Genocide for years. In April 2017, she declared that she will keep the promise to push for recognition of the genocide, stressing that remembering the victims alone was not enough because justice had not been served yet.
Dr. Widad Welcomes Opening of First Armenian Church in Erbil
In April 2019, Dr. Widad issued a press release to welcome the opening of the first Armenian Orthodox Church in Erbil, asking regional leaders to respect the rights of MENA-region-Christians and to protect them from religious persecution. The press release read:
“We are pleased to see the Church of the Holy Cross opening its doors for Christian Armenians who have fled to Kurdistan region, leaving their homes behind because of religious intolerance and the rise of Islamic extremism.
On 6 April 2019, the first Armenian Orthodox Church was officially opened for public worship in a special ceremony in Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan region, Iraq.
We are very appreciative of this message. The importance of religious tolerance cannot be overstressed.The protection of religious liberty and the recognition of religious plurality are critically important in the promotion of tolerance and social cohesion. Religious freedom should be a widely acknowledged component of our societies. Ensuring tolerance of religion and belief is the first step towards encouraging peaceful coexistence among nations and is key to building global peace.
On this special occasion we congratulate our Armenian brothers and sisters in Erbil on being finally able to pray in their own house of worship.
Armenians have suffered hardship and persecution on account of their faith. During World War I, over one and a half million innocent children, women and men were forcibly uprooted from their properties and systematically annihilated by the Turkish Empire solely because of their Christian faith. Following this genocide many Armenians escaped to today’s Kurdistan region and elsewhere. Tragically, this is but one of many examples of persecution and intolerance in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
Therefore, today we not only celebrate the opening of the first Armenian Church in Erbil, but we also ask regional leaders to protect minorities from persecution in the MENA region, and we vow to honor and remember the innocent victims of the Armenian genocide, as well as of other crimes against humanity.
We thank the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs for building the Church of the Holy Cross at a cost of over $1.8 million. It must be noted that this church is not the only Armenian church located in Kurdistan region. For instance, another church was built in the village of Havresk in the Kurdish province of Duhok in 2011 through a generous donation by the Association of Churches in Germany and Switzerland.
We hope that all peoples in the MENA region will resolve to practice tolerance and live together in peace and harmony.”
Issued on 13 December 2019 and 8 April 2019