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Armenians Fight to Hold Ancient Homeland Within Azerbaijan

Armenians Fight to Hold Ancient Homeland Within Azerbaijan
Is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict a Christian-Muslim conflict, or simply politics?

Armenians Fight to Hold Ancient Homeland Within Azerbaijan
Fierce fighting has broken out in the Caucasus Mountains between the Caspian and Black Seas, pitting Christian Armenians versus Muslim Azeris.

But is it right to employ their religious labels?

"Early Sunday morning [Sept. 27], I got a call from our delegate in the capital city [Stepanakert]," said Harout Nercessian, the Armenia agent for the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA).

"He said they are besieging Stepanakert. It is a war."

One week later, the battling proceeds. In question is command over the Armenian-dominant part enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, home to 170,000 individuals in a Delaware-sized precipitous locale inside Azerbaijan.

Over 200 people have reportedly died, however Azerbaijan has not released its number of casualties.

Administered by ethnic Armenians since the time a truce was proclaimed in 1994, local people consider the area the Republic of Artsakh. Military encounters have not been surprising. There have been over 300 occurrences since 2015, according to the International Crisis Group.

This escalation is the most serious since 2016, with Azerbaijani powers assaulting numerous positions along the 120-mile "line of contact."

In any case, the shelling of civilian areas speaks to a troubling turn of events.

As does the part of Turkey—and the Syrian assailants it supposedly enrolled—which has swore full help for Azerbaijan.

Russia, France, and the United States—accomplices in the "Minsk Group" that has directed arrangements between the two countries since 1992—have called for a prompt truce.

Yet, Turkey has supported Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev's refusal, making a truce conditional on a complete withdrawal of all Armenian powers so as to reestablish the Caspian country's territorial integrity.

Muddling matters further has been the contested sending of Syrian militants. Denied by Azerbaijan and Turkey, a few news sources have revealed their enrollment from Turkish-held territories, and their organization—even passings—along the line of contact.

This legitimizes Armenian endeavors to purge Azerbaijan of "fear based oppressors," said a Nagorno-Karabakh official, even external the contested area.

Turkey's contribution has stirred the most noticeably terrible feelings of trepidation—or perhaps rhetoric—among Armenians.

"The Turkish state, which keeps on denying the past," said Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, "is once again venturing down a genocidal path."

The rhetoric of Turkish President Recep Erdogan doesn't help. He marked Armenia “the biggest threat to peace” in the region. Previously, he has called Armenians and other Christians in Turkey “leftovers of the sword,” alluding to the individuals who endure the massacre—a term he dismisses.

Azerbaijanis, majority Shiite Muslim by religion, are the world's second-biggest Turkic ethnic group after the majority Sunni Turks in Turkey. The groups describe their relationship as "two states, one country."

The most recent escalation has Armenians anxious.

"We comprehend this is an existential issue, not only a war," said Hovhannes Hovsepian, minister of the Evangelical Church of Armenia in Yerevan, Armenia's capital.

"We never really heighten the situation, or take the land of our neighbours. We are for peace—however now and again you need to battle for it."

The conflict goes back over 30 years—or maybe 100.

As per global agreement, Nagorno-Karabakh is Azerbaijani region. UN goals have approached all "possessing powers" to pull back.

In 1987, Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh appealed to the USSR to add the district to the Armenian Soviet Republic. While solidifying the Caucasus during the 1920s, Stalin set it under Azerbaijani control, pacifying Turkey.

Both when freedom in 1991, Armenians and Azeris occupied with segment fights. More than 30,000 individuals were slaughtered, and 1,000,000 displaced. The two countries traded around 250,000 individuals as minority bunches were removed or fled to their ethnic-and strict greater part countries.

A large number of minority Azeris left Nagorno-Karabakh. Its Armenian populace announced autonomy in 1992, while Armenia possesses the land in the middle of to connect with its own domain.

“All wars have an evil side,” said Paul Haidostian, president of the evangelical Armenian Haigazian University in Beirut, Lebanon.

"Yet, profoundly, as significant as lawful limits are for the world request, they are just a single norm. Self-assurance, respect, and the 1,700-year Christian declaration of a land are likewise significant."

In formerly Armenian-held land, Azerbaijan has decimated 6th century khachkars, resplendently cut tombstones from a Christian cemetery, as indicated by reports. Muslim social legacy was additionally obliterated in the contention, however a few mosques were questionably revamped by Armenians.

In spite of the fact that Azerbaijan denies the khachkar decimation, Haidostian fears likewise for the legacy of old chapels and religious communities in Nagorno-Karabakh—and even a slaughter, if Azeris recover control.

In the interim, he said the Armenian diaspora in the Levant is united in help—and support.

“Armenians feel this is a continuation of the annihilating policies of pan-Turkism,” Haidostian said.

"Each inch is to be secured."

However, the cover of religion, identity, and legislative issues makes some awkward.

"The Armenians have learned they get Western help by making this conflict about Christians and Muslims," said Johnnie Moore, an individual from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom who has actually gone habitually to Azerbaijan with a Jewish rabbi.

"Armenia is aligned with Russia and Iran. This isn't as basic as individuals are making it."

Moore, leader of the Congress of Christian Leaders, said he has stressed with his nearby contacts the requirement for a quick truce and negotiated settlement before the circumstance spirals out of control.

However, he likewise applauded Azerbaijan as a model for peaceful coexistence between religions. Its minority Sunni Muslims, who make 15 percent out of the number of inhabitants in 10 million, cooperate with the majority Shiites, while Christians number 3 percent of the populace. Meanwhile, 12,000 Jews continue with their community's long presence there.

Furthermore, Azerbaijan speaks to the essential link for trade and energy among Europe and Asia, Moore stated, bypassing Russia and Iran. A short military erupt this late spring occurred not along the "line of contact," yet 190 miles away in Armenia's north, closest the oil and gas pipelines.

A few experts state that Russia—which offers weapons to the two sides—is permitting this escalation to linger so as to pressure Armenia's liberalizing government. Others state Turkey is playing in Russia's patio, as a message to Moscow to yield in Syria.

Azerbaijan, meanwhile, has seen its territorial force develop since submitting to the 1994 Minsk Group settlement that left Armenians in charge of Nagorno-Karabakh. Its oil and gas incomes prompted a 20-fold increment in military spending somewhere in the range of 2004 and 2014, which is two times Armenia's entire state budget.

Azerbaijan, meanwhile, has seen its territorial force develop since submitting to the 1994 Minsk Group settlement that left Armenians in charge of Nagorno-Karabakh. Its oil and gas incomes prompted a 20-fold increment in military spending somewhere in the range of 2004 and 2014, which is two times Armenia's entire state budget.

Many of the Shiite nation’s weapons are imported from Israel, including the “kamikaze” drones that have brought high-tech warfare to the conflict. Armenia has withdrawn its ambassador from Tel Aviv in protest.

Amid the complicated geopolitical realities, should evangelicals simply support the Christians?

“Absolutely,” said Nercessian.

The pipeline is a minor issue, he said. Armenia must be allied with Russia as it is the regional power broker. And in the early 1990s, with borders closed by Christian Georgia and Sunni Turkey, it was Shiite Iran that supplied Armenia with needed fuel.

“Politics is about national interests and calculations, not moral or spiritual principles,” he said.

“But if the church in America will not support the Christian nation, however nominal, who will they support?”

No one, said Moore. As this is a conflict over land—not religion—it is best to stay neutral and urge both sides to negotiate.

Azerbaijan is willing, he believes.

“Christians shouldn’t instinctually support Armenia just because it is a majority-Christian country,” he said. Doing so could strengthen Iran, while Azerbaijan is allied with Israel.

“This conflict needs to be turned down, and not given oxygen by religious passions.”

There is much of that in Lebanon, with its sizable Armenian minority, said Martin Accad, chief academic officer at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut. His social media has been flooded with statements of support.

Accad said he has not studied the issue sufficiently to weigh between the two nations, though he notes with concern the Syrian militants reportedly developed by Turkey.

But he advises a different measure of judgment.

“We are called to support the just cause, not a common religious or cultural belonging,” he said. “Otherwise it is just tribal sectarianism.

“Still, I can only imagine the psychological impact upon Armenians, given their history [of genocide] a century ago.”

Armenia was the first nation to accept Christianity, in A.D. 301. While only 1 percent evangelical today, 93 percent of its population of 3 million belong to the Armenian Orthodox Church.

The AMAA, established in 1918 to assist genocide survivors in the Ottoman Empire, today operates in 24 countries. Its largest missionary outreach is in Armenia, where it began work following a 1988 earthquake that killed 60,000 people.

But the evangelical movement began far earlier, when an 1860s revival spread through Anatolia to reach even into the Nagorno-Karabakh mountains. Today the region has one Armenian Evangelical church and three Christian education centers, with 22 churches in Armenia proper.

“Our main mission is to reach the people and spread the gospel,” Hovsepian said. His church in Yerevan serves over 200 families.

Relations of late are good with the Orthodox “mother church,” with whom they cooperate in the Bible Society. But while the nation has experienced some revival along with a renewed focus on Christian education, there is still a lack of emphasis on the Scriptures.

So while the younger Hovsepian waits for a phone call drafting him into the army, Nercessian scrambles to answer the phone calls reaching out for assistance. Whether a political or a religious conflict, it is hitting a Christian nation.

“We are a small enclave of spiritual light in a dark region,” said the AMAA missionary. “We were there, we are there, and we will be there still.”

Culled from https://www.christianitytoday.com/...

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