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Why Does Armenia Matter?

This weeks Christan Today article – with the title they gave….

Will the West abandon Armenians like they did Iraq’s Kurds and Christians?

(Photo: Google Maps)
It doesn’t really matter does it? Write a column about Joe Biden’s dog or Donald Trump’s tweets, or the latest church leader to resign for ‘personal reasons’ and it seems that Christians will lap it up. Or perhaps something more personal? How to make money? Have a better relationship? Deal with your inner demons? But why should anyone really care about what is happening in a seemingly far-off region in the South Caucasus? A renewed war in Nagorno-Karabakh is hardly worth a second glance for any who are not directly involved – is it?

Well – yes, it is. There are many reasons why Christians especially should be concerned about the hostility between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the area of Nagorno-Karabakh. Allow me to explain why.

Nagorno-Karabakh is an area within the country of Azerbaijan with a population of some 170,000 people, the majority of whom are Armenians. For the past three decades it has been an autonomous region calling itself the Republic of Artsakh. This is part of a centuries old conflict between the Islamic, oil-rich country of Azerbaijan and the smaller Christian country of Armenia.

For the past few weeks Azerbaijan has attacked Nagorno-Karabakh and after a successful campaign, supported by Turkey, a ceasefire brokered by Russia has been signed which has resulted in the conquered areas being ‘returned’ to Azerbaijan. So why should we be concerned?

Firstly, because all wars create death, disease and destruction. As Christians we want ‘wars to cease, and peace on earth’. It is estimated that more than 2,000 civilians and soldiers have been killed in the latest outbreak of fighting.

The First Christian Nation

Then there is the fact that Armenia was the first nation in the world to officially adopt Christianity as the state religion (in 301 AD). The tradition is that the Armenian Apostolic church was founded by two of Christ’s apostles, Thaddeus and Bartholomew. The church has remained for the past 1,800 years.

Armenia itself only has a population of three million but there are millions of Armenians spread all over the world – here in Australia where I live there are around 50,000. Russia has 2.5 million, the US 400,000. Famous people with Armenian heritage include Andre Agassi, Cher, Steve Jobs, Garry Kasparov, Alain Prost, Kim Kardashian and Gladys Berejiklian, the New South Wales Premier.

Armenians have also been successful in business, medicine and academia throughout the world. The reason for this diaspora is because of the genocide committed by the Turks between 1915 and 1920 when between 1 and 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered. The word ‘genocide’ was first used by a Polish lawyer in 1943 to describe what happened to the Armenians. Today it is such a sensitive subject that in Turkey, it is illegal to use the term to describe the massacres.

The New Ottoman Empire

Which brings us back to why we should be concerned about this latest war. In 2018, President Erdogan of Turkey met with President Aliyev of Azerbaijan and promised to help him retake Nagorno-Karabakh. With the West and Russia losing interest, Erdogan struggling with the economy at home, and Azerbaijan being cash rich because of oil, they took the opportunity. With the help of Turkish planes, and a Turkish foreign legion consisting largely of Syrian Jihadis, the Azerbaijanis had a quick victory – which was only stopped when Russia brokered the peace deal.

The whole situation is not resolved and indeed is very dangerous. Erdogan has been emboldened by his success. Turkish newspapers speak of ‘victory in the Caucasus’ and how, for the first time since the Ottoman Empire, the Turks have been able to free ‘Muslim’ lands from the ‘infidels’.

The Turkish Parliament voted to let Erdogan send Turkish forces to Azerbaijan after the ceasefire. There are reports that Erdogan is sending families from the areas of Syria that Turkey has occupied, in order to populate the conquered areas of Nagorno-Karabakh – where the local population have fled. Even more destabilising is that Erdogan has already said that he wants to use his Muslim Brotherhood militias to ‘liberate’ more Muslim lands such as Dagestan, Chechnya and to wipe out Armenia and replace it with the Iravan Khanate.

In another little heralded development, the result of this short war is that Iran has lost its border with Armenia and once again has Russia, in the form of peacekeeping troops, as a neighbour. The whole area is a powder keg.

This affects the West because Erdogan is using a lot of anti-Western rhetoric and supporting a group called the Grey Wolves – a Turkish nationalist group named by the EU as a terrorist group – who want to see a Turkish empire stretching from the Balkans to Central Asia.

The West’s Betrayal

We never seem to learn. The Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, was encouraged by the EU, UK, USA and NATO to loosen Armenia’s traditional ties with Russia and adopt a more Western democratic approach. But when he was attacked and asked for help, we did nothing. The secretary general of NATO even stated that “NATO is not part of this conflict, Armenia and Azerbaijan are both allies of NATO”.

It appears as though the West is prepared to encourage change in volatile regions like the Middle East, and then, once we have no further use for the ‘enemies of our enemies’ we abandon them – witness what happened to the Kurds and the Iraqi Christians. This has had dreadful consequences for the Christian minorities in these areas.

I have been speaking to Armenian friends here in Sydney and they are distraught. Little wonder. There have been videos of killings by Azerbaijani soldiers, the torture of captured Armenian soldiers, and the desecration of centuries old churches and monasteries – with the cries of ‘Allah Akbar’ ringing out from church steeples.

Doubtless there will be tales of Armenian atrocities and cruelty – war brings out the worst in all peoples – but no amount of ‘whatabouterry’ should cause us to shrug our shoulders and walk on by. We must at least speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves. Our church leaders seem able to speak on many issues with ‘moral’ authority and certitude. I hope they remember that Armenian lives matter too (and Azerbaijani).Pray for our brothers and sisters in Armenia. Pray that the ‘peace’ will last. And pray that those who seek to enforce their religion through war would be stopped.

Quantum 121 – O Happy Day

A Tale of Two Buildings – the Hagia Sophia and the Free Church Manse – CT

The 10 Greatest Threats to Democracy Today – CT

 

11 comments

  1. Surely US and Europe set the precedent to intervene by attacking Serbia to allow the muslim majority to take control of Kosovo without UN sanction. I understand NATO still has peacekeepers in Kosovo so the will is there.

  2. Fundamentally, there is a war between Islam and Christianity; they are diametrically opposed. You just cannot get away from that central fact. What happened in 2015 was mass killing, a precursor to the Holocaust and no wonder Turkey wishes to keep it quiet. Armenia is a beacon of hope in a dark region.

    Secondly Erdogan wishes to re-create the Ottoman Empire with a Caliph, presumambly with himself at the Sultan (or Caliph).

    He is a destabilising figure and will despite being in NATO do whatever it takes to achieve his goals. A very dangerous situation.

  3. “There are many reasons why Christians especially should be concerned.” I have no doubt that what you say is true about this David. It’s a symptom of a fallen world.

    “This is part of a centuries old conflict between the Islamic, oil-rich country of Azerbaijan and the smaller Christian country of Armenia.”

    OK not dissimilarly, there was the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in the early 1990’s leading to two wars in the region spearheaded by the UK and America, leading to destabilisation of the area, the rise of ISIS and dwindling numbers of Christians, Where Christians were in a better position under the Sadam Hussain regime.

    So what are we to do with this “concern”? OK Jesus came to release the oppressed. And from what you say, it seems the oppressed in this case is Armenia.

    OK so we can pray but then faith without works is dead faith. So what will I do, what will you do? What will the west do? Military intervention? I’ve served my time for queen and country in the Royal Air Force at the time of the first Gulf War.

    “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet” (Matt 24:6). It seems that obedience to Jesus requires that we not be troubled. That would be a good starting place.

    1. Hi Adam,

      I am an Armenian and a committed follower of Christ. The west could have immediately imposed a arms embargo during the conflict. Turkey was knee-deep in this war. Turkey and Azeris armed themselves up to their necks with Canadian, British, Israelis, and French technologies and weaponry in preparation for this war. Azeris spent billions on a massive PR engine by creating “both sides” blame narratives. (The Guardians covered this in detail). I agree military intervention will not work. But with the combination of immediate arms embargo and war crime indictments could have at least scared the Azeri president, Maybe it could have halted the war for a better dialogue. ( BTW a German fellow created a non-graphic video about the war crimes the Azeris committed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zQkScBmd98).

      There are extensive videos on Azerbaijani war crimes. The pieces of evidence for these clips are growing. What’s most disturbing is that the perpetrators of these war crimes are the ones sharing the evidence.

      In the US, the Christians could have played a better lobbying role with Trump (as he was supposed to care about their votes) – but in general, most US Christians were busy tackling the SJW fights. EU should have been very clear with its message on the consequences of Azerbaijan-Turkey-jihadists aggression against Artsakh (AKA Nagorno-Karabakh).

      I still believe the west is the only entity that can provide a moral compass without any military intervention. Certainly, the Chinese, the Russians, nor the Indians can’t fill this gap.

      Individually, a few independent journalists and ex-soldiers traveled to Artsakh and tried to provide a better narrative about this war’s gruesome aspect and the cost of the innocent people dying on both fronts.

      1. I’m not sure of the following point is part of what you’re referring to under the rubric of a “”both sides” blame narrative”, Peter? (Incidentally, I would appreciate a link to the Guardian article you’re referring to!)

        But NUMEROUS reports I’ve seen on the subject (the one referenced below is merely the first one which a simple google search turned up!) ALL mention that the Armenians drove HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of Azeris from their homes nearly 30 years ago (whom I assume, have never been allowed to return until now):

        “Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but populated by ethnic Armenians who reject Azerbaijani rule and run the territory as a de facto independent state. After the Soviet Union collapsed, a war broke out that ended in 1994 when Armenia forced out Azerbaijan’s troops and occupied several territories around the enclave, displacing hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis in the process.”

        https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/news-feature/2020/11/5/nagorno-karabakh-armenia-azerbaijan-conflict-humanitarian-impact

        –So even though I also very much side with and am partial to the Armenians, it nevertheless seems like this is also very much a case of: “what goes around comes around!”; Jesus also instructed us to “do unto others as you would have others do unto you!”…

  4. Don’t forget System of a Down! yes it’s disturbing watching Erdogan create such chaos and get away with so much, including imprisoning his own people.

  5. Thank you for the article, David. My mother was Armenian (born in a refugee camp as my grandparents had fled the 1915 genocide. She regularly told us stories of courage and faith from the genocide period, she also taught us to show love to our enemies. We should be praying for the terrible situation for the refugees returning to their nation where there are freezing winter conditions, poverty and hunger. We can help by supporting ministries such as Armenian Ministries that provide clothing, food, fuel, as well as Bibles and gospel books for the people. I am not sure how effective it is to lobby politicians but surely we should try.

  6. Some years ago , as guest at a formal dinner, I heard a similarly alliterative toast : ” What this country needs is Restitution , Constitution and Pros (perity )”.

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