They particularly focused on hearing the stories of people in vulnerable situations amid fragile peace. Many displaced people are in humanitarian need, and churches are providing not only physical assistance but spiritual care as well.
Many displaced people had to move quickly from Artsakh/Nagorno Karabakh. The Pilgrim Team met with displaced families, as well as with a group of women traumatised by the loss of a husband, son or brother in the war. These women shared their stories of grief and loss, of their struggle to survive financially and to care for their families, of their hopes to acquire new skills and honour and remember those they had lost.
The Armenian Apostolic Church and its related Armenia Round Table Foundation are providing diaconal work throughout Armenia, and particularly in seven different social centres. Much of their work is with displaced families and includes the empowerment of women.
The team visited children at a school very close to the border in the Diocese of Masyatsotn, in a village where firing is often heard. Meetings also took place between a woman whose husband is even now imprisoned in Baku, a woman whose young son died in the war, and a mother who was displaced from Artsakh/Nagorno Karabakh and whose husband is working in Russia.
“It takes two to tango. Both sides of the conflict have to be willing to achieve peace, and to compromise,” said Bishop Gevork Saroyan, primate of the Diocese of Masyatsotn, who added that, before a long-term peace can be achieved, there is first the need is for the healing of the profound traumas that the people have suffered.
An audience was also organized with His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians, who spoke about the impact of the war on his people and how churches are helping.
The Armenian Apostolic Church has acted as and is now still regarded as a keeper and stronghold of national identity and even more of the identity of Artsakh/Nagorno Karabakh
, and continues to be beloved by the people. Bishop Vrtanes Abrahamyan, primate of Artsakh/Nagorno Karabakh, said: “This war transformed us from natives to nomads.”
As Harout Nercessian, the Armenia representative of the Armenian Missionary Association of America mentioned: “It will take very long to cure our souls.”
WCC Pilgrim Team Visits accompany communities in Italy, Armenia, Norway (WCC news release 31 May 2022)