In a video message, WCC general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay stood near the bridge connecting the Lachin corridor to Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh).
“Just a few hours ago, there have been some shootings that have taken place, and we are told that some soldiers have actually been killed, so we are being prevented from going further,” said Pillay. “We have taken a decision not to proceed because it is a risk, and so we at least are here, and we can partly see certain things, and we know this entire place is blocked.”
Pillay said he could clearly see that, with regard to the Lachin corridor, the roads are not open or free to anyone, and there is definitely no passage for goods to be transported unless permission is granted. “So it is a sad situation, but we are here,” said Pillay.
“We have come as far as we possibly can go. We can’t go any further, and we appreciate that the soldiers and the church consider it highly risky for us to proceed, so we will not proceed,” he added.
The delegation is visiting Armenia to express solidarity of the global fellowship, study the situation, establish facts, and consider with the local leaders and people what the WCC can do to address the situation.
“There is total restriction in terms of movement, and this obviously describes the situation of the people,” said Pillay. “We are quite sure that not many goods have reached them and therefore they would be denied access to humanitarian support unless permitted, so we are concerned—and we do want to share this situation with everybody out there in terms of what we are experiencing in the Lachin corridor.”
The corridor has been blocked for more than nine months, seriously affecting the lives and living conditions of 120,000 people, including children.
His Eminence Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, vice moderator of the WCC central committee and on the scene with Pillay, said that war is taking place. “While we have seen many difficulties in our history, we have had one of the worst genocides,” he said. “My message to the world leaders and to human beings is: don’t oversee another genocide. I am calling the presidents, the prime ministers of major countries: Do not oversee a genocide that is taking place right now.”
He also thanked the World Council of Churches, the Protestant Church of Switzerland, and other churches and organizations for their solidarity with the Armenian people.
Rev. Rita Famos, president of the Protestant Church of Switzerland, as she also stood in front of Lachin, reflected that the corridor is the last lifeline for the people living in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh).
“Sadly, everything is blocked,” said Famos. “Just yesterday, we had a conversation with the Red Cross director here in Armenia. He confirmed that food supply is no longer possible.”
Famos added that the WCC delegation wants to stand with the people of Armenia, especially those in Nagorno-Karabakh. “We will also meet the president,” she said. “We have met the Catholicos of the Armenian Orthodox Church.”
Famos emphasized the importance of showing solidarity and directing the world’s attention towards this humanitarian catastrophe. “We hope that we can make a difference,” she said. “Sadly, we cannot get closer to the corridor right now because the bridge is closed, and military action is going on.”
The delegation also includes Rev. Rita Famos, president of the Protestant Church of Switzerland, Carla Khijoyan, WCC program executive for the Middle East; Peter Prove, director, WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs; and Dr Ani Ghazaryan Drissi, WCC program executive for the WCC Faith and Order Commission.