Thanks to EWTN’s Kresta in the Afternoon for having me on again this week to discuss the situation in Karabakh, where Azerbaijan is starving 120,000 Armenian Christians in an ethnic-cleansing campaign. You can listen to the podcast here: https://player.fm/series/kresta-in-the-afternoon-3266582/military-blockade-leaves-thousands-of-armenian-christians-in-dire-straits-mark-movsesian21-august-2023.
In First Things today, I have an essay on the Second Karabakh War: what happened, why it happened, and Armenia’s path for the future. Here’s an excerpt:
Notwithstanding the loss of territory and the terrible loss of life, Armenians should resist despair. Armenia’s history is very long, and things have looked bleak at many points—for example, when the Persians defeated Armenians at the Battle of Avarayr in the fifth century, when Arabs invaded in the seventh, when Turks invaded in the eleventh, and when Mongols invaded in the fourteenth. More recently, there was the 20th-century genocide after which, improbably, Armenians succeeded in reestablishing a state for the first time in several hundred years.
In the wake of the Second Karabakh War, Armenians need to evaluate their mistakes—especially their misguided optimism about support from Western governments and human rights organizations—accept certain realities, and work to rebuild. Notwithstanding a calamitous history filled with injustice, Armenians have preserved a distinct and continuous Christian witness in the Caucasus for millennia. With God’s help, they will survive this most recent defeat as well.
You can read the whole essay here.
For those who are interested, at the Law & Liberty site today, I have an essay on the Karabakh War, now one month old. I argue that the war represents a civilizational clash between democracy and dictatorship and suggest what American can do to ease the crisis. Here’s an excerpt:
America should consider a range of options to help ease the Karabakh crisis, none of which would involve America as a participant in the conflict. First, it can send humanitarian assistance to the region, indirectly if necessary. Second, it can suspend the direct or third-party sale or transfer of military equipment and technology to Azerbaijan. America provided $100 million of military aid to Azerbaijan just in 2018 and 2019, much more than to any other country in the region, ostensibly to help Azerbaijan defend itself against Iran. With Azerbaijan openly purchasing weapons from Iran, that strategy seems counterproductive. America can also suspend military sales and transfers to Turkey while Turkey continues its belligerent policy in Karabakh and elsewhere. If this doesn’t work, America could impose sanctions on both countries.
Finally, America can continue to push Azerbaijan to cease hostilities, return to negotiations, and reach a diplomatic settlement of Karabakh’s status. (After agreeing to one US-brokered ceasefire last weekend, Azerbaijan immediately broke it.) A comprehensive settlement has been in sight for decades: Armenia returns most captured territories to Azerbaijan and allows refugees to return in exchange for some sort of independence for Karabakh. Michael Rubin argues in The National Interest that America should support this idea, which has a precedent in Kosovo: “remedial secession” to protect an endangered minority. After weeks of cluster bombing, not to mention the history of pogroms and other crimes, Karabakh Armenians can never be safe under Azeri rule.
You can read the whole essay here.
For those who are interested, the St. John’s University Institute for International Communication has posted a video of last week’s panel, “The Crisis in the Caucasus,” on the war in Karabakh. I participated, along with Alek Gevorkyan (St. John’s), Artyom Tonoyan (University of Minnesota), and Siobhan Nash-Marshall (Manhattanville College). Kudos to St. John’s Law 2L Isabel Arustamyan for helping to put it all together. The link is below:
A programming note: this coming Wednesday (October 21), I will participate in a panel here at St. John’s University on the war in Karabakh, “The Crisis in the Caucasus.” Other panelists include Siobhan Nash-Marshall (Manhattanville College) and Artyom Tonoyan (University of Minnesota). The event, which will cover the history of the conflict, its religious implications, and its importance for the international human-rights community, is sponsored by the university’s Institute for International Communication. Details and login information are available at the link.
I enjoyed appearing yesterday on Ave Maria radio’s “Kresta in the Afternoon” show to discuss the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia in Karabakh. The host, Al Kresta, was most interested in talking about the effect the war is having on Christians in Karabakh. The effect is substantial. Just today, in fact, Azeri forces shelled the Armenian Orthodox cathedral in the town of Shushi, which I had an opportunity to visit years ago.
My interview with Al is linked here. I appreciate his having me on to discuss this vital topic.
Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:
- The Voice of the Martyrs, a nonprofit that aids persecuted Christians around the world, reports that COVID-19 has not stopped the Chinese Communist Party from persecuting religious minorities.
- The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales decided to close all churches to the public until further notice, even though the United Kingdom’s stay-at-home order specifically exempted houses of worship.
- As state health officials make plans to decide who to prioritize to receive critical care when there is a shortage of available equipment, lawyers, ethicists, and theologians warn that denying care based on age or disability violates federal law.
- The Ohio Attorney General’s office has ordered health care providers in the state to halt all nonessential or elective surgical abortions to help conserve medical supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Louisiana’s Catholic Governor, John Bel Edwards, asked fellow citizens to pray and fast on March 24 for those affected by COVID-19.
Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:
- The U.S. has officially opened its embassy in Jerusalem; at the same time, ongoing Palestinian protests at the border between Gaza and Israel have left dozens dead.
- A chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is suing a California police department after male sheriff’s deputies allegedly forcibly removed a Muslim woman’s hijab.
- After Pope Francis backtracked on critical comments regarding an alleged serial child abuser priest in Chile, new allegations of abuse surfaced involving the Marist order in that country.
- A Muslim family in Indonesia who appeared normal to their neighbors carried out a series of suicide attacks targeting Christians; the Islamic State has claimed responsibility.
- In light of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Trinity Lutheran case, the Education Department is revising its guidelines regarding public aid to religious schools.
In December, Routledge Publishing will release Christian Communities in the Middle East: Faith, Identity, and Integration by Fiona McCallum (University of St. Andrews). The publisher’s description follows:
The Christian communities in the Middle East exist in an environment where religion has retained strong social significance but society is dominated by a different faith. This work explores the different historical processes of state building to examine regime policies towards the Christian presence in Syria and Jordan, identifying the methods used to accommodate groups with a distinct identity and integrate them into the nation state. This volume aims to give an overview of the under-studied Christian groups in this area, providing much-needed information on these minorities, assessing the implications of these policies on the two countries with reference to the question of regime legitimacy and determining if they can prove insightful for other regional governments in their efforts to integrate Middle Eastern Christian communities.
By examining different approaches such as secular nationalism, cultural pluralism, protected minority (dhimmi) and coercion, it would appear that there is a constant dilemma between attaining regime stability by promoting a national identity and allowing minority groups to retain their own identity. As indigenous communities, the case studies of the Christians of Syria and Jordan demonstrate to what extent the two regimes have successfully addressed this dilemma. The two countries offer interesting comparisons, and McCallum is able to highlight both the contrasting regimes and the similarities in the ongoing crises facing the region – economic problems, cultural change, the growth of political Islam and challenges posed by regional conflict. This new research will demonstrate that their role as interlocutors continues today and that their experience of living in this region has provided them with a rich knowledge and understanding of their coreligionist that is crucial to our understanding of Middle Eastern society.
Tackling issues central to the relationship between religion and politics including secularization, religious revival and the legal status of religions and their adherents, this work will be of great interest to all scholars of Religion, Comparative Politics and the Middle East.
This June, St. Augustine’s Press will release “Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy” by George J. Marlin (Aid to the Church in Need-USA). The publisher’s description follows:
Even before ISIS launched its ultra-violent campaign targeting Iraqi Christians in the summer of 2014, Pope Francis proclaimed that the current wave of Christian persecution in the Middle East is worse than the suffering inflicted on believers in the centuries of the early Church. Since the Arab Spring and the start of the civil war in Syria in 2011, which have thrown the region into utter chaos, Muslim extremists have killed thousands of Christians every year, while destroying and desecrating countless churches. Christian communities in Syria, Iraq, and Egypt have been hardest hit.
In his new book, author and political commentator George J. Marlin, chairman of Aid to the Church in Need-USA – an agency under the guidance of the Pope that supports the persecuted and suffering Church around the world – describes the sharp rise in Christian persecution in the Middle East. After brief narratives on the rise of Christianity, Islam, and terrorism in the Middle East, Marlin documents country by country, acts of twenty-first century Christian persecution that is nearing a bloody climax that could produce the unthinkable: a Middle East without Christians and the destruction of an ancient patrimony that has been a vital link to the very birth of Christianity.