WCC and ecumenical community offer prayers for peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
Prayers for peace in Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas of Armenia and Azerbaijan were offered on 4 April in the chapel of the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland. Joining in the Geneva service of common prayer were staff from ecumenical and other international organizations including the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF).
The gathering was held at the same time as similar gatherings for prayer in Yerevan, Armenia and the Armenian Orthodox community in Antelias, Lebanon. These expressions of spiritual solidarity came in response to fresh outbreaks of military confrontation in Nagorno-Karabakh beginning on 1 April.
“Peace is our mission and message as Christians in the world,” said WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit in a statement from the Middle East. “It is essential that political and military leaders in the region respect the May 1994 ceasefire agreement in Nagorno-Karabakh and recommit themselves to dialogue. Every effort must be taken by the international community to hear the voices from the region, to de-escalate the tension and to protect civilian populations.”
Tveit also called on the OSCE Minsk Group “to act urgently to address and resolve the current escalation, and to work for a full and permanent peace in the region, respecting the aspirations of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.”
His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, led prayers in St Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in Yerevan. Patriarch Karekin II is one of the current presidents of the WCC.
In Lebanon, prayers were led by His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia, who served as Moderator of the WCC Central Committee from 1991 to 2006.
Patriarch Karekin II said in a statement on the fighting, “We strongly condemn the attacks by Azerbaijan along the border of Karabakh, which was also directed against settlements and civilians.” He prayed that the “spirit of brotherhood and unity, faith and the triumphant resurrection of our people will continue to build a peaceful life, enrich our country, keep it safe and its borders secure.”
Catholicos Aram I said, “This aggression against our people will be met as aggressions have always been met historically by our people: They will stay together and be united.” He urged Armenians everywhere to express their solidarity with the people of Nagorno-Karabakh concretely, praying for the souls of martyred soldiers and civilians.
On 9 February 1993, at the height of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a joint communiqué was issued by His Holiness Vazken I, the Supreme Patriarch-Catholicos of All Armenians, and HE Sheikh-ul-Islam Allahshukur Pasha-zadeh, Chairman of the Board of Caucasian Muslims, in which the two leaders called for the problems in the region to be solved “peacefully, with justice, through political means, in accordance with universally recognized international norms.”
They expressed concern “for the fate of our spiritual children and about the cruelty, evil and hatred which is driving them to actions against the will of God,” observing that “this is not a religious conflict. Armenian Christians and Azerbaijani Muslims have lived and will live in peace, with respect and good neighbourliness.”
Recalling this joint communiqué, Tveit affirmed these statements, saying “I find the 1993 message of the religious leaders of the two communities to be as relevant and important today as it was 23 years ago.”