From Nayiri Karjian, Association General Minister
October 5, 2023
I write this article because I cannot not write it.
I share the following paragraph from a colleague, Pastor Heather Ohaneson of Armenian Martyr’s Church UCC in Havertown, PA. “The pain of the Armenian genocide is searingly alive in the hearts of all Armenians this week, as we witness 120,000 Armenians forced to flee their homes in the ethnic enclave of Artsakh, escaping with little more than their lives. After a ten-month siege of the territory, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijani forces brutally and unexpectedly seized it; Russian peacekeepers stood aside, doing nothing to intervene. Among the losses – gone are their homes and livestock, their cemeteries and ancestral lands – are landmarks of ancient Christian heritage. These precious Christian sites include the fourth-century monastery Amaras and the thirteenth-century cathedral Gandzasar.”
Armenians are the first Christian nation, a nation that accepted Christianity as a state religion in the year 301. The land of Armenia is filled with old sanctuaries, monasteries and yes, a few pre-Christian historic pagan temples as well. The ancient city of Ani which is in present-day Turkey, almost adjacent to the border of Armenia and Turkey, was known as the “city of 1,001 Churches.” Today, Ani is a haunting, iconic historic site with ruined yet beautiful church buildings, cave chapels, and more.
Today, the genocide begun against Armenia by Ottomans in 1915, continues at the hand of the state of Azerbaijan. The Armenian enclave of Nagorno Karabakh, known to Armenians as Artsakh, was recaptured by Azerbaijan in late 2020. In 2001, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey reached an agreement on oil and gas pipelines linking Caspian fields with Turkey. Today, in 2023, Azerbaijan continues the Genocide, the death march, Ottomans began in 1915. The indigenous people of Artsakh have been forced out. Homes and families have been destroyed. Armenia continues to receive people as they arrive.
I write this as a lament, not really knowing what to say. When we tell stories, we do so for the purpose of learning, sharing and hoping that the anguish we impose on one another will “never happen again.” I learned a long time ago that “never again” is quite meaningless in this world where humans value money, power and status above all else. So, what can I say or do? I only know that I am, along with all Armenians, especially those of us in diaspora, heartbroken and crushed, because we fear more of the same is yet to come.
So I lament. I continue to tell the story. I weep. I share, I raise concern with our political representatives and monitor news on the region. There is a real fear that Azerbaijan will attack the country of Armenia next.
Our Global Ministries UCC/DOC has been raising concern, writing letters, working with the World Council of Churches, who sent representatives to visit the area, and partner churches. The Armenian Missionary Association of America, the mission ministry of the Armenian Protestant Church, founded in the aftermath of the genocide, is on the ground in Armenia, responding to today’s refugees’ dire needs for housing, food, medication, counseling, and more. There are many others helping, caring, feeding and healing. Yes, God is at work in the midst of this death. And, we don’t lose hope, for we are the people of God who understands death, who grieves with us, wipes our tears and raises the dead, always gifting us with new life.