While Muslims in Azerbaijan consolidate their stranglehold on conquered Armenian territory, humanitarian aid to the area is being used to slow the process.
The president of Muslim-majority Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan met in Moscow Monday — their first face-to-face since the end of hostilities between their peoples on Nov. 9.
Church Militant has reported on the nearly seven-week conflict, which was sparked in September when Azerbaijan invaded the Republic of Artsakh — an Armenian enclave known to Azerbaijanis as Nagorno-Karabakh. The conflict ended in a tenable peace deal brokered by Russia.
The irony has not been lost on Armenians. It was under Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin that Armenia's historical lands in Artsakh were first gifted to Azerbaijan. Now, in the post-Soviet period, the international community rejects the right of the enclave's Armenian population to self-determination.
With military conflict halted for the moment, President Aliyev of Azerbaijan has vowed multiple times to "restore" Azerbaijan's heritage in Artsakh, which has historically been populated almost exclusively (90%) by Armenians.
Aliyev's "restoration" may include the construction of airports and railroads in the conquered territory and, as many Armenians fear, the destruction of Christian buildings or their conversion to secular or Muslim use.
Aliyev's actions follow historically validated methods of conquest. The most famous example in the West: the Norman Conquest of Britain, in which William the Conqueror invaded England and consolidated his rule after the Battle of Hastings and his coronation in London. He did so by giving land to those loyal to him and securing their possessions with motte-and-bailey castles across the land.
Even more historical examples come from the Turks themselves and their Muslim-Arab predecessors. Raymond Ibrahim's book, Sword and Scimitar, describes the 14th-century pattern. For example, the Seljuk Turks invaded Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) and won a resounding victory at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. Though the Turks failed to conquer Constantinople in the 11th century, they took over most of the region and established the Sultanate of Rum.
In war, the players that don't win it all take what they gain and build it up as their own. Reversals occurred back and forth due to the involvement of the Crusaders, the Mamelukes and the Mongols until finally, the Turks won it all in 1453 when Constantinople fell.
Armenians today are all too familiar with the concept that history never stops. They remember the plight of their grandparents during the Armenian Genocide of 1915, when 1.5 million Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians and others — all Christians — were slaughtered or driven out into arid regions of neighboring countries.
Humanitarian organization Christians in Need Foundation (CINF) is looking past the turmoil caused by the Wuhan virus and the attack by Azerbaijan to continue its work strengthening education and cultivating trade skills in the capital of Artsakh, Stepanakert.
CINF recognizes the need for the Armenian diaspora to support their homeland and has worked ambitiously to counter the growing power of Armenia's Turkic neighbors by focusing on improving the local economy.
CINF began in 2014 with an attempt to bring eight Syrian Christians into the United States for educational purposes; their visas were denied by the Obama administration.
Undeterred, CINF decided to go instead to the students of the Near and Middle East, beginning with Artsakh. Classes have been successful in teaching English and Italian to Armenian students in Artsakh in preparation to learn courses in the Practica Project. The Project promotes local business growth in various trades including hospitality, tailoring, cosmetology, ham and wine-making.
The onset of COVID-19 has moved preliminary courses online and increased construction costs by $250,000 for what will become its vocational school. More financial help is needed.
The project has already seen $30,000 worth of donated equipment for use by Italian artisans who will travel to Artsakh to give the students hands-on experience in a simulated restaurant, carpentry shop and hair salon.
CINF Executive Director Stephanie Havens shared with Church Militant why she is passionate about the organization's work:
CINF works through education to preserve ancient Christian communities such that they can independently sustain their communities and defend their traditions. Throughout the Middle and Near East, Christian communities with ancient roots are threatened, both physically by their neighbors and ideologically by progressivism.
Likewise, the ancient Christian communities throughout the Middle and Near East preserve many of the first traditions of Christianity. In many ways, they are our strongest link back to the origins of the Faith. We do what we do not only to protect these Christian communities, but also for the rest of the Western world. It is our hope that these ancient Christian communities will stand as models of the Christian faith, encouraging throughout the West, especially among the youth, a return to these traditions and values.
As Azerbaijan and its puppet master in Turkey greedily eye the remaining Armenian territory, Western nations are ignoring the jihadi expansion. The world ignored Hitler's increasing aggression until it was too late. A week prior to Hitler's invasion of Poland, he famously said, "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"
CINF knows Armenians' survival may depend on the skill of the people of Artsakh to live while cut off from foreign support.
For Havens and the rest at CINF, careful planning with Artsakh's minister of education will help ensure students and teachers are safe in September from the ever-morphing threats of viruses and terrorists alike.