Prayers sent from Fresno to Armenians attacked in Karabakh

The halls of Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church in downtown Fresno echoed with somber prayers during a special Sunday service for the Armenian soldiers killed during fighting in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, the Fresno Bee reports.

Father Dajad Ashekian led the congregation in prayers during a time set aside during regular Sunday services to address the recent flareup in Nagorno-Karabakh, a majority ethnic Armenian region that has been in limbo since a ceasefire was reached between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1994.

The aim of the prayer was to also send a message to Armenians abroad that those in Fresno shared their solidarity with the homeland. They were meant for God to give the comfort of the Holy Spirit to the families of soldiers who were killed when skirmishes began in early April between Armenian troops, alongside ethnic Armenians, and Azerbaijani forces who briefly entered the region.

A tentative ceasefire has since been reached after more than 40 Armenian and nearly 20 Azerbaijani soldiers were killed during skirmishes between April 2-8. Hundreds more were left wounded on both sides.

Congregants like Berj Apkarian, the Honorary Consul of the Armenian Republic in Fresno and a church board member who spoke on behalf of the church, felt the pain from the conflict reach across the globe.

“They inflicted a pain on all of us,” Apkarian said. “Not just at the homeland over there, but every Armenian around the globe felt the pain.”

David Sarabian echoed the pain felt across the congregation as he said that the Armenian family is an extended family across the globe.

“Nobody is happy when you lose loved ones, soldiers, family,” Sarabian said. “The Armenian family is an extended family. Whether it’s here in America or overseas, we’re all one united in the Christian faith and our heritage. We all cry together, we weep together and we’re all one.”

Church members expressed the hope that the Armenian community would come together to raise funds for the soldiers killed and wounded in the conflict. They hope to raise the money through checks payable to the Armenian consulate, but also through the Internet website GoFundMe.

Apkarian said the purpose of the donations was so the church and the Armenian-American community could “reach out and make a difference during this difficult time.”

Sophia Mekhitarian believed it was the Armenian-American community’s turn to extend a hand to help Armenians affected by the conflict.

“I have no problems to see what we can do to help our brothers and sisters abroad,” she said.

She said the recent flareup in Nagorno-Karabakh was a dire setback in a peace process that has been ongoing between Armenia and Azerbaijan since 1994 with the help of Russia, the United States and France through the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe’s Minsk Group.

“We haven’t found a way to deal with conflicts peacefully yet,” Mekhitarian said. “So there’s always progress being made, but there’s sometimes setbacks, and it was a horrible setback.”

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