Ecumenical Council of 16 Australian churches calls on UNESCO to act against Azerbaijani desecration of Armenian churches in Artsakh

The New South Wales Ecumenical Council has joined in growing calls on the international community to condemn the systematic desecration of ancient religious and cultural sites in the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) by occupying Azerbaijan, reported the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU).

The NSW Ecumenical Council expresses the views of 16 highly influential churches in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, including the Anglican Church, Antiochian Orthodox Church, Armenian Apostolic Church, Assyrian Church of the East, The Bruderhof, Congregational Federation of NSW, Coptic Orthodox Church, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church, Greek Orthodox Church, Indian Orthodox Church, Lutheran Church of NSW, Mar Thoma Church, Religious Society of Friends, Syrian Orthodox Church, The Salvation Army and Uniting Church Synod of NSW and ACT.

President of the NSW Ecumenical Council, Dr. Ray Williamson was asked by the ANC-AU to respond to the appropriation of the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral of Holy Saviour as images emerged of the sacred site being removed of its domes, angels and Armenian inscriptions under the cover of “restorations” by Baku.

In his correspondence to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), President of the NSW Ecumenical Council Dr. Ray Williamson strongly urged the organisation to speak out and condemn Azerbaijan’s systematic desecration of ancient Armenian cultural and religious sites.

“The NSW Ecumenical Council unequivocally condemns the disturbing images that have been circulated online, which indicates that the Azerbaijani Government has begun dismantling Armenian Christian features of the sacred Ghazanchetsots Cathedral of the Holy Saviour, located in the region of Shushi,” Dr. Williamson wrote.

ANC-AU Executive Director, Haig Kayserian welcomed the statement from one of the largest and most influential Christian bodies in the country.

“We thank the New South Wales Ecumenical council for standing with the indigenous Armenian population of Artsakh and against Azerbaijan’s systematic desecration of ancient Armenian cultural and religious sites,” said Kayserian.

The NSW Ecumenical Council joins several Christian organisations in Australia in condemning the actions of the Azerbaijani army by calling for an immediate end to the destruction of the religious heritage in the Armenian territories they are illegally occupying. These organisations include the Uniting Church in Australia and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

In May 2021, the Armenian National Committee of Australia wrote to prominent religious bodies throughout Australia, requesting their support in response to the destruction of Armenian churches.

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