A Theology of War, Vol. 4, No. 1

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Vol IV, No. 1 1994
(page numbers correspond to hard copy)

The Light from the East
Hratch Tchilingirian
page 3

A Theology of War
A Conversation with Bishop Barkev Mardirosian
page 4

The Harvest of the Laborers
A Conversation with Fr. Mesrob Aramian
page 9

The Church on Airwaves
A Conversation with Silva Sukiasian
page 13

From Baku to Hartford
Tateos Abdalian
page 15

Vazken Movsesian
page 19

Karabakh: A Brief Historical Background
page 20

The Light from the East
Fervor of Faith in Karabakh
by Hratch Tchilingirian

“_There are great many miracles taking place throughout Karabakh.
The presence of God’s right hand and dominion is so strong and
visible in Karabakh that when people see these miracles, they are
moved from unbelief to a deep faith.
“We are actively preaching the Gospel_. We should very actively
preach the Gospel to our people and beyond the boundaries of our
nation.  The more you give the Light of Christ to others, the
more you receive it – in tenfold.”
This is how Bishop Barkev Mardirossian, Primate of the Diocese
of Karabakh describes the mission of the Armenian Church.  Just a
few years ago, under Soviet rule, this kind of pronouncements
would have jeopardized Bishop Barkev’s status as a
religious leader and would have put the church in a precarious
position.  But this is 1994.  Religion and faith is practiced
The Light of Christ is shining in the East, in Karabakh.  Bishop
Barkev, the heroic apostle of Karabakh has instilled a new
ministry in the Armenian Church to “reevangelize” the region,
after seventy years of atheism.
There are those who were – and some still are – pessimistic
about the church and her mission in Armenia and Karabakh.  From a
human point of view, the situation of the church in Armenia is
very concerning, but if we believe that ultimately it is
the Holy Spirit who leads the church and not human beings, than
we can better understand the spiritual dynamics of what is
happening in Armenia and Karabakh.   Bishop Barkev, as the
spiritual leader of 150,000 Armenians living in Karabakh, has
successfully established a theological context and a descriptive
religions meaning to the conflict in the region.
Gustavo Gutierrez, the famous Peruvian liberation theologian, in
his book We Drink From Our Own Wells: The Spiritual Journey of a
People, speaks about the spirituality of the poor people of Latin
America in the context of liberation theology.  In
the foreword of the book, we read renown Christian author Henri
Nouwen’s affirmation that “_the spiritual destiny of the people
of North America is intimately connected with the spiritual
destiny of the people in Latin America.  I am increasingly
struck by the thought that what is happening in the Christian
communities of Latin America is part of God’s way of calling us
in the North to conversion.  I even feel that knowing God in
North America can no longer be separated from the way God is
making himself known in Latin America.”1
Today, we could say the same thing about Armenians: _the
spiritual destiny of Armenians in the Diaspora is intimately
connected with the spiritual destiny of Armenians in Armenia and
Karabakh. _What is happening in Karabakh is part of God’s way of
calling us in the Diaspora to conversion.
This might seem too big of a statement to make, however, only
time would justify the implications of this phenomenon.
Christian faith, unlike most other religions, is nurtured
through collective experience and practice.  Henri Nouwen affirms
this concept – having encountered the people of Latin America and
their spirituality: “I became aware of how individualistic
and elitist my own spirituality had been.  It was hard to
confess, but true, that in many respects my thinking about the
spiritual life had been deeply influenced by my North American
milieu with its emphasis upon the ‘interior life’ and the methods
and techniques for developing that life.”2
Unlike our own “individualistic” experience, faith in Armenia
and Karabakh is a collective, communal experience – it is
ecclesial in the true sense of the word. As Bishop Barkev and
others observe, the entire population of Karabakh is collectively
experiencing a religious revival (see interview with Bishop
Barkev in this issue).  The Armenian Church is in dire need of
spiritual reawakening, both in Armenian and the Diaspora.   As
the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, the Light of
Christ that is shining in Karabakh may also shine over Armenia
and the Diaspora – to reignite the faith of our forefathers in
the hearts and minds of all Armenians.


A Theology of War
Faith & Evangelism in Karabakh
A Conversation with Bishop Barkev Mardirosian
Primate of the Diocese of Artzakh (Karabakh)
by Hratch Tchilingirian

Q.  During your public addresses in the United States, you were
speaking about the deep faith of the people of Karabakh, how did
that faith develop?

BISHOP Barkev: Religion, faith, piety were always present in the
life of the people of Karabakh – on some level or another – but
because of Communism, people were left thirsty of faith and the
seeds that were planted by our forefathers were not
allowed to flourish.  Since 1930s, religion was forbidden in
Artzakh, but today, in order to preach the message of the Gospel,
we are utilizing television and radio, public forums, hospitals,
old age homes.  We are actively preaching the Gospel.  We
are distributing free Bibles to people, children’s Bible and
other religious publications.
As means of evangelization, we distribute religious literature
published by us,
we use local newspapers and magazines, we use our local radio
station in Karabakh and we broadcast 30 minute sermons five to
six times a week.  Besides these, we have 38 Sunday Schools in
Karabakh. Whatever means are available to us, we are
putting them to good use – for the glory of God and for the
benefit of the Armenian Church and our people.
Moreover, our army in Karabakh knows that our church stands
besides them in their struggle and is a source of spiritual
strength for them.  They know that these are difficult times and
they are trying to remain safe and sound as much as possible.
They realize that in order to attain victory, they need  great
spiritual power.  This is why they need God, they need God’s
power.  As such, when troops go to the battle field, they try to
make sure that all the soldiers are baptized; they make sure
they have a cross around their neck for protection.  If they
don’t have a cross hanging, they draw or paint a cross on their
hand or heart or on their back, so that God’s power is at hand.
This spiritual awareness among the soldiers is greatly
contributing to the growth of faith among the people of Karabakh.
Second, there were so many bombings, shelling and fightings,
that the people, young and old, were unceasingly praying, “Lord
God, please save us from this evil.”  These burdensome situations
are also contributing to the reawakening and
strengthening of faith.
Third, there are great many miracles taking place throughout
Karabakh.  The presence of God’s right hand and dominion is so
strong and visible in Karabakh that when people see these
miracles, they are moved from unbelief to a deep faith.

Q.  Could you give examples of these miracles?

BISHOP Barkev: For instance, a huge bomb fell within one meter
from one of our commanders, Arthur, and he survived with only a
minor injury to his leg.   This is impossible.  No one would
survive the devastation of such a bomb.  But it happened.
God saved this man because of his faith, because of his obedience
to God.  He was just slightly injured.  It might sound illogical,
but it is a miracle.  There are numerous incidents like this.
About three years ago, Russian soldiers arrested Arthur on false
accusations and then turned him over to the Azeris.   At the time
he had a wrist watch that had a cross in the middle and the names
of the twelve apostles inscribed around the watch
and he had a cross hanging from his neck.  I had given him the
cross when he was baptized.  They took the watch from him and
tried to snatch the cross from his neck.  But he did not let
them.   Instead, he broke the chain and put the cross in his
mouth.  The Azeri solders tried to  pull it out of his mouth.
But he held on.  They hit him so hard that they crushed his
teeth.  But he held on_  Later on, when he was released – they
could not find anything criminal about him – he gave me his
watch as a gift and told me the story and kept that cross to

Q. How does this incident effect the soldiers under his command?

BISHOP Barkev: It effects them greatly. Those commanders who have
faith, transmit that faith to their soldiers.  At various times,
we had battalions who were commanded by very faithful men, and
these commanders became the godfathers of their
soldiers when they were baptized.  Moreover, faithful commanders
require that the soldiers say a prayer before every meal or say a
prayer before going to the battle front.  In these cases we make
sure to give our assistance by providing a priest or
a chaplain to the battalion.   Praying is widely practiced among
the soldiers.  Not all of them, but I could say a very large
number of them.  These soldiers have hunger for the Scriptures,
for the blessings of the priest and for the power of God.
All of them want to be alive, all of them want to survive the
battle, all of them want victory through a miracle, because we
are very small in numbers, we have shortage of everything, that
is why our only hope is God and our people.

Q.  When you preach to the people in Karabakh, what is the
message that you give them?

BISHOP Barkev:  I give them a very simple message.  Our movement
is holy and just.  God has created us as Armenians and we have
been baptized Christians and He has given us this land and we are
obligated to preserve it in the best way we could.  We
are obligated to remain good Christians.  We teach that the first
thing that God requires from us is cleanliness and purity.  In
order for us to be pure, we need to repent –  because man as a
human being – is mortal and sinful and is always prone to
commit sin.  That is why we need to do penance all the time.
Because God promised that whoever repents will receive back what
he has lost, in hundred fold.  Therefore, if we want to have our
homeland, we need to repent and God will return to us in
hundred fold.  This is a very simple truth, which should save and
help us today.  It is not easy to bring the whole population of
Karabakh to faith.  It is a very difficult task.  I would see it
as a miracle of God when all of us, all 180,000
inhabitants of Karabakh come to prayer and do penance – when all
of us start a fasting period of fifteen or forty days, in
vigilance and prayer.  This might seem idealistic, but it is our

Q.  When you say penance, is it individual or collective?

BISHOP Barkev:  First, every individual should repent and live
with the awareness of a repentant heart.  Second, we request from
the people to fast.  For example, when we are faced with a
difficult week or a major battle is ahead of us, or when
there is an immanent attack on us, we request that all go through
a penitential period and purify themselves and pray unceasingly
for our soldiers.  When we are faced with great difficulties, we
have perpetual prayers.  We ask people to take turns
to say prayers at various times, so that we have at least five or
ten individuals praying at each moment, so we have perpetual
prayers for twenty four hours a day.  For example, twenty
individuals will take it upon themselves to pray overnight:
let’s say a few people 12:00 midnight to 12:30 am, others from
12:30-1:00 am, and so on.  In this way, we have a group of
people, like “soldiers of Christ,” praying at all times, even
during the late hours of the night.

Q.  How are these perpetual prayers organized?

BISHOP Barkev:  We send a word out and the faithful organize it
among themselves through our help.

Q.  How is penance done by the faithful?

BISHOP Barkev: It is done through prayer, fasting, purifying of
oneself, perpetual supplication, confession of sins and
absolution; and all these are culminated at the celebration of
the Divine Liturgy.  The Divine Liturgy is our “holy of holies”
and it is through communion that we receive the power of God.

Q.  Since Karabakh is going through a war, whether declared or
undeclared, what is your “theology of war?”

BISHOP Barkev:  War is horrendous.  First, let me say that we did
not start the war, they [Azeris] did. We want to stop and solve
the war through peaceful means, but they are not willing.  They
are forcing us to go to war.  They are forcing us to
use our weapons.  As such, their desire is to destroy Karabakh by
force – to occupy our land by force.  That is evil.  This is the
work of the evil.  This is very clear.  When you are unable to
stop the evil through prayer and by words, and he is
coming to devour your body, by raping and perpetrating immoral
acts to your sister and mother, to your daughter and children, it
is your duty to protect and safeguard their lives.  When they are
coming with their guns, you have no other choice but
to use your gun to defend yourself.  This is your duty.  When you
are defending [the innocent], it does not mean that your are
killing [your enemy] and doing evil.  That’s your moral
obligation.  Second, when there is evil, evil has to be uprooted.

Like in the case of the dry branch, Christ tossed it into the
fire, it is useless, [cf. John 15:6].  When there are weeds in
your garden, you uproot and clean them so that they don’t destroy
your entire garden.  Likewise, when evil is rushing over
you, it needs to be uproote
d.   This teaching gives us the moral right to protect ourselves.
This is very clear.  Morally, we are obligated to do this, all
of us.  That’s why we say that Karabakh has an army of 180,000,
the whole population – all ages.

Q.  Does everybody in Karabakh have this religious moral
understanding toward the conflict?

BISHOP Barkev:   Definitely.

Q.  Let’s go to a wider question, what are your thoughts about
the mission of the Armenian Church?

BISHOP Barkev:  We are the first Christian nation.  God gave us
that privilege and honor and we have to take that privilege very
seriously.  Indeed, we have to be the finest Christians in the
world.  That is what God requires from us.
Unfortunately, we have not reached that level yet.  One day we
shall_.  In the past, our fathers – during the time of St.
Gregory the Illuminator, St. Sahag, St. Mesrob –  went to Georgia
and spread Christianity, went to the Albanians and spread
Christianity, went to the north Caucuses and spread Christianity.
In the seventh century, when the Arab invasions started, our
prince Theodore R’shduni went to the Khazars, among the Turkic
tribes of the north, and tried to convert them to
Christianity, but he was unsuccessful.  Imagine, an Armenian
prince was evangelizing.  We know from history that we even
preached Christianity to the Tatar Mongols, during the Cilician
period, however, we were unsuccessful in converting them.

Q.  Were these missions organized by the church or were they
individual initiatives?

BISHOP Barkev: They were organized and planned by the church and
carried out by individuals who were capable of preaching the
There are Russian historians, especially Pavlov, who have
written that in the sixth century Armenians have done massive
preaching in China.  There are indications that in 635 A.D.,
during the reign of Emperor Tysung, all of China was baptized.
China was a Christian country.  But we do not know why world
historians are silent about this.  It is quite strange.

Q.  Are there published materials on this, for instance Pavlov’s

BISHOP Barkev: Yes, there are publications in Russian.  These
were revealed during the First World War.

Q.  Do these revelations specifically speak about an Armenian
mission to China?

BISHOP Barkev:  Yes.  It is interesting also to note that
Armenians have preached in Europe in the 4th and 5th centuries.
In fact, there is a martyr, in what is Hungry today, by the name
of Bartev – St. Bartev the Martyr – a preacher sent from
Armenia, probably from the Illuminator’s family, who is quite
well known in the local tradition.  He had traveled all the way
to Hungry to preach the Gospel.  There are indications that
Armenians have reached as far as Iceland, where you find
khachkars [cross tombstones] very similar to Armenian khachkars.
There are indications that Armenians have preached Christianity
in those northern islands.   Armenian clergy have been very
active and diligent in spreading the Light of Christ in
various regions – and they were ready to go and be martyred if
necessary. The truth is that as much as you give the Light of
Christ, God gives you more.  Unfortunately, as time went by, we
enclosed ourselves within the boundaries of the Armenian
nation and as a result we lost so much.  We shouldn’t have kept
the Light of Christ to ourselves, we should have actively spread
it.  We are obligated to spread that Light actively.   I don’t
know, perhaps when the Seljuk Turks came and occupied
Armenia, we should have preached the Gospel more widely among

Q. So indeed the Armenian Church is called to preach to “all
nations,” as we read in the Great Commission of Christ.  As such,
what should the primary task of the Armenian Church be today?

BISHOP Barkev: We should very actively preach the Gospel to our
people and beyond the boundaries of our nation.  The more you
give the Light of Christ to others, the more you receive it – in

Q. I am going to ask you a difficult question – in the Diaspora
this issue is quite important – what makes the Armenian Church

BISHOP Barkev: To tell you the truth, I’ve never thought about
this subject.  Obviously, this is not an issue for us [in the
homeland], perhaps it is for you here in the Diaspora.  I think
the question should be asked in two fold:  What makes the
Armenian Church “Armenian” for Armenians and what makes the
Armenian Church “Armenian” for non-Armenians?  These two
questions are different.  For non-Armenians, we have our unique
theology and the founder of our theology is St. Gregory the
Illuminator.  He has founded a very large and distinct
theological school.  Even though later on our church fathers
developed it further –  for example, St. Sahag Bartev, St. Mesrob
Mashdotz, Yeznig Goghpatzi, Khosrov of Antzev, Khosrovig
and so on – it is St. Gregory who established the foundations of
a remarkable theological school and created a unique ethos to
Armenian theology.  I’ll give you an example: it is written in
the Scriptures that whoever changes one word from the
Bible, let him be condemned by God.  However, our church fathers,
in translating the Bible, have had the audacity not to translate
the term “anti-Christ” the way it ought to be haga-Krisdos.
[e.g. 1 John 2:18]. Instead of translating the Greek
anti-Christ as haga-Krisdos, they wrote Ner.  This is very odd
and I was thinking why did our fathers went so far and wrote Ner
for anti-Christ.  I realized that our fathers have been so
considerate and wise, that in their theology there is no such
thing as anti-Christ.  There is no equal to Christ or against
Christ.  Who is the anti-Christ?  It is the son of the Devil and
the Devil is not equal to Christ.  The Devil was the prime angel
created by God who fell.  Therefore, our fathers,
theologically, decided that no one is equal to Christ and
therefore, there cannot be an anti-Christ, so they translated it
as Ner, they just gave it a name, rather than presenting it as a
concept.  This is a major and brave defiance in terms of
translation.  But it is a unique way of thinking.  Indeed, there
are many small instances such as this, which are particular to
Armenians.  And this spirit has remained constant in our theology
throughout history.  Another example is our Badarak
(the Divine Liturgy), which – according to many non-Armenian
scholars and experts – is one of the most beautiful liturgies in
Christianity; take our language, our church’s teachings, and so
on, all indicate a unique blend of Christianity.

Q.  What are your thoughts on those who say that “Armenian” is a
means of expression of faith and others as something that needs
to be saved for its own sake? This is a problem in the Diaspora.

BISHOP Barkev: I understand that problem.  First of all, the
church’s task is to preach the Gospel and tend to the spiritual
needs of the people.  This by itself will contribute to the
preservation of our nation.

Q.  What do you understand when you say “preservation of our

BISHOP Barkev: If we are with God, then God is with us and He
will protect and save us – our nation.  This is it.  There is no
other formula.  Mind you that sometimes we are not with God and
sometimes we have many shortcomings.

Q. So, it is ultimately faith that is going to save the nation.

BISHOP Barkev: Of course, first and foremost it is faith. This is
very clear.

Q.  How about the language?

BISHOP Barkev:  I believe that our language has a unique role.  I
have my personal approach to the Armenian language.  St. Mesrob
Mashdotz received “divine letters” from God.  The language plays
an amazing role.  As such, [during the Soviet period]
we should not have changed the letters or spelling or any aspect
of our language.  This caused a lot of harm to our nation.  We
need to preserve the language as much as possible.

Q.  Are you speaking about Classical Armenian or Modern Armenian?

BISHOP Barkev:  Primarily, I mean preserving Classical Armenian
(Krabar) if we cannot do that, then Modern Armenian.  The
Classical language is quite different from Modern by its strength
and structure.  What is Krapar?  When you look at the word
closely, it mea
ns “naturally created letter,” or “letter that has nature,”
[bnakan araradz gir], i.e. the letters that God gave to Mashdotz.
Ashkharabar (modern) on the other hand, means “word of the
world,” it is “of the world.”  When you look at the names of
both languages, you could clearly see their conceptual

Q. How about the practical implications of language?  For
instance there are many people who do not understand the liturgy
because it is performed in classical Armenian.

BISHOP Barkev:  In this case, we need to provide the translation
to the people so that they could follow the liturgy.  We need to
give them books and have them in the pews for easy access.  As
for the sermon, that should be given in a language that
people understand, whether modern Armenian or English.

Q. What do you think about celebrating the Divine Liturgy in
English, here in the United States?

BISHOP Barkev: That is something for you to decide here in the
Diaspora.  I do not know the specific circumstances of the
community here in the States.  I have not lived in the Diaspora
long enough to picture the situation.  Having said that, I
personally think that classical Armenian (Krabar) should be the
language of the liturgy and translations should be available to
the people.

Biographical Sketch

Q.  Could you give us a biographical sketch of yourself?

BISHOP Barkev:  My parents and siblings were all born in Artzakh
(Karabakh), in the village of Chardakhlou – the same village
where Marshal Bagh-ramian, Babajanian and Catholicos Karekin
Hovsepiants’ father were born.  But I was born in Sumgait.  My
mother was visiting there for a wedding around the time I was
due, so I was born in Sumgait.  But we returned to our village
and I  lived  there until I was six years old.  Then from the age
of six to twelve, we lived in Sumgait again, where my
father was working, and that’s were I went to primary school.
After that, my whole family moved to Yerevan.  In 1971, I
graduated from the State University of Armenia, majoring in
Mathematics and after that, I attended the Polytechnic Institute
for a year.  Following that, I studied at the Russian Literature
and Foreign Language Institute and graduated in 1976.  My thesis
was on Sergei Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita” literary
work, for which I was awarded a golden medal for best
thesis in all of Soviet Union.  Upon completing my military
service in the Soviet Army, I worked in Yerevan for two years and
then in 1980, I applied to study at the Seminary of Holy
Etchmiadzin.  I graduated from the Seminary in 1984 and soon
that, His Holiness arranged that I study in Leningrad, at the
theological institute in St. Petersburg.  I studied there for two
years and wrote a thesis on “Knowledge of God” both in
Christianity and non-Christian religions and philosophies, for
which I was awarded a theological degree.   Upon my return to
Etchmiadzin, I served as assistant dean of the Seminary for a
year and in 1987, His Holiness appointed me as Abbot of the
Monastery of St. Hripsime.  While an abbot, I continued to teach
Systematic Theology at the Seminary, until November 1988, when I
was appointed Primate of Karabakh by His Holiness.  In March
1989, I permanently moved to Karabakh.

Q.  How did you decide to go into the priesthood?

BISHOP Barkev:  During the time when I was at the University of
Yerevan, I had a very close friend and we were both very much
interested in Mystical studies – yogatasophia, anthroposophia,
etc.   And we were always wondering what were they teaching
at the Seminary [in Etchmiadzin] about Christian mysticism.  As
we studied mysticism closely, we realized that the most correct
way of life is the Christian way – that Christian teaching had to
be the most perfect teaching.  I also felt this in
yoga.  One of the greatest yoga teachers, Ramakrishna, himself
said that Christ is the greatest teacher that ever was, is and
will be for all times.  This surprised me very much.  So we said
to ourselves, why are we studying yoga if their greatest
teacher or guru has been Christ himself.  Second, one day we
obtained a copy of the book Practical Sorcery, written by Papus,
where he wrote that all evil can be dispeled by simply invoking
the name of Christ.  This made us realize that Christ is
above everybody and everything.  The world of the evil is
neutralized only by the power of Christ’s name.  So with this
realization, we said to ourselves, wait a minute, we need to know
and understand who and what Christ is – up to that point we
didn’t know much about Christianity.  So we decided to learn more
about Christ and Christianity and that’s how we came to
Etchmiadzin, out of curiosity.  We had never thought about
studying in the Seminary, in fact we went there to ask some
questions and get some literature about Christianity.  To make
long story short, one thing led to another and I started studying
at the Seminary.  While studying at the Seminary, I was asked
whether I would want to become a priest one day.  I said,
once I’m convinced that Christianity is the only way of life,
then I would be baptized and dedicate my life to it and help
others come to this understanding.  It is important to understand
what you are getting into.  So this is how my spiritual
journey started.

Q.  What do you see for Karabakh in the next few years?

BISHOP Barkev:  First, we need to bring peace to Karabakh.
Second, we need to strength the faith of our people – this is
crucial.  Then, God willing, we need to have more religious
publications; establish a seminary; repair our churches;
more Sunday Schools in the region; establish a department of
theology at theUniversity of Karabakh and so on.
Ultimately, our wish is that Karabakh will become a
uniquely Christian country, where people will live piously and
according to very high moral standards.  _

*The interview was held on March 18, 1994 in New York City.
Translated from Armenian by Hratch Tchilingirian.

The harvest of the laborers
The beginnings of Katzasar Theological review

A conversation with Fr. Mesrob Aramian
Editor of Kantzasar Theological Review
by Hratch Tchilingirian

Q.  What is the main focus of Kantzasar?

Fr. Mesrob: Kantzasar is a theological journal, where we publish
articles on the theology, liturgy, canons, arts and piety of the
Armenian Church; we publish studies on Armenian patristic
literature; in each issue, we print sections from unpublished
manuscripts; we publish translations of significant writings of
our church fathers and other Armenological and church issues.
It is published twice a year.  To date, we have produced four
numbers, each about 350-400 pages.

Q.  Besides the theological journal, do you have other

Fr. Mesrob: Yes, definitely.  Under Kantzasar Press, we have
published over two dozen books so far.  We have published several
writings of our church fathers, biblical commentaries, prayer
books, religious education text books, etc.  On an annual
basis, we have about fifteen titles for publication – provided
that we find paper and the necessary material to print them.

Q. Where and how did your ministry as a priest start?

Fr. Mesrob:  I was born in Yerevan in 1966. After completing my
primary and secondary education in Yerevan, I attended Moscow
Institute of Physics and Technology and studied
physio-mathematics.  While studying in Moscow, through friends
who were
practicing their faith, I discovered a wealth of Patristic
literature.  My friends helped me borrow these books from the
library of Zagorsk Theological School.  I was so impressed and
excited by the writings of the Fathers, that a desire to become a
priest started to grow in me.  During my last year at the
Institute in Moscow, I heard that the Seminary at Etchmiadzin had
started a special class for the priesthood – for those who had
already had higher education and are familiar with the
Scriptures and Patristic literature.  So I applied to this
program, through the help of my dear friend and Bishop Barkev
Mardirosian, who also became my sponsoring Bishop, so that upon
graduation I would serve in his Diocese,
that is the Diocese of Artzakh.
I completed the three year program at Etchmiadzin in one year
and on May 28,  1991, I was ordained a priest by Bishop Anania.
This is how my ministry as a priest started.   However, long
before this, Bishop Barkev and I had conceived an idea for
religious publication, especially to make the writings of our
church fathers accessible to our people, and in the long run to
non-Armenians.  Already, while I was studying at the Seminary,
Bishop Barkev and I had started working toward this goal.
We had with us also – my dear friend, brother and colleague –
Dikran Khatchadrian, without whom it would have been impossible
to achieve anything.  Dikran is an artist, but he is an expert on
Classical Armenian and has a deep understanding of the
writings of the fathers.  He is a very spiritual person.  So a
few of us came together, with a very strong awareness of what our
mission is and should be.
Q. How did you start Kantzasar, the Theological Review? What were
the circumstances that surrounded the effort?

Fr. Mesrob: Kantzasar was established in January 1991, with the
blessing of His Holiness the Catholicos and by the order of the
Primate of the Diocese of Artzakh, His Grace Bishop Barkev
Mardirosian.  However, the work started long before January
1991. Kantzasar  was conceived when we came to faith – when we
made a conscious choice to follow Christ.  When someone comes to
faith and tries to deepen that faith, by necessity, he becomes in
need of spiritual literature.  This process enables the
person to compare his own life experience with the experience of
others and thus see whether he is in the right path of faith or
whether he is in the wrong path.  I should say that at the time
when we came to faith, there was a tremendous deficit of
spiritual literature.  The books that were available to us were
in Russian or English or some foreign language.  They were not
available in Armenian.  Also at that time, our knowledge of
Classical Armenian was very limited.

Q.  What is the time period that you are referring to?

Fr. Mesrob:  About ten eleven years ago, 1983 or 1984.

Q.  When you say “we,” how many individuals were there?

Fr. Mesrob: We were a close circle of friends, about ten people
and we used to have discussions on religious and spiritual
matters; we used to talk about the ways and teachings of
Christianity;  together we used to read the lives of saints; we
to pray together and spend a lot of time together.

Q.  Were these all young people?

Fr. Mesrob:  Yes, young people, artists, physicists and other
professionals living in Yerevan. We used to get together and
share our mystical experiences and thoughts about religion.   We
had a small group.  Not all of the individuals were
believers, but everyone had the desire to learn and understand
what were the unique characteristics of our Armenian way of life.
How would a nation that had a two thousand year history of
Christian civilization differ from others, or what made
Armenian Christian civilization unique, or whether there is a
particular Armenian spiritual direction, or whether we should
copy others and so on.  We had this desire to search from the
very beginning.  It was with us all the time.

Q.  Was this done outside the context of the church in Armenia?

Fr. Mesrob:  Yes and no.  While we were not an official body of
the church,  several of us were very active in the church,
especially in the liturgical life of the church.   We used to go
to the services regularly and participate in the life of the
church as much as possible.  I would say that we were
“ultra-orthodox,” in terms of respecting and observing the
Armenian Church’s liturgical practice, the traditions, the
blessings of the priest, the Divine Liturgy, etc.   These were
things for us.  There was one basic element in our understanding,
that without the church there is no true spiritual direction that
will link us to Christ – to salvation.  The church is the only
guardian of our spiritual treasures.  Therefore, for
us, salvation was possible only through the church.  In fact, in
time, as we grew in our faith, we became apologetics for the
church and tried to prove to others that this is the right path
of faith by which we need to walk.  In this way, Kantzasar
was born from our practical questions and experiences.

Q.  Was Bishop Barkev in this group?

Fr. Mesrob:  At the time, Bishop Barkev was studying at the
Seminary in Etchmiadzin.  When he was ordained a priest, we used
to visit him frequently in Etchmiadzin and have discussions.  We
used to have deep and intimate discussions with him.  Also,
we had many close friends at the Seminary, so Etchmiadzin was
like second home for us.

Q.  In a way, in view of the absence of material to quench your
thirst for knowledge and spirituality you were filling the gap
through your informal gatherings and study.

Fr. Mesrob: Yes, we were doing the research on our own.  On the
other hand, we wished that it was done before by others and they
were available to the people.  However, that is our shortcoming
today and we are obligated, spiritually, to provide
material to our people.  Because, when you are searching for the
truth – and if the truth is valuable to you – then you cannot
spare any effort to reach the truth, no matter how hard or time
consuming it is.  As such, the birth of Kantzasar is
“soteriological” – it was started by people who were thirsty for
salvation.  In fact our soteriological questions gave shape and
content to Kantzasar.  I should mention that the role of Bishop
Barkev was decisive and important in making Kantzasar
possible – since he knew us and was familiar with our work.  The
rest is obvious.  The work of Kantzasar  speaks for itself.  You
will notice that from one issue to another, our work is improving
and slowly but surely, we are trying to have a
publication based on the norms and standards of international
theological journals.   In this respect, we are receiving very
positive response from professional and scholarly circles from
around the world.  And that is a very good sign.

Q.  What happened to the individuals in your original group?  Are
all of them involved with Kantzasar?

Fr. Mesrob: Not all of them.  Just myself and Dikran Khachadrian.
But fortunately, we found a third person immediately after we
initiated the work.   That was Hovhannes Gizoghian, a very
faithful and spiritual person, who became a very important
asset to our work.  Even though he did not do research or write
articles, he was an expert on computers and technical matters.
The fact that he joined us at that juncture of our work was
providential.  Bishop Barkev had given us an IBM computer
and Hovhannes was there to put things in motion – in terms of
programs and operational support.   Then other friends gave us
matrix printers and we started the production.  Myself and Dikran
did the research and writing, Hovhannes did the technical
stuff and we had another friend who did the leg work.   Later on,
our staff expanded.  Today, we have three people whose job is
data entery and typing in the text from the manuscripts.  There
is so much material and wealth of literature by our
church fathers, that if we had ten people sitting all day long
and typing, it would still take years.  Already, we have a vast
collection of row material in the computers ready to be studied
or published.  As we expand, we will need more editors,
proof readers, someone who will do the accounting, etc.
Initially, what helped us tremendously in our work was our close
relationships and contacts with the scholars and staff of the
Madenataran [Manuscript Library].  We had these relationships
from the very beginning and it made it possible for us to
study the original texts.  We also had good relationships with
scholars and research fellows at the University’s Institute of
History, Institute of Middle Eastern Studies, the Seminary at
Etchmiadzin and other related institutions.

Q.  Earlier you spoke about salvation.  How do you see the
soteriology of the Armenian Church?

Fr. Mesrob: Generally speaking, religious literature – starting
with the Bible to th
e writings of the church fathers – is spiritual literature.
These have been written for one reason only: to reunite man with
God, that is bring man to salvation.  The prophets or the
evangelists or the church fathers have never pursued a secular or
worldly mandate.  Each book or writing is written with the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit and their purpose is the salvation
of man – the theosis of man.  As such, spiritual literature is
called to help people reach salvation.  If one does not read
spiritual writings from a soteriological point of view, then
there is very little in them to benefit the reader.  One might
see esthetic value or poetic language or deep emotional
expressions in them, but without spiritual awareness one might
see the very essence of the writing.  The essence of these
writings proceeds from God and is the result of the work of the
Holy Spirit in our lives.   The fathers have been “light-givers”
to us, both through their writings and through the example of
their lives.  They have lead us in the path of salvation.  It is
very important to realize that whatever the fathers wrote, they
lived it.  Their writings are not just theoretical ideas, but
reflections that come from the depth of their soul and
spiritual experience.  When you read the writings of the fathers,
you realize and see that these are written based on a profound
spiritual experience – based on a lived moment. And when you try
yourself to live the way they did, you realize that
indeed these are based on inner spiritual rule.  Even though they
lived at different times and in different centuries, you notice
that the spiritual dictum and awareness is the same.  So it is
very important to compare your spiritual journey with
others who have gone through it and see whether you are in the
right track or the wrong track.  In this way, the church is very
important.  It is where we find this connection, this gauge for a
true spiritual journey.  As such, the church is a
divine institution – it is not the hierarchy or some other
worldly aspect of it.  We have to look for direction in the
writings of the fathers.  Not only read them, but also ask for
their intercession.  We need to do this in order to understand
meaning of holiness – that Christ’s Light is not an abstract idea
or category, but is a true and real experience.  As the fathers
say, “God became man so that man could become God.”

Q.  Having explained this, how do you see the church preaching
salvation today?  How does the church transmit the words and
thoughts of the fathers to the people?

Fr. Mesrob: Let me answer this question on several levels.
Today, we are not only cut off from our spiritual treasures, but
we have been uprooted from the foundations of our spiritual
heritage.  Today, the Armenian Church finds itself in a hopeless
situation.  This situation is created because first of all, we do
not know ourselves.  Therefore, we need to learn, on a practical
level, who we are and what are the particularities of our
spiritual heritage.  We cannot experience a spiritual
reawakening through Protestant teachings or cultic movements.  If
we want to live a true national spiritual renaissance, then we
need to be rooted in our own tradition.  We need to revitalize a
spiritual awareness that is based on our centuries old
religious experience.  On the other hand, it is not enough to
read and study, you need to encourage and motivate people to do
that.  We need to encourage people again, so that they may bear
fruit.  (Let us remember that everything has to have a
soteriological direction).  On the other hand, having done the
research and the study, you need to make it accessible to people.
This is where we need pastoral ministry – it is not enough just
to publish books.  We need pastoral work on a daily
basis.  For instance, in Armenia, practically speaking, pastoral
ministry is non-existent.  We need to educate people, sow the
seeds of faith in their hearts and mind; we need to care and tend
to the seed, daily, so that it grows and becomes
fruitful.  Today, people speak about cults and other religious
movements in Armenia, the only way to prevent any harm to our
people is to present ourselves correctly, present the Light of
Christ that we have.  Present it in such a way that it will
shine above and beyond everything else.  We cannot fight darkness
with darkness.  We can dispel darkness only by bringing the true
Light to our people.

Q.  How about the religious movements inside and outside the
Armenian Church in Armenia?

Fr. Mesrob: Today, when you look at certain movements toward
spiritual reawakening in the Armenian Apostolic Church in
Armenia, to a large extent, these tendencies are Protestant in
nature – and potentially cultic.  This is the case outside the
church also.  When we look at ourselves, we realize that we are
more educated in non-Armenian spiritual traditions than our own.
People have read more non-Armenian sources than our own.  Thus,
there are various levels of Protestant-cultic
perceptions in our religious thought – both on the conscious and
unconscious level.  Our very national way of thinking is
changing.  We are becoming something else.  Obviously, this has
very serious and far reaching consequences.  Therefore, we need
to address these issues seriously.
I believe that Armenia – with a history of two thousand years of
Christian witnessing – is one of the most important nations in
the world.  We have a message to give not only to our own people,
but we have a message to give to others.  We have
spiritual treasures that can be the yeast of salvation not only
to our people, but to many other nations.  Having said this, at
the same time, we should also learn from other people’s
experience and achievements.  We need to be open without fear.

Q.  What is your understanding of the notion that the Armenian
Church is a national church?  How should one understand this
national aspect of the church?

Fr. Mesrob: The concept of national church is very simple.  From
the very beginning, the church [universally] has always been a
local or regional church, with a Bishop as its head – such as the
Church of Armenia, for the people or the nation living
in that given geographic location.  As such, the church is the
national church of Armenians, that is, they worship in Armenian,
they have their unique music, their religious artistic
expressions, their unique spiritual experience, etc., but all
these in the unity of the universal church.  Today, there are
many nations in the world that have their national churches.  And
this is not a negative characteristic of a church, as long as it
does not pose any specific danger.  Potentially, it
could pose some danger – when you keep what you have to yourself
and not share it with others.  Imagine what would happen if we
don’t share the achievements of say French or British scientist,
just because they are French or British.   This could
also happen in spiritual matters.  This is dangerous.
Second, today, in our national and religious life, there is a
breach of balance.  For example, let us take the concept of
nationalism [in Armenian, hayrenasiroutyune] – it literally means
“love of nation.”  To love is a basic spiritual virtue.  In
order to love, one has to work hard.  In order to love as Christ
showed us, one has to struggle firmly.  And it is this love by
which Christianity conquered the world.  But today, forgetting
this Christian understanding of love – this true love that
comes from Christ – we declare that we love our people, our
nation.  For me, this kind of declaration and rhetoric, this kind
of love-of-nation (hayrenasirout-yune) does not mean anything.
Because, in this kind of rhetoric, I see self-serving
preaching and self-serving interests.  This is not true love
toward your people.  To me, the most profound way of loving your
people is the way St. Paul understands it – he says, “I do, not
seek my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may
be saved.” [1 Cor. 10:33].   So ultimately, one cannot love his
nation without being a true Christian.  Therefore, one would be
lying if he says that he loves his nation and yet he does not li
ve by the virtues of his faith – by repenting and purifying
himself and living according to the tenets of Christianity.  It
is easier to love in an abstract way than in a concrete way.
Christianity teaches us to love our neighbors, to love the
people around us, to love a concrete human person – even to be
ready to die for them.  When one is able to do this, then he can
truly love his nation.  The Communists believed in abstract love
– they believed in the bright future of humanity, but
they could not love humanity in the present.  They loved
concepts, not concrete human beings.  Likewise, nationalism,
devoid of spiritual context, could become dangerous.

Q.  So it is only through Christian love that we can understand
true hayrenasiroutyune (love-of-nation).

Fr. Mesrob: Yes.  There is a golden rule that says: the first
ingredient of love is self-sacrifice.  The first sign that you
can show someone you love – that you truly love them – is
sacrifice.  This is a very practical love.  And Christ showed us
how.  The saints gave us examples.  One cannot learn this kind of
love without Christianity – and learning, practicing is a life
long task.  No one has greater love than Christ, but that is the
criterion for which we need to strive.

Q.  Where does the church fall in terms of nationalism?

Fr. Mesrob: Today, we also see false nationalism in the church.
What is the reason?   For centuries, the church has been
preoccupied with the issues of azkabahbanoum [preservation of the
nation].  Throughout our history, having lost governments and
governmental structures, everything has been compiled in the
church – language, culture, preservation of national identity,
administrative structures, etc.  The weight of all these is so
heavy that it broke the church’s back.  But now that we have
an independent country and government, all that weight and
responsibility should be lifted from the church.  Now the church
should focus and do what it’s supposed to do – preach the Gospel.
Today, in many of our churches, we preach nationalism more
than the Gospel.  And sometimes this is contributing to national
activism within the realm of the church – this is not pleasing to
God at all.    The church should preach faith, which is the true
source of nationalism.  The church should teach how
to love, how to forgive, how to repent.  The church should bring
people to God, who is the source of all blessings and virtues in
life.   And it is only through coming closer to God that we can
know who we are.    The church should, without any
delay, spread evangelism all across the nation and reestablish
its role in the life of the nation as such.

Q.  How ready is the church to do this and how long would it take
to do it?

Fr. Mesrob: The church was not ready to face the tremendous
changes that took place in Armenia – the collapse of the Soviet
system, the Independence of Armenia and all the challenges and
problems that came with these changes.  The situation is so
hopeless and complicated that it is hard to say how long it would
take for the church to stand on its feet.  It might take ten,
twenty, thirty years.  However, we have to start right now.  If
we do not start doing something today, then it will be a
long, long road.    If the illness is not treated immediately,
than it will become chronic.  Likewise, if we do not take
decisive and effective measures in the church today, we will put
ourselves in a chronically ill situation.

Q.  As a last question, what do you think about non-Armenians
becoming members of the Armenian Church or desiring to worship in
the Armenian Church?

Fr. Mesrob: Anybody who is baptized in the Armenian Church is a
child of the Armenian Church.  If someone [non-Armenian] has been
given de facto permission to be baptized in the Armenian Church,
than he is a child of the Armenian Church.

Q.  The prerequisite is baptism only.

Fr. Mesrob:  Yes of course.  Because, you do not baptize somebody
indiscriminately.  When a non-Armenian expresses desire to be
baptized in the Armenian Church, it is assumed that the person is
interested in Armenians, their culture, language,
spiritual tradition, etc.  So you have to see what are the
motives that brings someone to the Armenian Church.  The Armenian
Church has to be open.  The majority of national churches in the
world are open to non-ethnics.  Over the years, I have
observed that the most active members or defenders of national
churches are the non-ethnics or the converts.   And the churches
use this as a source of strength and power, in a positive sense.
But in our case, most of the time we are afraid of
non-ethnics coming into our church.  I don’t quite understand

Q.  What is the relationship of the language to the church?

Fr. Mesrob:  Language is primarily a means of communication.
However, Armenian is very important, because the spiritual
heritage and tradition of the Armenian Church is in Armenian.
Therefore, in order to understand the tradition of the Armenian
Church one has to know the language – one has to be familiar with
the language of the church.  On the other hand, life is not
static.  Life constantly creates new realities before us and we
are obligated to consider them.  If we don’t pay attention
to these new realities, than we will stay behind and perhaps one
day realize that it is too late to do anything.  For instance, in
the Diaspora, the third, fourth generation Armenians do not speak
the language – are we to ignore them? We cannot say
to them that because you do not speak the language you are not
part of the church.  On the contrary, the church has to tend to
their spiritual needs.

HT:  On behalf of Window Quarterly, we wish you success in all
your endeavors and look forward to the possibility of joint
projects with Kantzasar.

Fr. Mesrob: Thank you.  I would like to add that Window is a new
breath, a new perspective for us.   Some find Window’s words too
sharp – they say why are they critiquing our internal problems
publicly.  I do not agree with these people.  I believe
that the church is a collective entity and not only a
hierarchical system.  The church is an institution governed by
the people, by the faithful, that’s how it has been throughout
the history.  Therefore, every member of the church is entitled
know about this or that illness of the church.  If people are not
aware of the issues in the church, they cannot contribute in
finding solutions to the problems.  Doctors say that identifying
your illness is half of your cure.  So Window or
Loosamoud as we call it in Armenia, is truly a window of
self-awareness and self-critique.  No serious work exists without
criticism – constructive criticism.  I believe that Window is
providing this significant viewpoint in our church today.
Besides the presentation of the issues, I find the constructive
discussions and suggestions in the pages of Window very
informative and stimulating.  Reading Window one feels the
genuine concern of the writers for the future of the Armenian
We pray for the continued publication of Window. _

*The interview was conducted on November 21, 1993, in New
Rochelle, New York.  Translated from Armenian by H. Tchilin-


The Church on the Airways
A conversation with Silva Sukiasian
Broadcast Journalist in Armenia
by Hratch Tchilingirian

Q. As a journalist of religion, which programs do you contribute

Sukiasian: I work for Armenia’s Television and Radio Broadcast
Council and as a journalist, I present religious and church
programs on the national television and radio of Armenia.  I
prepare and produce a TV program called, “Yegeghetzin Haygagan
dznentavayrn e hokvouys” [the Armenian Church is the birthplace
of my soul].  In this program we present information on religion
and spiritual matters,  news on the activities of the church,
interviews with high ranking church leaders – including
those who visit Armenian from the Diaspora.  We present
interviews with diocesan bishops – as well as conversations with
theologians and religious scholars.
The radio broadcast is a thirty minute program, again on
religious matters, where we pr
esent the history of the Armenian Church, elucidation of the
liturgical practices of the church, news about church activities
and programs, as well as interviews.

Q.  What time of the day do you broadcast this radio program?

Sukiasian:  Every Sunday at 1:30 PM on the national radio.

Q.  How about the television program?

Sukiasian:  The television program is once a month.

Q.  Do you also contribute to other news agencies?

Sukiasian: Yes, I am also a correspondent and contributor to The
Republic of Armenia newspaper, which is the official organ of the
government of Armenia.  Mostly, I submit interviews with church
officials and dignitaries and sometimes articles on
religious issues and activities.

Q.  How do you select your topics or subjects?

Sukiasian:  I am a freelance  journalist and as such, I make the
selections myself.  I try to concentrate on the Armenian Church
and faith issues related to the Church.  For instance, for the
radio and TV broadcasts, I present the major feasts in
the Armenian Church, giving their historical background and their
relevance to the faith of the individual.  This is quite vital,
since,  as you are aware, for decades the people were deprived of
knowing their own spiritual and religious heritage.
In fact, the history of the Armenian Church was never taught in
schools or universities.  It is only recently, during the last
few years, that school curricula include study of religion and
history of the Armenian Church.  On the other hand, we do
not have textbooks or literature that is readily available for
classroom use.    Therefore, part of my task is to make the
spiritual treasures of the Armenian Church known to the wider

Q.  Does the state Television and Radio Broadcast Council have
any policies or criterion upon which news and information are
gathered and presented to the public? Or is it left up to
individual journalists?

Sukiasian:  For seventy years, it was forbidden to speak about
church matters or report about church activities in the media.
Journalists were not allowed to speak about liturgical,
theological or religious issues.  But fortunately, now that
Armenian is an independent country, these restrictions and bans
have been lifted.  We view Nation, Church, State as a “trinity”
that will rebuild Armenia from the ashes of the past.  In this
sense, there is a cooperation between the state and the
church toward this end.
Since 1985, I have been writing about the church, presenting
activities and interviews, however, before the independence of
Armenia, I was presenting them as series of articles on the
Diaspora or historical monuments and in doing so I was able to
speak about the church and its activities.  We were using
euphemisms – instead of presenting them as religious topics, we
were presenting them as historical or Diaspora news.   Obviously,
we could not fully elucidate or comment about the real
issues.   We could not discuss church and religious matters
openly.  Thank God, today, we have the freedom to express
ourselves freely and openly.
Armenia’s Radio and Television agencies are very interested in
religious and church subjects, especially, in view of the fact
that many denominations and cults are coming to Armenia and
infiltrating our society.  It is important for us to present
the Church – our centuries old source of faith and spirituality –
to our viewers and listeners.  The role and importance of the
Armenian Church was also acknowledged in the Constitution of  the
new Republic.

Q.  Having said that, as a journalist of religion, is presenting
the unique tenets of the Armenian Church an editorial must for

Sukiasian:  For the radio program, we have started a special
series that will solely focus on the Armenian Church.  As such,
yes, our task is to make the Church’s voice heard – what is
happening in the life of the church; what is happening in terms
of religious activities; how to understand and elucidate the
services and religious practices of our people. etc.

Q. Therefore, the government – vis a vis the raido and TV – has
an interest in presenting and speaking about the moral and
religious values of the Armenian nation?

Sukiasian:  Yes, and moreover, specific laws were drafted to
limit the infiltration of harmful cults and religious movements
in Armenian society.

Q.  Do other denominations – for example the Catholics or the
Evangelicals – have their own programs or  do they request radio
and television air time?

Sukiasian:  Not only do they request air time and opportunity,
they demand it.  But at this time, they do not have any programs
on Armenian airwaves.  Recently, Rev. Bardakian of the
Evangelical Church in Armenia has demanded air time from the
broadcasting agency – both on radio and television.  I am not
aware of a response yet, but it is on the table.  Let me note
here that there are numerous organizations and groups who want to
buy air waves or pay large sums of money to broadcast their
brand of faith and beliefs.

Q.  Are there any estimates on how many people listen or view the
religious programs on Armenian airwaves?

Sukiasian:  We do not have any estimates, but, we know that since
electricity and power are scarce in Armenia, most people listen
to the radio.  I think numbers are inconsequential.  An
individual listening or viewing the programs will make his [or
her] mind on the given subject.

Q.  What do you think will happen to these religious trends?

Sukiasian:  At this point, we do not know exactly how things will
develop in our country, not only in terms of religion, but also
social, cultural, political, economic and other aspects of life.

*The interview was  conducted on April 7, 1994, in New York.
Translated from Ar menian by Hratch Tchilingirian.


From Baku to Hartford
the plight of Armenian refugees faced with indifference
by Fr. Tateos Abdalian

Recently the movie “America, America” was shown on a cable movie
station.  It is the story of a young Greek boy coming to America,
escaping from Ottoman Turkey during the reign of Abdul Hamid, the
bloody Red Sultan.  The book-made-movie was written
by Elia Kazan in promise to his uncle, to tell his story, a pre-
“Schindler’s List” if you will.  The first one-third of the movie
deals with the Armenians of the period and the massacres
perpetrated against them during the late 1890s.  One
witnesses the hatred of the Turks, the burning of an Armenian
Church with the people locked inside, killings, and all the rest
of the horrors attested to by the survivors of the Genocide – all
these portrayed in a believable re-enactment.  The focus
of the story however was on a young Greek boy and the obstacles
that he had to overcome in America, and then, after arriving,
surviving in America.  It could have been the story of any of our
grandfathers or fathers or uncles as well.
People become refugees as a result of invasions, or oppression,
or persecution.  Garen and Lilia Abalyan – along with their two
children Karine and Anna – are refugees from  Baku.  They were
forced from their homes during the ruthless pogroms of
1989-90, perpetrated by the turkic Azeris.  As a result of these
“new massacres,” an estimated 300,000 Armenians became refugees,
escaping the sword of death again.  The Abalyan family left
behind their home, all their belongings, and everything
they knew as a normal life, and barely making it to Armenia.
Under the sponsorship of the Catholic Charities, they emigrated
to the United States and were settled in the Hartford area, as
were about 25 to 30 other such families.
These Armenian refugees are struggling to overcome the barriers
of bigotry, language, prejudice, customs, new laws – as did our
parents and grandparents one hundred years earlier.  What
differentiates the two groups? Does the Armenian community –
firmly established here in the United States – have the ability
and resources to sponsor these refugees and help them get
acquainted with the culture and lifestyle of this “new world”?
Unfortunately, the answer is No.  The truth of the matter is
that neither the Armenian Church dioceses or prelacies nor any
other Armen
ian organization are offering refugee sponsorship to these
people.  When Armenian organizations are asked about this
problem, the rehearsed answer one receives is that they do not
wish to be accomplices in depleting the population of Armenia.
Sponsorship of these refugee families from Baku is an ongoing
process.  Presently, they are being sponsored by many Protestant
church communities, but mostly by the agency of Catholic
Charities.  The refugees, after fulfilling their contractual
obligations, they severe they ties with these agencies and come
to the nearest Armenian Church for direction and assistance for
their immediate and vital needs: housing, jobs, ESL classes,
translators, household items, etc.  In most cases, the
churches do their best to accommodate needs of the refugees.
Rising from poverty to riches is the American dream, especially
for the refugee.  His determination and hard work usually will
enable him to succeed.  But it is interesting to see how many in
our Armenian communities – who only 10-20 years ago
escaped the devastation of war in the Middle East or harassment
in Turkey – look upon these people as “foreigners,” who are not
considered as “Armenian” as themselves.  Consequently, they offer
very little assistance, and have hard time accepting
and including them in the life of the community.  Unlike the
immigrants a century ago – or even the immigrants of the 1970s –
these “new” refugees are highly educated and accomplished
scientists, medical professionals, engineers, teachers, etc., who
have much to offer to our communities and churches.  In Hartford,
CT – as in other communities where the refugees have settled –
there is a resurgence of community life, for the refugee families
attend church services and activities more frequently
than any other established group or community members.  Hungry
for knowledge and growth, their children are active students in
the Sunday and Armenian language schools,  while other children
play soccer or help dad clean the garage or just take it
For the refugees, just as it was for the earlier settlers, the
church is a spiritual haven where there is peace, caring and
acceptance – a place of protection from the currents of the
outside world.  Although they may not know the Armenian
language well or lack formal education in religion – due to
decades of restrictions in their home countries – they are
Armenians who are seeking a role and a place in the life of the
The strength of the Armenian is not measured by his physical
capacity, but by his indomitable will.  The Armenians from
Karabakh and Baku, who find themselves in these shores, have an
indomitable will to survive and succeed as Armenians.  Having
been denied their rights as Christians to worship God in
accordance to their beliefs, now in this free country, they do so
with vigor and focus. They have become what they have believed
they could become. a They will become what they believe they
can become.
It is incumbent of us to care for these refugees, as our
brothers and sisters, and help them get on their feet.  As they
start their lives here in the United Sates, the initial few
months are crucial.  If we are not there for them now, when will
we be?  Ps 140.12.  _


Background information on Karabakh

Karabakh (Artsakh in Armenian) is also known as Nagorno-Karabakh
or Mountainous Region of Karabakh.   It is a region of 1,699
square miles with a population of approximately 180,000 people,
of whom 80 percent are Armenian.  Its name means “black
garden.”  The area is known for its rugged beauty, its wild
mountains, and its inaccessibility to the rest of the Caucasus.
In ancient times, the region of Karabakh and most of eastern
Transcaucasia was inhabited by a people called Albanians, not to
be confused with the people of the same name now living in the
Balkans.  According to the Greek geographer Strabo (1st c.
B.C.), Karabakh which then encompassed both the mountainous
Nagorno-Karabakh of today and the larger lowlands, surrounding
it, had a highly developed economy and was famous for its
cavalry.  Caucasian Albanians maintained close contacts with the
Armenians.  In the fifth century, shortly after the Armenians
converted to Christianity, the Albanians too adopted the Armenian
brand of Christianity.  The first church established in Karabakh,
in the region now known as Martuni, was established by
St. Gregory the Illuminator.  Tradition has it that St. Mesrob
Mashdotz, the monk who created the Armenian alphabet, founded the
first school in Karabakh.
Given the centrality of religion to social life during that
period, it is not surprising that in the following two centuries
the Albanians merged with the Armenians.  The nobility
intermarried, the region’s bishops were often Armenians, and by
seventh century the separate identity of the Albanians was lost.
The territories of both Mountainous Karabakh and the larger
surrounding lowlands became parts of the Armenian provinces of
Utik, Sunik and Artsakh.  In the seventh and eighth centuries
much of this area was conquered by Arabs, who converted a
portion of the population to Islam.  In Karabakh, only a very
small minority was converted.  The situation of Karabakh changed
radically in the eleventh century when the ethnic Turkish
invasions began.  The Turks had emerged from Central Asia, had
conquered Iran, and founded the Seljuk Turkish dynasty, which
first raided, then invaded Armenia.  From 1020 on, these
invasions destroyed much of Armenia, and Karabakh, especially its
lowlands, suffered greatly.  By the mid-eleventh century, the
Armenian kingdom was destroyed.  But the feudal principality of
Sunik, which occupied the mountainous territory in the southeast
of today’s Republic of Armenia and Mountainous Karabakh survived
and became beacons to the rest of Armenia.  In the
following centuries, thousands of Armenians found refuge in
Karabakh, under the protection of native lords.
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries  Karabakh gave
rise to the pioneers of the Armenian emancipatory struggle.
Representatives of the region attempted to interest the monarchs
of Russia and other European powers in embarking on a
“crusade” to liberate the Armenian plateau, the eastern portions
of which were occupied by the Ottoman Turkish and Persian
Empires.  During the 1720’s, the rebellion of the Armenians of
Sunik and Karabakh, led by David Beg, achieved notable though
temporary success.  The Russian Empire, expanding southwards in
the Transcaucasus, annexed the territory of Karabakh in 1805.
The Russian annexation of Karabakh was officially recognized by
Persia in the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813.  Thus Karabakh came
into the Russian Empire earlier than the areas of Yerevan and
Nakhichevan, which were ceded to Russia by Persia in the
Treaty of Turkmenchai in 1828.  This earlier annexation benefited
Karabakh in some ways, but also created a major problem for the
future.  Because of the time it came into the Russian empire,
Karabakh was made part of Elizavetpol Province, which
later became Azerbaijan.  Administratively, then, Karabakh could
not be joined in 1813 to the as-yet un-annexed Armenian
territories of which its history and population made it a natural
part.  Yerevan and Nakhichevan, when they were attached to the
Tzarist empire in 1828, were organized in the Armianskoy region,
later the Yerevan province.  Here, as in other empires, decisions
made by colonial administrators laid the foundations for future
During the first months of the Russian revolution of 1917, the
situation in Karabakh was relatively calm.  The Russian army had
penetrated deep into the Ottoman Empire, and there was no Turkish
threat to Karabakh.  But by the end of 1917 the
Russian army had disintegrated, and in February 1918 the Ottoman
Turkish army moved into Armenia.  The Ottoman Turks threatened
Yerevan and made a desperate drive to oil-rich Baku, then held by
a multi-ethnic coalition of Bolsheviks (headed by the
Armenian Stepan Shaumian) and small Armenian military forces.
While this struggle went on, representatives of the Armenians,
gians and Azeris met and formed a short-lived Transcaucasian
Federation.  By May 1918, this federation failed  and three
separate, independent republics were proclaimed: Armenia,
Azerbaijan, and Georgia.
The new government of Azerbaijan, indifferent to the wishes of
its Armenian inhabitants, claimed Karabakh, as part of the
territory of the new republic.  The Armenians were ordered to
submit to the new government of Azerbaijan by the commander of
the Ottoman Turkish army, Nuri Pasha (brother of Minister Enver
Sovietization of Karabakh

Early in 1920, the Armenians of Karabakh revolted against their
Azerbaijani rulers.  This time the Armenian Republic sent aid,
and a full-scale war broke out over Karabakh between Armenia and
Azerbaijan.  Because of the war and because of the fact
that Azeri troops were tied up in Karabakh, the Red Army was able
very easily to move into Azerbaijan and in April 1920 to take
over the city of Baku.  This operation was headed by Anastas
Mikoyan and the Georgian communist, Sergo Ordzhonokidze.
At the end of November 1920, the Bolsheviks began their move
against the Republic of Armenia, which was threatened from the
East by the Red Army and from the west by the Nationalist Turks.
On December 1, one day before Armenia became a Soviet
Republic, the Baku Soviet in Azerbaijan issued a declaration in
which it announced that Karabakh, Nakhichevan and Zangezur were
to be part of the Armenian Republic.  That declaration was made
public, proclaimed and written up in Pravda, and no less
a personality than Stalin himself called this a historic act of
world significance.  However, by the spring and summer of the
following year, Karabakh and Nakhichevan were once again part of
the Soviet Azerbaijani Republic.  In other words, this
decree, supported by the central Soviet government and lauded by
Stalin, was never put into effect.  The inclusion of Nakhichevan
within the Soviet Azerbaijan republic was confirmed by treaties
between Soviet Russia, speaking for the Caucasian
republics, and Turkey.  The treaties of Moscow and Kars, signed
respectively in March and October 1921 also left Azerbaijan with
control over Mountainous Karabakh.

Source: Gerard J. Libaridian, ed. The Karabagh File: Documents
and Facts on The Question of Mountainous Karabagh 1918-1988.
(Cambridge: The Zoryan Institute, 1988).


Window: Ending Denial
by Fr. Vazken Movsesian

Denial is a widespread coping mechanism. Most prominently, we
see it activated when we are confronted by death. For those
grounded in a faith of an afterlife, death is greeted with some
degree of composure. As for those who have no set system of
dealing with the pain, death is a confusing encounter. Denial
becomes an acceptable means of dealing with our grief: ignore it
and may go away. Unfortunately, a remedy is not found in this
simple prescription.
In the Church, denial has long-since been the coping mechanism
to deal with our problems. Tragically, ignoring the situation is
becoming more prevalent in our Church today.
Recently the Roman Catholic Church has endured its share of
criticism. It has been riddled with allegations of misconduct by
its clergy. Its social and political agenda are under scrutiny.
Looking from the outside in, we see two operating models in
dealing with problems. On the one hand, there are bishops who
internalize the problem in the hopes that it can be disguised.
With the watchdog nature of Western media, this method does not
meet with success. On the other hand, we see instances where
public accountings are given and, when necessary, an apology. The
latter method seems to be greeted with applause by the general
public which is interested in a mature handling of these matters.
Matters cannot be hid or censored in the hopes that they will
cease to exist. Quite the opposite, when an issue is ignored it
festers and turns into a crime bigger than its original state.
Case in point: the Armenian Church.
The Armenian Church is now at the doors of death. It is
struggling without a vision for the future, whether for Armenia
or the diaspora. Denial seems to be a rampantly increasing
sentiment among our people. We are under the impression that if
we ignore the problem, it will go away. Sadly we stand at the
threshold of the new millennium with a bleak picture for the
Armenian Church. Failing to address the pressing issues before
the Church, not only insults the intelligence of all those
concerned with its welfare, but it is a sin like no other. We can
no longer hide our problems in the hopes that they will cease to
A recent encyclical by the Catholicos of All Armenians (April
22, 1994) refuted the need to convene the synod of bishops,
despite the urging of many of the episcopal ranks. In a tone
borrowing from that of papal-infallibility, the Catholicos
defended the Church with a covert denial of the difficulties
pressing for answers.
Ending denial in the Church was the reason for which
Window was created. With this issue, we begin our fourth year of
publication. We have earnestly strived to bring our readership a
unique forum where the current situation and challenges facing
the Armenian Church can be discussed honestly with constructive
means for rectification. The letters, phone calls and e-mail we
receive is the best indication that the Armenian faithful do not
wish to settle for denial, nor do they wish to abandon the
institution without a fight.
But Window is only the first step. Our analysis is in need of
follow up. In the 1960’s, Martin Luther King Jr., authoring a
book, Why we cannot Wait brought to light the urgent need to
address Civil Rights in the United States. Today, the same
question — Why we cannot wait — stands begging for an answer in
regard to the Armenian Church. We are at a critical juncture in
the life of the Church. We cannot wait, because we are already
loosing what we have struggled to preserve. Empty
churches, low memberships, decreasing donations, apathy are only
symptoms. The central issue is that of defining the place of
Christ within His Holy Church. Ironic as it may sound, Christ’s
presence in the Church is what we deny. There is no denying
this fact.
We cannot wait for catholicoi, bishops, priests, councils, or
committees to rectify the situation. We have no one to blame for
our dilemma but ourselves and therefore we must look for the
solutions from within. Only through activism and an earnest
commitment to work for change can we guarantee the Church as a
center for Christ’s love and justice here on Earth. Through our
research and analysis we end denial. Through activism we begin to
change and move forward. Finally, through our vigilance,
prayer and fasting we focus on God’s love as an expression,
uniquely belonging to His Holy Church– as the rightful habitat of
We begin our fourth year of publishing Window fully committed to
this unique ministry. We end denial with a hard look at the
reality of the Armenian Church at the end of the twentieth
century. Sometimes what we discover is not pleasant, but only by
candid and open discussion can we raise it from the quagmire
which threatens its extinction. And certainly, its continued
existence and service to the Armenian nation is paramount to our
actions. We thank you, our readership,  for your support. We
will make every effort to live up to the confidence you have
placed in us.
Past Windows you may have missed

Window Vol. I, No. 1  Premier issue
The first issue of Window is an eight-page introduction that sets
the tone and scope of this “new” publication.    It consists of
three articles written by the editors and a translation of
Patriarch Torkom Kushagian’s “Revival in the Armenian

Window Vol. I, No. 2 “Armenian Theology of Liberation”
This issue provides a series of articles in search of an Armenian
theology of Liberation, stimulating discussion and dialogue
between Armenian church members and theologians.  The issue
provides a descriptive and interpretive study of the subject
and underlines its application in the Armenian Church.

Window Vol. I, No. 3 “1915–The Year the
Church Died”
This entire issue is dedicated to the martyred clergy of the
Armenian Church during the Genocide of 1915.  With this issue,
Window turns the views of its readers back 75 years and provides
a glimpse of the pre-Genocide Armenian Church.  For the
first time in the English language, the monumental work of
Teotig–a scribe who tediously recorded the lives of the martyrdom
of the Armenian clergy–is presented with statistical and
analytical charts. Addressed in this issue are the issue of
remembrance, the problem of canonization of the victims and the
silence of Church leadership concerning religious treasures.

Window Vol. I, No. 4 “Is the collar choking the Priest?”
This issue discusses the role for the Armenian priest from the
perspective of both the Armenian community and the Church.  In
doing so, it dispels some of the stereotypes and myths associated
with the Armenian clergy.  Issues such as reform,
recruitment, and contemporary challenges to the church are
discussed in a very sincere and open forum.

Window Vol. II, No. 1 “Cults in Armenia”
In an attempt to educated the Armenian community on the dangers
of cults, this issue provides an extensive coverage of cults
presently operating in Armenia.  The deep psychological wounds
caused by the 1988 earthquake have facilitated the
infiltration of various cults into Armenia under false pretenses.
This issue of Window poses a challenge to the Armenian community
and the Church, by the fact that “the cults will do what we
neglect! They will extend where we cannot reach! They
will be heard where our voice is silent.”

Window Vol. II, No. 2 “International conference of Armenian
The first ever International Conference of Armenian Clergy held
in New York, June 17-21, 1991 is covered with exclusive
interviews and analysis by the Window editors.   An inside view
of the conference is provided.    Detailed information about the
current situation in Armenia by the directors and leaders of the
Center for the Propagation of Faith. Candid and alarming
revelations regarding the religious awakening in Armenia and the
Church’s ability (or inability) to provide for the needs of
the people.  Must reading for anyone concerned with the current
and future state of the Armenian Church in Armenia and the

Window Vol. II, No. 3 “Are All Brands the Same?”
This issue of Window explores the Armenian Protestant and Roman
Catholics churches, providing a history of their development and
place within the Armenian Community.  A candid discussion of
possible means of reapprochement is provided.  Also, the
place of the Armenian Church within the world Church community is
explored with statements by the Orthodox Churches and reflections
concerning the cost of unity.  This issue is filled with facts
and information. A map of religions is provided as a
centerpiece to this important volume.

The understanding of myths and their place in religious
perception is the theme of this issue, especially as it is
applied in the Armenian Church and community.  The main article
gives an excellent definition and explanation of what Myth is.
particular interest is a discussion of Vahe Oshagan and the
controversy surrounding a piece of his writing, entitled Odzoom.
Also, two articles discuss services in the liturgical tradition
of the Armenian Church, namely Blessing of Madagh and

This issue presents a series of interviews conducted in Armenia,
which give a general view of the state of the church and religion
in the post-soviet Republic of Armania. There are conversations
with the Catholicos, representatives of Armenian
political parties; Armenian “skinheads,” and others who are
closely invoved with the church. The guest editorial is written
by Bishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Armenian Church of

Window Vol. III, No. 2  “Hypocrisy”
Hypocrisy is among those topics that are normally avoided in
church life. However, in this issue, ordained and lay workers in
the church candidly write about their  experiences in the
Armenian Church and share their thoughts about hypocrisy in the
community. While the contributors discuss various aspects of
church life, they provide practical suggestions and programs that
could tackle some of the burning issues in the Armenian Church.

Window Vol. III, No. 3 & 4   “Death: The Kevorkian Factor
Death and Dying, Euthanasia and assisted suicide are among the
main topics of this issue.  The articles discuss the issues in
the context of the controversy of assisted suicide that became a
matter of public debate, especially through the actions of
Dr. Jack Kevorkian, or “Doctor Death” as he became known by the
American media.

Order back issues at a rate of $5.50 per issue + $3.50 s&h per
Send check to Window Quarterly, P.O. Box 700664, San Jose, CA

Window on the Internet
The Armenian Church Research and Analysis Group (ACRAG) is
pleased to announce its accessibility on the internet. ACRAG can
be reached internationally via email at: acrag@sain.org

ACRAG has joined forces with S*A*I*N* to make Window available
through the SAIN archive server. Anyone with internet access can
now download past and current issues of Window with a simple
command. Internet access is available world wide through
government agencies, private businesses, universities and
subscription services such as CompuServe, America on Line, GEnie,
and Delphi. With a population of over 20 million people and
growing at a rate of 10% per month, the internet provides a means
for information dissemination. ACRAG is proud to be a part of
this growing community.

Send letters to the editors, subscription requests, back issue
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for more information about WINDOW or ACRAG
Armenian Church Research & Analysis Group
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Window Vol. IV, No. 1
copyright 1994 ACRAG