You’ve likely heard about the escalating conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The former Soviet territories have reignited their 32-year struggle over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous territory of 150,000 people about the size of Delaware. The territory is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but it’s claimed and governed by ethnic Armenians. The two sides haven’t reached a lasting diplomatic resolution to the dispute since a war that killed 30,000 people or more ended in a 1994 ceasefire.
The violence that erupted in late September has continued and intensified between the two countries with multiple failed ceasefires. “A full-scale war has begun in the region,” reports an Open Doors representative for Central Asia. Ethnically, Armenians are Christians and Azerbaijani are Muslims. However, Azerbaijan also has a small Christian population, most of whom have converted from Islam. The religious background and dynamics are complex with underpinnings in the early 1990s.
Our Open Doors representative recently shared what’s happening today and how the church is responding. Below is her report:
“Almost every day several soldiers are killed, Yesterday more then 20 people were killed and 70 injured only from one district. Internet is completely blocked in the country. People can’t connect with anybody, can’t ask for help, can’t report what occurs now.
“All men under 55 in Azerbaijan are not allowed to leave the country, to make sure the army can be quickly mobilized. Young men have already been drafted to fight. We know of at least three believers from one church in Azerbaijan who are on the frontlines.
“The internet is completely blocked in Azerbaijan, and the authorities are not releasing information about victims. “It is prohibited to even mention or ask how many have been killed. Mass media offers no such information and they have no permission to speak about it. Only calls to ‘defend national interests’ are proclaimed from the screens and newspapers to motivate people to go to the war.
“Churches are distributing food to people in need near the front line. Two days ago, a group of believers delivering food missed being hit by a bomb by only 20 minutes. Though it’s very dangerous to serve in this way, churches said that it is also a good opportunity to share the gospel with people near the fighting.
“On the Armenian side, the situation is very similar—believers are fighting in the conflict. While politicians are arguing, civilians are suffering and dying. There are already many refugees from the districts close to the front lines. The situation is very bad and doesn’t show any signs of improving.”
People pray hiding from shelling in a church, in a self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The deadly confrontation between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed Armenian-dominated region of Karabakh has been ongoing since late September.
Photo: Iliya Pitalev / Sputnik via AP
PRAY WITH ARMENIAN AND AZERBAIJANI CHRISTIANS
- Pray for the authorities of two countries to find a compromise and stop the military clashes and senseless killings.
- Pray for the safety of Christians and that they will be able to meet together for fellowship, and that they will have the opportunity to share the hope and peace of Jesus with their neighbors.
- Pray Christians are able to give the reason for the hope they have within them (1 Pet. 3:15) with others around them.
- Pray that nationalism does not overshadow the love of Christ on both sides
- Pray that God intervenes and peace comes quickly.