The government announced on Thursday largely
symbolic changes in its plans to introduce mandatory
social security accounts for Armenia's citizens
which prompted religiously motivated objections
from the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Under the scheme approved by parliament last
year, every Armenian national will be given a
lifetime "individual code" that will
contain information about their incomes and social
security contributions. Government officials say
it is essential for combating tax evasion and
embarking on a radical overhaul of the country's
But according to the quasi-official church and
some of its passionate adherents, the very idea
of attaching a particular number to a human being
runs counter to the basic tenets of Christianity.
Citing excerpts from the Bible, they have sought
to portray it as a diabolic and sinful undertaking.
Their campaign has gathered momentum recently,
putting government officials on the defensive.
The government's changes, unveiled by Social
Security Minister Aghvan Vartanian, amount to
renaming "individual codes" into encoded
"social security cards." "The numbers
will be given to the cards, not the individuals,"
he explained. "The number of a card will
be unique and unchangeable."
Vartanian said the changes have been approved
by the leadership of the Apostolic Church and
will enter into force after Armenia's government-controlled
National Assembly passes corresponding amendments
to the Law on Individual Codes. He said the government
has also agreed to make sure that no social security
account carries the "diabolic" number
666 mentioned in the New Testament.