2 April 2015. On Thursday morning, UN Special Rapporteur, Dr Heiner Bielefeldt, met with His Holiness Aram I at the Catholicosate in Antelias. Dr. Bielefeld was on an information-gathering mission on religious tolerance in the Middle East for a report he will be presenting to the UN Human Rights Council.
In their discussion, His Holiness spoke of the rich religious diversity in the region and stated that freedom of religion or belief and tolerance are essential components of democracy and must be safeguarded. The Catholicos also spoke of the uniqueness of the Lebanese model. He described this confessional structure of government as a family of communities in which every community practices its own faith according to its own principles, and in which members of each community participate in the democratic processes of the country as citizens. He admitted that the combination of citizenship and religious allegiance can sometimes be problematic, but he said that through interreligious dialogue and cooperation, the leadership works to preserve this unique model of coexistence and tolerance as an example for the region.