With the Israel-Hamas war continuing to intensify, another crisis has entirely escaped from the headlines: the expulsion of 120,000 ethnic and Christian Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh, a small, landlocked region between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Joel Veldkamp, head of international communications for Christian Solidarity International, joined CBN Digital to provide an update on the heartbreaking situation.
“As of two weeks ago, virtually the entire Armenian population has left Nagorno-Karabakh, so this land that was part of the ancient Armenian Christian Homeland for thousands of years is now empty,” he said. “It really is a complete ethnic cleansing of the entire region.”
Watch Veldkamp reveal the situation on the ground:
As reported last month, tens of thousands of ethnic Armenians escaped the region, flooding into Armenia after Azerbaijan attacked and overtook the land; the government of Nagorno-Karabakh also disbanded before the exodus with fears of Azerbaijani abuses driving the chaotic exit.
According to Veldkamp, the pain and suffering facing these ethnic Armenians is nowhere near over.
“What really concerns us now is that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people that are still missing, and the Armenian authorities are trying to put lists together,” he said. “But the evacuation was so chaotic — people were running away from bombs, people were separated.”
Veldkamp said there were families whose children were in school when the attack started; those children were taken somewhere or fled, and now some parents don’t know where their kids are located.
Meanwhile, others were reportedly kidnapped. And those who escaped to Armenia face a harrowing situation. With no homes and barely any personal belongings, many are struggling to figure out how to pick up the pieces and start new lives in an unfamiliar place.
It will take years for some of these individuals and families to successfully reboot their lives.
“The needs are just completely overwhelming,” Veldkamp said. “Armenia’s population has increased by 4% in a week, and these are all people who left and left everything behind.”
Another factor surrounding the contentious situation is fears Azerbaijan could invade Armenia itself.
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“The threat of another war is very real, especially now that the world is distracted again with the crisis in Israel,” Veldkamp said, noting some fear an attack could come sooner rather than later. “Azerbaijan has been attacking Armenians for seven years straight, and no one has ever [put] consequences on them for it, so why would they stop now?”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly warned lawmakers earlier this month of a potential invasion of Armenia by Azerbaijan in the coming weeks. Continue to pray about this troubling situation.
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