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ARMENIA SEEKS OPPORTUNITIES TO BOLSTER ECONOMY AND REGIONAL COOPERATION

Armenia

On Saturday 17 July, Armenia’s constitutional court rejected an appeal challenging the results of the 20 June snap parliamentary elections. The office of prime minister will be returned to acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, whose party won 71 parliamentary seats, leaving 29 seats to a bloc led by former president, Robert Kocharyan, and seven seats to a bloc headed by another ex-president, Serzh Sargsyan. Mr Pashinyan had called the early elections after months of protests demanding his resignation following a seemingly unfavourable peace agreement signed with Azerbaijan in November to end six weeks of fighting over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region. Domestic political instability, coupled with COVID-19 outbreaks, have contributed significantly to the sharp economic contraction, increased poverty, and fiscal deterioration Armenia has experienced. Recent discussions, therefore, aimed to promote deeper international cooperation in the South Caucasus region, hold some promise for Armenia’s economic recovery. Turkey has spearheaded talks to establish an ‘International Intermediate Infrastructure Corridor Initiative’ that would include Armenia, which could generate much-needed income for the country, create business opportunities, help diversify energy supplies and even foster greater security and peace. Armenia has also recently attracted many visitors from surrounding countries since making free coronavirus vaccines available to foreign visitors. There has been a particularly massive influx of ‘vaccination tourists’ from neighbouring Iran, which has the highest death toll in the Middle East but a vaccination rate of less than 2% of its population. Armenia was already a popular holiday destination for Iranians, but the government’s recent decision to require a 10-day minimum stay in Armenia to receive the free jabs is expected to boost its tourism sector.

FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE – ARMENIA

POPULATION: 2.9 MILLION CHRISTIAN: 92.5%
EVANGELICAL: 9.18%
UNREACHED GROUPS: 4 (1.8% of pop.)

The vaccination of foreign visitors is not only an opportunity to boost Armenia’s struggling economy but increases the Armenian Church’s opportunities to share the gospel with foreign visitors, especially those from its Muslim-majority neighbour, Iran. However, while the opportunity for connection is greater, obstacles to effective communication remain, such as the language barrier between most Iranians and Armenians. An Armenian pastor suggested that a more effective tool – not only for evangelism but for sustainable and fruitful discipleship – may involve strengthened partnerships between churches and mission organisations in Armenia with those in Iran, which Iranians in Armenia could be directed towards. In several ways, the freedom of religion, expression and association that exists in Armenia is a form of God’s provision to the Church in Iran, where these freedoms are lacking, and Christians are persecuted. In this testing season, the larger Body of Christ can pray for protection against division and deception, so that believers will be able to utilise the opportunities for the advancement of God’s kingdom, both within its borders and in the larger region.

Please pray with us for the following:

  • For the new government and its leadership to make wise decisions, and that the potential economic opportunities – both the ‘corridor’ and vaccine tourism – will lead to economic growth
  • For Armenians to reach out to their Iranian visitors and for cross-border partnerships between mission organisations and churches in the neighbouring countries to be strengthened
  • For unity and a clear shared vision within the Armenian Church; and an anointed discernment

 

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File image: REUTERS/Vahram Baghdasaryan

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