In a remote part of the world, a grave situation is unfolding, affecting one of the world’s oldest Christian communities.
This community resides in Nagorno-Karabakh, an area marked by longstanding religious and ethnic tensions. In 2020, these tensions erupted into a violent conflict, resulting in significant casualties and territorial changes.
Nagorno-Karabakh, though internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, is primarily inhabited by ethnic Armenians. The roots of this conflict trace back to the early 20th century but intensified following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. To quell the hostilities, Russia brokered a ceasefire agreement in November 2020 and deployed Russian peacekeeping troops to monitor the situation. However, with Russia currently preoccupied with its conflict in Ukraine, its monitoring of Nagorno-Karabakh has waned.
Azerbaijan has seized this opportunity to renew actions initiated in 2020. Starting in July 2023, they have imposed a blockade on the sole road leading to Nagorno-Karabakh, known as the Lanchin corridor. This blockade has led to severe shortages of food, medicine, and electricity in the region.
Turkey, a NATO member with ambitions for global influence, has been a steadfast supporter of its ally, Azerbaijan, both militarily and diplomatically. Strong cultural, ethnic, and religious ties, as well as economic interests like oil and gas exports, have solidified their alliance. Turkey’s lack of diplomatic relations with Armenia, coupled with a sealed border dating back to 1993, reflects the historical animosity stemming from the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks over a century ago.
Despite historical evidence, Turkey denies these events as a genocide. While Armenia and Russia do not share a border, Armenia remains a close ally of Russia, hosting a significant Russian military base with approximately 3,000 soldiers. This base serves as a critical deterrent against a potential Turkish invasion. However, with Russia’s current focus on Ukraine, it is unable to effectively monitor and intervene in Nagorno-Karabakh, leaving the vulnerable Armenian Christian community at risk.
There are concerns that the ultimate goal is to erase this ancient Christian population, mirroring the unfortunate fate faced by many Christian communities in the Middle East.
As we reflect on the tragic events of 9/11 in the United States, it’s crucial to remember that these events had far-reaching consequences globally. Arab Christian communities, with roots tracing back to the early days of Christianity, have played vital roles in various fields. However, since 9/11, they have encountered unprecedented challenges and devastation.
The fallout began with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, leading to instability across the region, commonly referred to as the “Arab Spring.” Attempts to impose democracy inadvertently fueled conflicts, extremist groups, and guerrilla warfare. The breakdown of law and order created an environment where religious minorities, including Arab Christians, became targets of violence.
Suspicion grew, further marginalizing Arab Christians and subjecting them to discrimination and persecution. To escape the dangerous environment, many Arab Christians chose to leave their ancestral homelands in search of safety and opportunities elsewhere. This mass migration has led to the decline of once-vibrant Christian communities in the Middle East.
Countless churches and religious sites have been damaged or destroyed, leaving Arab Christians without places of worship and symbols of their faith. Economic stability has also eroded, leading to unemployment and poverty among these communities.
The destruction of Christian communities, such as the one in Nagorno-Karabakh, is a tragedy with profound global consequences. These communities, which have safeguarded their faith and heritage for centuries, now face extinction in various parts of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. The events of September 11, 2001, and their aftermath have exacerbated these challenges, escalating religious tensions, regional instability, and mass migration.
Regrettably, the United States and its European allies have done little to protect these vulnerable communities. While the United Nations issues statements condemning blockades and attacks, there has been a lack of concrete action, such as sanctions or diplomatic consequences for aggressors.
It is imperative that both international and local efforts be undertaken to safeguard and support these at-risk communities. This involves addressing the root causes of instability, promoting religious tolerance, and providing assistance to the displaced. The preservation of Arab Christian communities transcends cultural and religious heritage; it stands as a testament to the importance of coexistence in an increasingly less tolerant and diverse world.
This is a developing story, and we will continue to monitor the situation closely for updates.