Dr Harry Hagopian is an Armenian Christian who hails originally from Jordan. He is an international lawyer, with degrees in Public International Law and in Alternative Dispute Resolution.
He worked for five years as Legal Counsel at Saba & Co (Touche Ross International) in Cyprus where he headed their Intellectual Property department for the Middle Eastern and Gulf regions. He was later appointed Assistant General Secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches in Beirut / Cyprus, and also co-managed the humanitarian relief programmes of the Council with regard to the refugees of the earthquake in the Gillan region of Iran and later of the first Gulf war in Iraq.
Dr Hagopian also contributed to the debate on the future of the Holy Land and participated in many of the political and religious meetings in Jerusalem and abroad relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Until 2002, he worked as Executive Director of the Inter-Church Committee in Jerusalem and was deeply and proactively involved with the Oslo-led political process between Israelis and Palestinians.
He has authored a book, 'Let us Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem', and written monographs on 'Blasphemy under Islam and Common Law Principles', 'The Role of Women in Islam', 'The Armenian Genocide', 'Legal Sovereignty and Jerusalem' and 'Principles of Conflict Resolution in Nagorny-Karabagh'. His web-site remains www.epektasis.net .
Dr Hagopian is presently Consultant to OTS Solicitors, a law firm in London that also deals with Brexit issues.
No matter where one stands on the centenary anniversary of the Armenian genocide, or on what fence one opts to sit instead, it is undeniable that there has been a huge groundswell of support in favour of recognition.
Surely, we do not have to view them as a <strong>Hobson's choice</strong>? What we should focus on instead is the harder - and much harsher - question of whether we as followers of a religion or as advocates of free speech can coexist too?
Like millions of others, I too was shocked when I learnt of the hideous attack on the offices of <em>Charlie Hebdo</em> in Paris. As one cartoonist depicted it, 12 people were murdered yesterday but 66 million French men and women were wounded as a result of this crime.
Irrespective of those mutations, I still cling to the stubborn belief that the peoples of the MENA yearn for dignity and equal citizenship rather than cling to conditional patronage by their political and religious rulers or else control by self-obsessed Islamist groups. This is why I remain guardedly hopeful that a constructive dialogue in 2015 could help face those daunting challenges.
Those who have come to know me a bit over the years realise that I am ethnically Armenian, a native of East Jerusalem many moons ago when it was ruled by Jordan and someone whose legal, ecumenical or political work has often led him to wrestle with issues of justice and peace.
One error of judgment that the outgoing First Minister committed was being lured into a binary-type 'yes' or 'no' referendum. I am sure most of Scotland would have opted for the 'Devolution Max' option had it been available. But that is politics and the 'Better Together' campaign won decisively. So the matter has been settled for now.... Or has it?
Let me be clear that the answer does not lie in another military strike against Gaza that kills hundreds of civilians on beaches and in hospitals as much as in hideaways and on the battleground, wreaks havoc, puts paid to all arguments about proportionality as I understand them from my law years and then concludes balefully with a ceasefire that is not unlike previous documents.
<center><em>Dear friends, please pray for me during my pilgrimage to the Holy Land.</em></center> With this pithy tweet, Pope Francis embarked last Saturday upon an intense three-day tour of the Holy Land that took him to Amman, Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
My title itself is an immediate challenge, if not also a contradiction of sorts, since each country echoes its different issues in a MENA jigsaw puzzle that is raddled with unholy alliances, rights' abuses, raw fears or bloody retributions!
Over the past three years, I have often commented on the events in Syria that have unfolded with cruel intensity. And during this period, I have also been struck by the sheer audacity of the regime and - later - by the barbarity of so-called <em>jihadist</em> elements that together have used the Syrian people as cannon fodder in pursuit of their objectives and interests.
Those who have become used to my written reflections over the past few years may well have wondered if I were going through an extended dry period. After all, my own <em>epektasis</em> web-site has been eerily quiet for the past ten weeks!
The months ahead will be <strong>very</strong> difficult that require wisdom, experience and perseverance - more so if the deal has less to do with achievements or mistakes and more with temporary respites that the parties might - or might not - pull off.
Forget what self-appointed experts might tell you or what political bureaucrats might suggest either! Just cast a quick look for yourself at the Middle East North Africa (MENA) map today. The inescapable conclusion - the revealing truth if you will - is that things are not going well at all. In fact, things are quite messy - and perilously so too.
The frightening alternative for this 30-month war will be that the macabre spectre will continue to haunt Syria, extend to its neighbouring countries, with more refugees, further radicalisation of society and a failed state not unlike Somalia.
04/10/2013 09:52 BST
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