Michael Brown on War-Torn Armenia Places a Heavy Weight on Churches

The conflict continues to rage in Armenia that has taken the lives of many soldiers and displaced over 100,000 people. All the while, the world keeps silent and prefers not to know about it. On Nov 10th a Russia-brokered peace deal has been agreed between Armenia and Azerbaijan. It brought to an end six weeks of war in which thousands of people were killed and displaced.

I just came back from Armenia and want to emphasize some basic facts about what is happening in this small and remote country.

First of all, we should acknowledge that although hostilities have ended with a ceasefire agreement, the humanitarian crisis is only getting worse. The terms of the peace are such that Armenia loses almost everything and people have nowhere to return to. Moreover, Armenia itself is completely under Russian control. This means that all Western and international organizations can face big problems. Protests against surrender are growing, and chaos is growing in the country.

Secondly, in these conditions, the role of the Church increases. People just have nowhere else to go. The church becomes the only place where people can be helped.

Thirdly, the Church is ready to help people but the Church itself needs help.  Evangelical churches of Armenia are very active but they are not and cannot be ready for such high numbers of refugees. Today is our chance to show Christian solidarity and help the Armenian Evangelical Church fulfill its mission in this difficult time. “Help us to help our people”, ask local pastors.

On my recent trip to Armenia (Oct 29th – Nov 7th) I had an opportunity to visit 12 evangelical churches and meet with many church ministers.  I heard it everywhere that Christians are also on the frontlines, on their very special front – the front of caring for those who have been affected by the conflict.

For a small Christian nation the conflict is not an issue of the territory, it’s of their survival. Refugees suffer because of lack of bread, roof over their heads, medicine and doctors’ help. Apart from that, the pandemic crisis is worsening. With all that happening, the churches have become the beacons of hope for scared and suffering people. They don’t do services on Sundays because of the coronavirus but they continue serving refugees every day sharing their bread and their homes as well as words of comfort and hope. Even before the war, more than 32% of the population lived below the poverty line. Now with the conflict raging on, these alarming rates are growing every day.

Asatur Nahapetyan, pastor and general secretary of the Baptist Union of Armenia, anticipates this conflict to linger and asks everyone to get ready for a hard winter. Over 100 families from Karabakh have been placed by Baptists in their homes and 42 people were accommodated in a conference hall in Razdan.

According to Suren, a pastor of a small Baptist church in Ararat, not only conference centers but many churches open their doors to welcome refugees. Due to quarantine, many church buildings are closed for attending services and are now used for taking in refugees.

The church with a symbolic name Noah’s Ark (in Ararat) is providing shelter for 40 people. At first, they were really afraid of Christians regarding them as sectarians but now they don’t want to leave. Pastor Araik says that people from Karabakh are not very religious and many of them still retain the Soviet spirit, but there are no atheists in trenches.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Brown