Every word of God proves true;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Proverbs 30:5 NRSV
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) denounces the recent announcements from the government of Azerbaijan indicating that it plans to defile Armenian Christian monuments in the region of Nagorno-Karabagh and erase the evidence of their Armenian origin.
Since the early 1990s, Karabagh was governed as an independent Armenian republic, but in 2020 Azerbaijan attacked the region, waging a war that took the land as its own. As we know, this armed warfare displaced thousands of Armenians from their homes, which they lost along with hundreds of Armenian monuments.
In early February, the Azeri Minister of Culture announced his government would form in Azerbaijan a working group of experts in Albanian history and architecture that would be tasked with the goal of removing “false” traces left by Armenians on Albanian religious temples. The Culture Minister’s statement referenced a theory that Armenian inscriptions in churches on Azerbaijani territory are not original but were late additions to churches built under Caucasian Albania, an ancient Christian kingdom that ruled part of the territory that is today Azerbaijan. This theory has been broadly dismissed by mainstream scholars.
With full acknowledgement of the history of the Armenian Genocide of the early 20th century, the NCC cannot ignore this new threat to the Armenian people. We cannot turn a blind eye to the similarities in tactics employed in all historical genocides. To erase a people’s history is to erase their existence, and it betrays a disdain for their very lives and survival as a people.
With this overwhelming connection to the evil that has been unleashed in all genocides, the NCC affirms its solidarity with the people of Armenia against this threat to their very being through the destruction of their history. We stand in witness to the existence of their ancient Christian churches and condemn the decimation of their Christian heritage.
We once again demand that the Azerbaijani authorities allow United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) representatives to enter Armenian territories under their control, which they have refused to allow since the conflict in 2020. Experts must be permitted to take an inventory of significant cultural properties in order to begin safeguarding the region’s heritage. The formation of this working group in Azerbaijan makes the call to abide by the 1954 Convention for the Protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict even more immediate and imperative.
The NCC calls for prayers for our Christian brothers and sisters in Armenia during this menacing threat to their very existence in history.
May the Lord guide and protect the people of Armenia, solidify the memory of their ancestors’ faith, restore their lives in the region, and incline us to spread the truth about the monuments in Nagorno-Karabagh, so that these important sites and artifacts can be preserved for generations to come. In Christ we pray. Amen.