The bombs started falling in once peaceful communities. People — mostly women, children and the elderly — began running for their lives as their homes were destroyed. Fathers, brothers and sons stayed behind to defend their land.
On Sept. 27, a longstanding land conflict boiled over between Armenia and Azerbaijan as Azerbaijani military launched air raids and artillery attacks on the region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The result has been an unfolding humanitarian crisis, with as many as 150,000 Armenian refugees seeking food, shelter and life’s necessities.
Vazgen Zohrabyan, pastor of Abovyan City Church in Armenia, and Sergey Rakhuba, president of Mission Eurasia, recently spoke with TAB Media about the crisis.
‘Reach out and help’
“We were shocked. No one was expecting that [the conflict and subsequent humanitarian crisis] would take place now. Here we are. We have this big challenge, but this is also a big opportunity for us to reach out to the people and help them,” said Zohrabyan.
Because missionaries from his church had served in Nagorno-Karabakh just a week before the fighting broke out, “Pastor Vazgen became the nationally known leader in Armenia,” Rakhuba said.
Today, the Armenian pastor tries to coordinate refugee relief efforts throughout his country, which has a population of about 3 million.
Churches have become “the main source of life and hope in the society,” Rakhuba said.
A social media message posted by Zohrabyan reached some 2,000 Armenians seeking refuge in his city of about 40,000 people, nearly 200 miles away from the conflict.
His church of about 200 has helped those refugees find shelter, with about 50 refugees being housed in the church building itself.
Other churches throughout Armenia are also taking in thousands of refugees.
As Zohrabyan speaks with the refugees, he begins to understand their desperation.
“A family who reached our church from the war zone couldn’t speak for a day,” he said. Zohrabyan was expecting two cars of refugees, but only one car arrived. “We asked, ‘Where is the other car?’ They couldn’t answer; they couldn’t speak. The next day they explained that a drone hit the first car, and the people in the car were killed, and they saw it all.”
Mission Eurasia seeks to help meet the most urgent needs of refugees, primarily food and shelter, Rakhuba said. Also as the weather turns colder, clothing is an urgent need. Armenian churches are doing what they can do in crisis relief, he said, but “Armenia is not a wealthy country. It is strong; it is faithful; it is a Christian-based country, but they need help.”
Mission Eurasia is helping train volunteer counselors and is distributing copies of the Gospel of John and the New Testament, along with a prayer guide.
Rakhuba is calling on Christians worldwide to join aid efforts. For more information on how to help, including a link to TAB Media’s conversation with Zohrabyan and Rakhuba, visit tabonline.org/armenia.
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