Church and Mosque Side-by-Side
The "Karapet" Church which was set up by Armenians in the southern port city of Abadan in 1958 is located in the center of the city. Before the construction of the new building there was another church building in which the Armenians living in Abadan performed their religious ceremonies.
In the neighborhood of the church there stands one of the oldest mosques of the city. The mosque is named "Al-Masjid, Musa-ibn-Jafar" after the 7th Imam of the Shia' Muslims. Old and distinguished clergymen of the city believe that the church had been established before the mosque. Head of the church of the city, Roban Manokian says, "there are only two or three churches worldwide built wall to wall to a mosque."
The two sacred places standing side by side indicate friendship and fraternity between the followers of the two religions. Muslims and Christians, ever since the very first days since the holy religion of Islam was introduced to the world, have been living in peace and on friendly terms in every part of the world including Iran.
The architectural style of the `Karapet' church reminds one of the oldest churches belonging to Christians. It is built in the most traditional form possible. The style was adopted from the first church built in a city located in lands presently belonging to Armenia.
Beautiful designing around the church, round columns, and bronze conical-shaped domes of the church add to its magnificence and contribute to the beauty of the city of Abadan. Many religious icons and statues including the cross of Jesus Christ (Propet Isa (AS) at the top of the domes, the tolls and the tower, each create a part of the spiritual atmosphere in the church.
The name, date of the establishment and other features of the church are inscribed in one sentence, on the upper part of the southern entrance to the place. According to the sentence the work `Karapet' which originates from the Armenian language means,`The Messenger of Glad Tidings'.
The old architectural style of the building which stands close to the modern and new buildings recently built in the city, marks the deep closeness of the old and new architectural styles in the city. The closeness surpasses the architecture of the buildings and proves the fraternity between the two nations of Iran and Armenia. The minaret of the mosques which rise to the sky in the same direction of the conical domes of the church indicate the oneness of the route to Allah, taken by both the Muslims and the Christians.
The outer walls of the church are decorated with very beautiful plaster columns with several windows worked artfully in them. The inner space of the church is lighted with many huge lanterns.
The church was reopened by the Armenians on the Christmas of 1998 after being rebuilt. It had been heavily bombed by Iraqi war-planes during the Iraqi imposed war and it was severely damaged.
Roban Manokian, the clergyman in-charge of the church says, "I was born in Abadan 50 years ago. As far as I can remember, I attended this church together with my family to perform my religious duties."
The church used to be attended by hundreds of Armenians before the war. We enjoy the same rights as the Muslim civilians of the city and have equal social rights. Even in regards with the political rights, we are the same. We have got our own representatives in the Majlis (Parliament) and have our children brought up in our own educational system, in our own language.
A young Armenian lady commenting on the point, remarks, "I like any other Muslim girl, am freely studying in the university. I would like to express my gratitude to Iranian authorities for their creating an atmosphere of freedom for us which encourages our friendly feelings towards other Muslim Iranians and makes us feel at home in our own country, Iran. As an Armenian, I am free to attend the church, study in the university, vote in all elections and take any kind of job I choose."
On the history of the Iranian Armenians, Manokian says, "the Armenians arrived in Iran about 200 years ago, when the Safavid dynasty ruled in Iran. They were a group of handy, innovative people who were masters in many industrial activities. They attracted the attention of Shah Abbas, the then ruler of the country and managed to get his license to settle in Iran when they were escaping from the mass slaughtering of the Armenians by the Ottoman Turks. The immigrant Armenians settled largely in the cities of Isfahan, Tehran, Tabriz and Abadan.
According to the clergyman, there is a stone tablet set up beside the southern entrance to the church in commemoration of those Armenians killed by the Ottoman government on April 24,1915.
A lady with her baby in her arms is carved on the stone. The lady stands as the Mother of the Armenian nation. The extension of her skirt indicates the continuation of the genocide once carried out by the Ottomans. One sentence is also carved on the tablet in Armenian letters:
"We will always remember you, wherever we may be, in every time and every place. May God bless you."