At First Things today, I have an essay on Azerbaijan’s blockade of Armenian Christians in the disputed region of Nagorno Karabakh this Advent. Things look grim, but the Armenians of Karabakh vow to hold on, notwithstanding the real threat of ethnic cleansing.
Here’s an excerpt:
Christians around the world are marking Advent, the period in the church calendar that anticipates Christmas. People are decorating their homes and schoolkids are rehearsing their lines for annual Christmas pageants. It’s a happy, forward-looking time.
In the South Caucasus this Advent, though, Christians face the threat of ethnic cleansing. Last week, the Azeri government blocked the road that links the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, home to 120,000 Armenian Christians, to the outside world. No supplies have reached Karabakh for days. The local government has rationed food and essential goods and services. Schools have closed. Hospitals warn that they will soon run out of critical medication, but Azerbaijan has indicated that it will shoot down any aircraft that attempt to deliver humanitarian aid. For good measure, Azerbaijan also temporarily cut off the only natural gas pipeline that supplies the region—in the middle of winter, when temperatures are below freezing.
Azerbaijan, which is Turkish in culture and 97 percent Muslim, wishes to end the Armenian Christian presence in Karabakh and force Armenians to cede territory in Armenia proper for a land bridge to Azerbaijan’s exclave of Nakhichevan on the Turkish border. Karabakh, which is home to centuries-old monasteries and churches, is one of the few places in the Middle East where indigenous Christians still comprise a majority of the population. But that may not be the case much longer. The conflict has the potential to become a serious humanitarian crisis.
You can read the whole essay here.