Tuesday, November 10, 2020

RLPB 575. Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh): Genocide Postponed?

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 575 | Wed 11 Nov 2020
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

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ARTSAKH / NAGORNO KARABAKH: GENOCIDE POSTPONED?
plus Update on Ethiopia
By Elizabeth Kendal

Stepanakert: Cathedral basement
as bomb shelter.

On 8 October shells struck Shushi's Ghazanchetsots (Holy Saviour) Cathedral [see RLPB 573 (28 Oct)]. Perched atop a strategic high point, Shushi - Artsakh's second largest town - sits at the top end of the Lachin Corridor (the strategic mountain pass and link to Armenia) and just 14km south of the Artsakh capital Stepanakert. On Sunday morning 8 November, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev announced that Shushi ('Shusha' in Azeri) had been 'liberated'. 'The adhan [Islamic call to prayer] will be heard in Shusha after 28 years,' he declared triumphantly. Armenian officials denied the reports, insisting that Shushi had not yet fallen. That said, video footage and updates on Live Map clearly indicated that Azeri troops were inside the city. With the fall of Shushi, the Lachin Corridor was closed and Stepanakert was cut off from Armenia, leaving many tens of thousands of Artsakh Armenians trapped.

The fall of Shushi was a decisive, pivotal moment in the Battle for Artsakh. With a humanitarian catastrophe looming, Russia and neo-Ottoman Turkey brokered an agreement to end the fighting. In the early hours of Tuesday 10 November Armenia's Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, announced that 'after a deep analysis of the military situation' he had made the 'very painful decision' to sign the deal which came into effect at 1:00am local time. Artsakh President, Arayik Harutyunyan, explained the decision to sign the agreement: 'I do not know how history will evaluate the decision we made yesterday [Monday night, 9 November], but we were obliged to. Had the hostilities continued at the same pace, we would have lost the whole of Artsakh in a matter of days.'

The Agreement stipulates that both sides will maintain their current territorial positions, meaning Azerbaijan will retain all the military gains it has achieved since the start of the conflict, including the strategic mountain fortress town of Shushi. Furthermore, Armenia will return the seven raions/districts surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh which it seized during the 1988-94 war for the purpose of establishing a buffer zone. [These districts were majority Azerbaijani and were ethnically cleansed during the course of that conflict.] With Shushi now under Azerbaijani control, a new corridor will be established from Lachin (town) to Stepanakert. Almost 2000 Russian peacekeepers have been deployed to uphold the ceasefire. Over the past six weeks, some 100,000 Artsakh Armenians have fled into Armenia; it is uncertain how many will return to their homes. Russia is demanding the removal of all Syrian Arab mercenaries/jihadists; a hope unlikely to be realised.

Armenian authorities interview Syrian Arab mercenary.
source: PM Nikol Pashinyan via twitter 

On 4 November Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan posted video footage of a captured Syrian Arab mercenary being questioned by Armenian authorities. The illiterate farmer and father of four, testified to having been recruited in Idlib, Syria, with an offer of $US2000 per month to participate in military exercises in Azerbaijan. Though his whole family was opposed, he went anyway; he reasoned they needed the money. Once in Azerbaijan he was thrust onto the front line and ordered to slaughter Armenians. After he was wounded Azerbaijani soldiers essentially abandoned him. Suffering bullet wounds, he eventually surrendered himself to Armenian soldiers who gave him food and water, treated his wounds, and assured him he would not be harmed. He said the Armenians had surprised him by treating him so well and consequently he wanted to testify against those he maintains lured him to Azerbaijan on false pretences. From the 6:58minute mark he says:

'Abu Hamshan [the Idlib-based warlord who recruited Syrian Arab mercenaries and handled them inside Azerabaijan] had been telling us not to spare anyone's life; he said that all Armenians should be slaughtered and killed. At the same time, Turkish and Azerbaijani soldiers were also giving us similar orders, kill and slaughter Armenians. Abu Hamshan, as well as the Turkish and Azerbaijani soldiers were telling us that each person who beheads an Armenian would receive $US100 for each beheading. Let me also mention that we were armed with long knives. For those of us who were scared, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces servicemen provided special drugs which inhibit fear...'

From 1 December Turkey-backed Azerbaijani forces (and doubtless hundreds, if not thousands, of foreign jihadists) will soon surround Nagorno-Karabakh and occupy its strategic high ground. Azerbaijan, neo-Ottoman Turkey and their jihadist proxies are infested with toxic racial-religious hatred of Orthodox Armenians. They are driven by racial-religious Turkic and Arab-Islamic supremacism and Islamic imperialist ambition. The question must now be asked: is this a case of genocide averted or genocide postponed? These are challenging and indeed pivotal days for the Armenian people and the Armenian Church.

Winners and Losers 
Greek City Times, 11 Nov 2020
(NB: place names are in Azeri. Khankendi = Stepanakert.) 


PLEASE PRAY: MAY OUR GOD WHO REIGNS IN HEAVEN

* intervene on behalf of the Armenian people; may God be their shield and defender, their advocate, and their provider; and may 'justice roll down like waters' (Amos 5:24 ESV).

* be a palpable presence to all Armenians who are grieving, traumatised, displaced and fearful; may the Spirit of God move amongst them to draw them ever deeper into prayer and ever closer to the Lord Jesus Christ. 'But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head' (Psalm 3:3 ESV).

* grant the Armenians an abundance of amazing grace, so they might love their enemies, do good to those who hate them, bless those who curse them, and pray for those who abuse them (from Luke 6:27-36).

Thank-you Father, that a genocide has been averted. Please intervene to ensure it will never eventuate.

'Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord ... The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples ... Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love' (excerpts from Psalm 33).

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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ARTSAKH: GENOCIDE AVERTED OR POSTPONED?

On 7 November Artsakh's mountaintop town of Shushi fell to Azerbaijani, Turkish and jihadist forces. Consequently, the Lachin Corridor was closed and the capital, Stepanakert, was cut off from Armenia, leaving remnant Artsakh Armenians trapped. With a humanitarian catastrophe looming, Russia and Turkey brokered an agreement to end the fighting. Armenia's Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, signed the deal which came into force at 1:00am Tuesday 10 November. Azerbaijan will retain all it has gained, and Armenia will withdraw from the seven districts around Nagorno-Karabakh which it seized during the 1988-94 war for the purpose of creating a buffer zone. Some 2000 Russian peacekeepers have been deployed to uphold the ceasefire. Has genocide been averted or merely postponed? These are pivotal days for the Armenian people and the Armenian Church. Please pray.

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UPDATE - ETHIOPIA: MASSACRE, WAR AND PERIL

Map showing location of massacre.
Click on map to enlarge.

On Sunday evening 1 November, in Guliso district of West Wollega zone in Oromia regional state, an unconfirmed number of mostly Orthodox Christian ethnic Amhara were rounded up by some 60 ethnic Oromo who turned out to be members of the Omoro Liberation Front's militant offshoot, OLF-Shene group. The Amhara were taken into a school and summarily executed. Officials put the death toll at 32, but acknowledged it could be much higher. One survivor counted '50 corpses'. The National Movement of Amhara (NAMA) claims 'up to 200 Amharas were ruthlessly murdered'. Others were wounded, many critically. More than 20 homes were torched and some 750 Amhara were displaced. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has demanded an investigation into why the military withdrew from the area just moments prior to the attack. 

The Cold War between the government and the Tigray Peoples' Liberation Front (TPLF) has turned hot in Tigray in a war which threatens to spin out of control. Consequently, the security situation elsewhere in Ethiopia could deteriorate quickly and markedly. As RLPB has warned repeatedly, the destabilisation of Ethiopia would be catastrophic for Ethiopian Christians, and disastrous for security across the whole region. The only beneficiary would be militant Islam. Please pray.

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF) and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com