LONDON — Tens of thousands of Armenians face starvation as a direct result of the current Azerbaijan blockade of Nagorno Karabakh, according to UK Christian leaders including Armenian, Apostolic, Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox Church leaders.
In their letter the group, including former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams, and Bishop Hovakim, Primate of the Armenian Church of the UK and Ireland, call on the Prime Minister to take decisive action to prevent the unfolding genocide in Nagorno Karabkh. The leaders highlight the plight of 120,000 Armenians, including 30,000 children, as a result of the blockade since 12 December last year:
- Food, medicine, gas, and other vital supplies have been prevented from reaching the territory;
- Hospitals are severely affected and cannot carry out planned procedures;
- Miscarriages and stillbirths have risen by 30 per cent;
- Malnutrition is widespread and cases of death by starvation have been reported;
- Evacuations of the critically ill have been suspended;
- Dialysis machines stand idle for want of necessary blood products.
The leaders argue that mass starvation is likely in the coming months.
“Our fears are also increasing for the lives of the 30,000 children and pregnant women affected by this unjustifiable and intolerable situation,” they write.
Bishop Hovakim Manukyan, the Primate of the Armenian Church of the United Kingdom said: “As Christians and religious leaders we have the duty to speak out against the worsening humanitarian crisis. Our Lord commanded us that ‘Whatever you do for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you do for me’”.
Signatories include the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop Nikitas, the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church and President of the Conference of European Churches, Archbishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church and Papal Legate to the United Kingdom; Bishop Mark Royal, General Secretary of Churches Together in England and the C of E Bishops of Southwark and Manchester.
Below is full text of the letter:
The Rt Hon. Rishi Sunak MP Prime Minister
10 Downing Street London
23rd August 2023
Dear Prime Minister,
We write to you to seek the urgent intervention of His Majesty’s Government in stopping an act of cruelty and aggression that is leading to the suffering and deaths of Armenians in Nagorno Karabakh.
Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Lachin Corridor, now in its ninth month, has created a situation described earlier this month by a former Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court as follows: “Starvation is the invisible Genocide weapon. Without immediate dramatic change, this group of Armenians will be destroyed in a few weeks.”* The Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention has a “Red Flag Alert for Genocide” about the current situation, and Genocide Watch issued a “Genocide Warning” as early as September 2022.*
Since 12th December of last year, 120,000 Christian Armenians, including elderly people, women and 30,000 children, have been suffering the consequences of the devastating blockade imposed by Azerbaijan in violation of the terms of the ceasefire agreement signed in November 2020 by Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia, which ended the 44-day war of that year.
For many months now, and throughout the harsh winter and hot summer of the Caucasus mountains, food, medicine, gas, and other vital supplies have been prevented from reaching Nagorno Karabakh. Hospitals are severely affected and cannot carry out planned surgical procedures; miscarriages and stillbirths have risen by a reported 30%. Malnutrition is widespread, and cases of death by starvation are being reported. All evacuations of the critically ill have been suspended, and dialysis machines stand idle for want of necessary blood products. Mass starvation is likely in the coming months. Our fears are also increasing for the lives of the 30,000 children and pregnant women affected by this unjustifiable and intolerable situation.
Moreover, as was confirmed at the recent meeting of the UN Security Council, Azerbaijan has recently prevented the International Red Cross from entering the region and has blockaded a dirt track from Armenia to Nagorno Karabakh, which was being used for emergencies and to deliver medical supplies. The government in Baku has ignored calls from the International Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights, and other international organisations, as well as calls from the UN Security Council member states, including the United Kingdom, to restore freedom of movement across the Lachin Corridor. There are no supplies of any sort (including of food and medicine) entering Nagorno Karabakh.
The Gospel says, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). As Christians and religious leaders, we are deeply alarmed by the worsening humanitarian crisis.
Prime Minister, we urge you and His Majesty’s Government to take decisive action to open the Lachin Corridor to prevent the genocide of the population in Nagorno Karabakh. We trust that your actions will be timely to save the lives of tens of thousands of people on the verge of dying as a direct result of the current blockade.
As church leaders we come to you to place this crisis in its humanitarian context and hope that you will use your good offices to relieve our Armenian sisters and brothers who are being deprived of any assistance.
Primate of the Armenian Church of the United Kingdom and Ireland and Pontifical Legate
Archbishop of London Coptic Orthodox Church and Papal Legate to the United Kingdom
THE RT REVD CHRISTOPHER CHESSUN
The Lord Bishop of Southwark (Church of England)
THE RT REVD DR CHRISTOPHER COCKSWORTH
The Bishop of Coventry (Church of England)
The Rt REVD David Walker Bishop of Manchester
Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain President of the Conference of European Churches
ARCHBISHOP KEVIN MCDONALD
Archbishop Emeritus of Southwark (Catholic Church)
BISHOP MIKE ROYAL
General Secretary, Churches Together in England
ARCHBISHOP ABRAHAM MAR STEPHANOS
Metropolitan of UK- Europe-Africa Diocese of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
ARCHBISHOP ATHANASIUS TOMA
Syriac Orthodox Archbishop in the UK
THE RT REVD AND RT HON DR ROWAN WILLIAMS
The Lord of Oystermouth (Church of England)