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Aykazian: we must work to ease suffering

Alexandria, Va., March 9, 2008  ̶  The President of the National Council of Churches USA told Ecumenical Advocacy Days participants that Christians have a biblical obligation to help the poor and ease suffering around the world.

Archbishop Vicken Aykazian preached at the conference's closing worship Sunday morning.

After he spoke, delegates to the ecumenical gathering anointed one another with oil to invoke God's blessing when they take their message of peace and justice to Capitol Hill Monday (below).

Standing on a platform adorned with portraits of Iraqi refugees and the boots of American soldiers killed in Iraq  ̶  symbols of persons who need Christian support  ̶   Archbishop Aykazian cited several examples around the world where persons are being crushed by poverty.

"We must act together to bring justice and freedom to people all over the world," he declared, "because it is the right thing to do."

According to UNESCO, between 26,000 and 30,000 children die each day due to poverty.

"Each day!" Aykazian repeated. "They die in small villages far from the lenses of television cameras. We must help them, we simply must. Our faith must inspire us to act."

Aykazian, who has a Ph.D. degree in history, was born in Turkey. He is a priest in the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) and last year was named Archbishop by H.H. Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians at Holy Etchmiadzin in Armenia. Aykazian will serve as NCC president through the end of 2009.

Preaching on John 11:1-45, the story of Jesus' raising of Lazarus from the dead, the Archbishop said the period of Lent is "a time for personal reflection and renewal, to take stock of our life, renew our faith and fortify our relationship with God."

It is also a time to take stock of the world's condition, he said.

"Every day we are faced with tragedy, divisiveness and suffering. Why, when the world has been transformed into a global village, do we not see the suffering around us?"

The theme of this year's Ecumenical Advocacy Days Conference is "2008: Claiming a Vision of True Security," and Aykazian stressed the message of previous speakers that true security is not achieved through military intervention.

"We have come together these past few days to figure out what this should mean to us, perhaps generating a new collective understanding of what security means and how we can achieve it," he said. "Can we signify something other than the methods and means of defense? I believe we can, and we should. We must rely on our faith, where we will find our security."

Aykazian was introduced to congregation by the Rev. Dr. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, right, former NCC associate general secretary for Justice and Advocacy and an organizer of Ecumenical Advocacy Days since its beginning in 2003.

Ecumenical Advocacy Days is a movement of the ecumenical Christian community that originated in the National Council of Churches USA. Grounded in biblical witness and shared traditions of justice, peace and the integrity of creation, its stated goal is to strengthen the Christian voice and mobilize for advocacy on a wide variety of U.S. domestic and international policy issues, through worship, theological reflection and opportunities for learning and witness.

On Monday, March 10, the conference will conclude as several hundred Christian advocates meet with their senators and representatives on Capitol Hill to ask their support for legislation that funds diplomatic efforts to diffuse conflict and helps the poor, in America and around the world.

NCC News contact:  Philip Jenks, 212.870.2228,


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