The heart of the world’s first Christian nation may soon stop beating.
Will those aspiring to be the next president of the United States stand up with moral clarity and pledge support against those who seek to eradicate it? Genocide against Christians looms in the Caucasus, and the United States looks away and even arms its perpetrators.
Some history: In the year 301, Armenia became the first country to convert to Christianity. Armenian Christians populated Artsakh and dotted its landscape with churches and monasteries. It has ever since been a Christian land. Christianity permeates its rivers, valleys and mountains. Ancient Armenian cross stones, each one unique, dot its landscape. When Turks launched genocide against Armenians in 1915, they tried to overrun Artsakh but failed.
Today, Turkey and Azerbaijan try again. During a recent trip to Armenia, I stood on a mountaintop and saw Azerbaijani troops miles inside the recognized border of Armenia. I drove past a burnt-out car whose occupants, contractors for an American company, Azerbaijani snipers shot.
One place I could not go was Artsakh. Ten months ago, Azerbaijan blockaded Artsakh even though Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, had just two years before guaranteed their free passage. He has cut off gas, water, electricity and internet. Their goal? Starve the region’s 120,000 Christians. Amid Western silence, he is succeeding.
Aliyev’s actions should not surprise. He takes the worst Soviet pedigree and mixes it with an embrace of Islamism. His father, Heydar Aliyev, was a KGB chief whom Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev promoted into the Politburo. Joseph Stalin stripped Artsakh away from Armenia to undermine Christianity, renamed it Nagorno-Karabakh, and awarded it to Azerbaijan. Its people protested and, as the Soviet Union fell, voted by a 99 percent margin to leave that Muslim dictatorship. The Aliyevs have since sought to bring the Christians to heel.
To win the White House is to lead the Free World. America thrives because of its Christian values. Americans must ask those seeking to represent them whether silence in the face of anti-Christian genocide is appropriate and whether the next president should speak out for religious freedom. Armenians ask only that the United States and Europe stop funding a country that seeks to eliminate one of the world’s oldest Christian communities.
A quarter century ago, President Bill Clinton traveled to Africa. The world might have prevented the Rwandan genocide but failed. He promised Washington would “strengthen our stand against those who would commit such atrocities in the future here or elsewhere.” Leaders likewise swore “never again” after Serb militants slaughtered thousands at Srebrenica as the United Nations did nothing.
Doing nothing is easy, but it is not leadership. Religious freedom matters. When it comes to Artsakh, there are today 120,000 reasons to act.