Nara Melkonyan, Executive Director of Project AGAPE, shared this video message to update us on the current state of Project AGAPE in the immediate aftermath of the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. As you can see from the story and the pictures, many of the buildings used by Project AGAPE have been severely damaged and the contents have been moved to another location. Because of the peace agreement worked out between Armenia and Azerbaijan which turned over territory to Azerbaijan, the majority of the Armenian population in the surrounding areas have had to leave their homes and relocate just as the cold winter months are setting in.
What can you do to assist this 27-year-old joint ministry of the North Carolina and the Western North Carolina Conferences?
1) PRAY – for the people displaced by war and the aftermath without secure housing as we move into the bitter winter. Pray for the ministry of Project AGAPE which has also been uprooted. Pray for the workers who are still trying to do ministry with the vulnerable people in the region. Pray for the stability of the Armenian government and infrastructure in the midst of civil unrest and violence.
2) GIVE – financial contributions to Project AGAPE so they can continue to meet the humanitarian and spiritual needs in this area.
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ…
Project AGAPE, the God-given Project of the North Carolina United Methodist Church, has been with the people of Armenia and Artsakh since 1993 – 27 years ago – when Armenia and Artsakh faced a humanitarian crisis following the earthquake of 1988, which destroyed half of Armenia, the war with Azerbaijan after the attempts of the latter to commit another genocide of Armenians in Artsakh, the collapse of the Soviet Union which leveled the 80% industrial economy of Armenia to zero and 1 million displaced people, half of whom from the earthquake zone and the other half refugees from Azerbaijan.
The scope and number of all the projects carried out by Project AGAPE in these 27 years are invaluable, and the number of people for whom these projects were life-saving and life-changing is uncountable. There were numerous projects in Armenia & Kashatagh region of Artsakh – building schools, medical clinics, launching and sponsoring children’s homes, supporting the construction of churches and renovation of tens of houses in Berdzor & Karegah, helping families and children with humanitarian aid and Christmas boxes during the Holy Season, operating development projects through the Children’s Education Center, Agriculture development through the provision of livestock, chickens, agriculture tools and seeds. In 27 years, in relative peace and stability conditions, the impact of the projects carried out by Project AGAPE was inestimable.
Unfortunately, on September 27, 2020, Azerbaijan, through Turkey’s multifaceted support and terrorists from Syria, Libya & Pakistan, launched full-scale aggression against Artsakh. Even with the support of all the parties equipped with super-modern weaponry, Azerbaijan could not fulfill the plan of the blitzkrieg tended to capture all of Artsakh in three days. For 44 days, Armenians heroically defended their homeland, fighting against the country which used internationally-prohibited cluster bombs and phosphorus munitions. The forces were unequal. On November 9, after losing thousands of lives and many territories, a tripartite declaration was signed, leaving only one-sixth of the territory, almost 100,000 people without their homes, and most of Artsakh, including the capital Stepanakert, leveled to the ground.
Nowhere in Artsakh is safe; that is why many people, including women, children, and the elderly, migrate to Armenia to be safe in temporary shelters. We know many families from Kashatagh that are currently in Armenia. Even the Project AGAPE one-room office in Yerevan hosts four children from Berdzor. We ask for your thoughts and prayers amidst these tragic days in Artsakh and Armenia.
Four hours before the ceasefire, a cluster bomb hit the hill adjacent to the playground at the AGAPE Center in Berdzor, breaking all the windows and doors of the guesthouse, Christian Education Center, and the staff house, causing significant damage to the AGAPE Center’s property.
According to the tripartite declaration, part of the Kashatagh region (former Lachin region) should be returned to Azerbaijan by Dec. 1, so the urgent task for the staff of Project AGAPE was to remove everything from the four buildings of AGAPE Center, including the humanitarian aid that was still sitting in the AGAPE warehouse because of the slow distribution process due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
Thanks to the great network of connections gained in 27 years, Project AGAPE was able to find a big warehouse in Goris – the last big town in Armenia close to the border of Artsakh, where all the inventory of the AGAPE Center and the humanitarian aid from the warehouse were moved. Considering that Goris has thousands of resettled families from Artsakh, the new temporary warehouse location is perfect.
There is much uncertainty in Artsakh’s current situation, its status, regarding Berdzor connecting Artsakh with Armenia; the time will show where the new hub of Project AGAPE’s operations will be. However, one thing is certain – that Project AGAPE is needed in Armenia and Artsakh as much as it was 27 years ago. We cherish each year of this wonderful project, hoping to continue its mission to help those thousands of displaced people who need our support, not to lose hope.