PARAMUS, NJ– Since the 44-day war of Artsakh, the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA) has organized several Pray+Act for Armenia and Artsakh Zoom events. These Zoom events have allowed AMAA members and friends to stay current on the ongoing situation in the homeland, to come together to pray for their brothers and sisters living in Armenia and Artsakh and to learn how they can help support them in their time of great need and suffering. Over 125 viewers have participated in the most recent two Zoom events of the year which were held on Saturday, January 7, 2023, and on Saturday, February 4, 2023. Two more Zoom events are currently scheduled for Saturday, March 11 and Saturday, April 1.
Artsakh has been under a full blockade by Azerbaijan for over two months resulting in an ongoing humanitarian crisis. A total of 120,000 people have been affected to date with over 16,000 people being displaced.
There is an acute shortage of food caused by the blockade, an intentional disruption of gas and electricity, an absence of heat and hot water, a high risk of malnutrition and starvation, lack of proper and necessary health care and shortages of medication, baby formula and hygiene supplies. Businesses and schools have been shut down, and infrastructure has been deliberately attacked.
In January, State Minister of Artsakh Ruben Vardanyan, Advisor to the State Minister of Artsakh Artak Beglaryan and AMAA Representative in Artsakh Viktor Karapetyan participated in the Zoom meeting and reported on the current situation due to the blockade.
Vardanyan thanked the AMAA for its ongoing support and spoke about the general situation and expectations from friends and compatriots of the Diaspora. “Despite the challenges that we are facing, it is definitely a unique time for our nation to become more unified,” he said. Vardanyan reported on the status of Artsakh and emphasized the shortage of basic necessities, food, medicines, interruptions of electricity and gas supplies, as well as families who have been separated. “Despite all these challenges, the Artsakh people are showing strong character, and they resist and fight for their independence,” he said.
Vardanyan also spoke about the ongoing negotiations to pressure Azerbaijan to end the blockade. He encouraged Diaspora Armenians to be more organized and consistent in trying to convince international humanitarian organizations to put pressure on their governments and sanctions on Azerbaijan. “We are facing an existential crisis, as we are fighting for our own life and the blockade is just one small element of the pressure by the enemy,” concluded Vardanyan. He urged all to “pray for fairness of our society, trust in our leaders and trust in the future, because if we don’t see the future, we don’t trust our leaders and the future, it doesn’t matter how much money we raise, or how much food we bring in, we will continue to lose against our enemies.”
Beglaryan also thanked the AMAA for its ongoing prayers and efforts for Artsakh. “The main thing we need is to be unified and to have unified efforts to tackle this issue. This is not a short-term problem, but the continuation of a long-term problem,” said Beglaryan. “We need to be unified to overcome this phase and to prevent new and more brutal phases.”
In his report, Karapetyan said, “Despite the ongoing blockade and the difficult situation in Artsakh, AMAA continues to operate our office in Artsakh, as well as our kindergartens and Shogh day centers. Our kindergartens are the only ones that remain open, and our team in Artsakh continues to reach out and help those in need. Together, with Armenia, together with the Diaspora, together we will find the path through liberation… for the bright future of our people.”
During the February 4 Zoom event, following the opening comments and welcome from AMAA executive director and CEO Zaven Khanjian, reports were presented on the blockade and current conditions in Artsakh by Human Rights Ombudsman of the Republic of Artsakh Gegham Stepanyan, AMAA Artsakh Representative Viktor Karapetyan, AMAA Armenia Representative Aren Deyirmenjian and AMAA Armenia Director of Strategic Initiatives Lusine Ohanyan.
Stepanyan spoke about the humanitarian and human rights consequences of blocking the only road connecting Artsakh to Armenia and the world, the right for an adequate standard of living, the right to freedom of movement for separated families, the right to healthcare, children’s right to education, deliberate and consistent disruption of critical infrastructure and negative economic consequences.
Karapetyan said, “Today is not the 54th day of blockade and conformity, but the 54th day of the world being silent and the 54th day of our resilient battle.” He also reported that AMAA kindergartens in Stepanakert, Martakert and Askeran are still open, and the Shogh day centers are functioning. “Artsakh is not just a piece of land. It is the homeland,” he concluded.
Deyirmenjian said that these are very trying times in Armenia and Artsakh and mentioned some of the activities that AMAA Armenia is currently involved in to find a remedy to this situation. Last month, through the Ministry of Social Affairs and ICRC, baby formula was sent to Artsakh; six tons of food and supplies are in the border town of Goris to be transported to Stepanakert. Together with all educational NGOs in Armenia, a letter was written to the United Nations reporting that the right to children’s education had been violated. “We have also helped a number of Artsakh families stuck in Armenia with food, medicine and financial assistance,” added Deyirmenjian.
Ohanyan spoke of her recent visit and experience to four border villages inside Artsakh – Yeghtsahogh, Lisagor, Mets Shen and Hin Shen. Despite many obstacles and the fact that the border was closed, she was able to deliver emergency necessities and supplies as well as the AMAA’s Christmas Joy packages for the children. “It was a very dangerous mission, and we prayed for her,” said Deyirmenjian. “She went to the border because it is a work of faith, and we must keep the faith and trust God.”
The Pray+Act Zoom events were moderated by AMAA’s Christian Life Committee chair Rev. Dr. Haig Kherlopian. Each presentation was followed by a prayer asking God to help give strength to the people of Artsakh to overcome this situation and have everlasting peace in the region.
Since opening the Artsakh AMAA Center in the mid-1990s, the Association has implemented various educational, social and humanitarian programs in several towns and villages such as kindergartens, camps, Shogh day centers and other relief and humanitarian services to empower Artsakh families. The AMAA has not ceased its service due to the blockade. Even though Artsakh is blockaded and facing numerous challenges and many educational institutions and organizations have had to close, AMAA continues operating its kindergartens, Shogh centers, and offices. All social programs including providing baby formula, home visits, sponsorship, Christmas Joy Programs for children and spiritual services continue.