HOSTILITIES ESCALATE BETWEEN AZERBAIJAN AND ARMENIA
One of the world’s longest-running territorial disputes in the Caucasus Mountains was reignited after 20 people died on 12 July in fighting on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. It was not immediately clear what caused the violence, but both countries accused each other of reigniting the hostilities. Located between the Black and Caspian Seas, the Caucasus nations sit on a volatile, geo-strategic, ethn0-religious ‘fault-line’ between three powers: Turkey, Iran, and Russia. Over recent decades, oil and gas pipeline politics has dramatically raised the stakes and tensions in the region. Should war erupt in the South Caucasus (specifically between Armenians and Azerbaijan) it would likely take on regional dimensions, with Russia backing Armenia, and Turkey backing Azerbaijan. The much-disputed Nagorno Karabakhan is an Armenian Christian enclave in Turkic Muslim Azerbaijan. Although it was historically, culturally, and demographically Armenian (94.5 percent), Azerbaijan claimed the mountainous territory as its own in 1918 which resulted in war between the two nations. Clashes ensued in the years that followed, but a ceasefire in 1994 froze the conflict. Renewed violence in 2016 and now, in 2020 does not bode well, especially with an emboldened Turkey flexing its military ‘muscles’ in multiple arenas (Libya, Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere).
From a Christian perspective, Armenian Christian communities in countries such as Turkey and Azerbaijan – where the legacy of the Ottoman Empire’s eradication of Christian minorities remains central to modern nation-building – face ongoing harassment, intimidation, and incitement to violence. The experience of being Armenian in Azerbaijan is said to be tantamount to “committing a criminal act”. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance found that hateful ‘Armenophobic’ propaganda has become so deeply institutionalised since Azerbaijan’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 that many Azerbaijanis have grown up hearing nothing but discriminatory rhetoric against the Armenian people. Between 1997 and 2006, Azerbaijan engaged in the destruction of 89 medieval Armenian churches. An escalation in hostilities threatens one of the world’s oldest and most vibrant Christian communities in a region where the Christian faith has been under assault on a number of fronts.
Pray with us for the following:
- For a decisive breakthrough in the region, that full-blown war is averted
- For the Lord to strengthen believers in Azerbaijan to remain steadfast and resilient in the face of rising pressures
- For believers to display Christ to their hostile ‘neighbours’
Image: Armenia Now