Advice for Armenians and Azerbaijanis, from Israel-Palestine

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After three decades of reconciliation work in Jerusalem, here’s what I’ve learned when protracted conflict involves religion, land, and history.

Editor’s note: CT’s complete coverage of Armenian Christians is here.

A brawl broke out last month between Armenian and Azeri groups in the middle of a highway leading to Jerusalem. Both factions were on their way to exhibit their support or opposition to Israel’s sales of arms to Azerbaijan.

The October 17 incident caught many Palestinians and Israelis by surprise, as Armenian and Azeri communities in the Holy Land are often forgotten or ignored. It also represented the heated reaction around the world by diaspora groups.

This made me reflect on our Palestinian-Israeli conflict in relation to the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, where the two sides just announced a Russia-backed agreement to end the fighting.

Musalaha (reconciliation in Arabic), the Jerusalem-based organization I founded and currently serve as its director, has over 30 years of experience in the field of peace-building and reconciliation. We’ve developed a model that addresses obstacles for reconciliation through desert encounters, and have identified six stages in the process of reconciliation (detailed in a book released this month by Langham Publishing). Through our work, we have guided more than 200,000 Israeli and Palestinian men, women, and youth through more than 1,000 activities.

So I by no means claim to be an expert on the situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan. But perhaps my experience and knowledge working for decades on reconciliation in Palestine-Israel may be helpful to Armenians and Azeris living in their respective countries or in the diaspora.

Here are four areas where I believe lessons we’ve learned from our work of reconciliation in our own conflict can apply to Nagorno-Karabakh:

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