Azerbaijan Archbishop: Our Holy Mission Is to Keep Peace

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In exclusive interview, head of Russian Orthodox Church in Baku invites defeated Armenians into economic cooperation after Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and laments lost ethnic fraternity.

Editor’s note: CT’s previous coverage of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict can be found here.

The saying is clear: To the victor go the spoils.

And morally, with them comes the burden of peace.

In November, Christian-heritage Armenia surrendered to Muslim-majority Azerbaijani forces besieging the Caucasus mountain area of Nagorno-Karabakh. The ceasefire agreement ended a six-week war that cost each side roughly 3,000 soldiers and left unsettled the final status of the Armenian-populated enclave they call Artsakh.

Azerbaijan, however, recovered the rest of its internationally recognized territory, including the historic city of Shushi. The first Karabakh war ended in 1994 and displaced hundreds of thousands from their homes on both sides.

Archbishop Alexander, head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Azerbaijan, reached out to CT to promote a process of reconciliation.

It will not be easy.

Azerbaijanis returning to Adgam, left in ruins by Armenian occupation for 25 years, will see for the first time the damage to their city once inhabited by 30,000 people. Its mosque was relabeled “Persian,” while 63 of Nagorno-Karabakh’s 67 mosques are said to be razed to the ground.

Meanwhile, Catholicos Karekin II, head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, issued a plea to save the ancient heritage of Armenian church properties lost in the war. In 2005, a gravesite containing sixth-century khatchkar crosses was destroyed in the Azerbaijani enclave of Nakhchivan.

Azerbaijan has pledged to preserve them. But the United Nations’ cultural arm UNESCO stated that its authorities have failed to respond to several requests to deploy an independent fact-finding mission.

Meanwhile, members of Azerbaijan’s Christian Udi minority …

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