Bishop Krikor Chiftjian, the Prelate of the Diocese of Iran’s East and West Azarbaijan provinces, has referred to Iran as a great model for peaceful coexistence among monotheistic religions in the world.

In an address to 64th annual religious ceremony of Armenians in Qara Kelisa or St. Thaddeus Monastery in Chaldoran, northwest of Iran, Chiftjian said next week during his speeches in the US, he will serve as Iran’s cultural ambassador to inform the whole world of the deep respect paid by the Islamic Republic to religious minorities in the country.

“Iranian government officials are attempting to provide religious minorities with prosperity,” he was quoted as saying in a report by IRNA.

He then referred to the Islamic Republic’s efforts to reconstruct the holy sites of the religious minorities in Iran and said the St. Thaddeus Complex in Chaldoran in which Armenians hold their annual gathering has been reconstructed and refurbished by the Islamic Republic.

Bishop Chiftjian said monotheistic religions don’t bear animosity towards each other, but unlike the teachings of these religions, certain groups of their followers promote animosity in the region and the world.

There is mutual respect between these religions in Iran, he noted, adding that Iranian Armenians attach significant respect to religious sites.

In an interview on the sidelines of the Armenians’ Badarak ceremony in Chaldoran, he said the Islamic Republic played a key role in preparing the ground for holding the annual gathering.

“Under the guidelines of the late founder of the Islamic Republic Imam Khomeini and the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Seyyed Ali Khamenei, there is no restriction on religious minorities for practicing their religions in Iran,” he said.

Thousands of Armenians from Iran and other nations including Armenia, Syria, Lebanon, the Netherlands, France, Austria, Germany and Canada took part in the three-day Badarak event which began on July 14.

Badarak ceremony is held to mark the martyrdom anniversary of Saint Thaddeus — one of the apostles of Jesus Christ (Peace Be upon Him).

During the ceremony, the worshippers perform religious practices, including sacrificing sheep, lighting candles, baptism of infants, etc.

Scores of Armenians, Assyrians and Catholics from Iran and other countries attend the annual event as part of their pilgrimage on the Day.

The ceremony is known as one of the largest religious ceremonies held by Armenians.

Qara Kelisa, also known as the St. Thaddeus Church, is one of the oldest and most notable surviving Christian monuments of Iran that has great significance for the country’s Armenian Orthodox community.

Armenians believe that Qara Kelisa is the world’s first church constructed in 68 CE by one of the apostles of Jesus, St. Thaddeus. According to Armenians, he had travelled to Armenia, the then part of the Persian Empire, to preach the teachings of Jesus Christ.

What follows are IRNA’s photos of the Badarak ceremony recently held in Chaldoran:

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