Introduction / History Throughout history, Armenia has been a battlefield for many invaders and contending empires, and a bridge for many cultures and civilizations. During the past 2,700 years, Armenia has been conquered by the Persian Empire, Alexander the Great, the Roman Empire, the Byzantines, Arabs, Mongols, Tatars, Ottomans, Persians, and Russians. Armenian kingdoms, principalities, and even a short-lived empire (95-55 B.C.) managed to survive and thrive for some 1,700 years. Under various kings and princes, the Armenians developed a sophisticated culture, an original architecture, and their own alphabet.
The 1905 Russian revolution and the 1908 Young Turk revolution raised the hopes of the Armenians for reform, and an opportunity to build a homeland in historical Armenia. These hopes were dashed as the Ottoman and the Russian Empires fought each other during World War I. A dark hour of Armenian history is the Armenian genocide, which started on April 24, 1915. Some 1,750,000 Armenians were deported into Syria and Mesopotamia by the Ottoman authorities. Subject to famine, disease, and systematic massacres, most of them perished. This "ethnic cleansing" of the Armenians from their historical homeland led Raphael Lemkin, the father of the Genocide Treaty, to coin the new term "genocide" in the 1930s to describe the historical plight of the Assyrians and the Armenians as subjects of the first genocide of the 20th century. Armenia gained independence on September 23, 1991.
Today, there are several million Armenians worldwide. Significant numbers are located in Armenia and the United States of America. Major diaspora centers of the Middle East are Iran, Syria and Lebanon.
What are their lives like? The Armenian communities in the Arab world received a large percentage of the refugees and survivors of the massacres and genocide. They increased the numbers of Armenians in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Sudan and Ethiopia. The European mandates at the beginning of the 20th century enabled the Armenians to make advances in the economic and administrative sectors and to establish cultural and political associations. Egypt, with its strong Armenian community, was the guiding head of the Armenians in the Arab world until the mid-twentieth century. Their numbers have declined, however, as a result of heavy emigration since 1952. In 1989 the Armenian community in Egypt was estimated at 12,000. Cairo was traditionally the center of Armenian culture in Egypt, but many Armenians also lived in Alexandria.
The Armenian communities of Palestine and Jordan, which were never large, also attracted some refugees from Turkey who laid the foundations for new centers in Jerusalem, Haifa, and Amman. The short-lived and relatively secure time for Armenians in Palestine during the British Mandate soon gave way to Arab-Jewish strife. Following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and the Arab-Israeli wars, many Armenians emigrated to Europe, the United States, and more peaceful centers in the Middle East. The majority of Armenians who remained are primarily involved in the religious and scholarly activities surrounding the Armenian patriarchate of Jerusalem.
Many of the Armenian survivors of the massacres and genocide settled in modem Syria, mainly in Aleppo. Syria has, with over 100,000 Armenians at present, the largest Armenian community in the Arab world. The new arrivals were aided by Armenian and American missionary and philanthropic organizations and succeeded in invigorating the earlier settlements and creating one of the most active Armenian communities in the twentieth century. In many ways the Armenian schools, churches, centers, and hospitals in Syria became the inspiration and model for the Armenian communities of Beirut, Baghdad, Jerusalem, and Amman during the second half of the twentieth century. Armenians, Assyrians, Christian Arabs, and a number of non-Sunni Muslim sects such as the Druze, 'Alawis, and Isma'ilis, were favored by and cooperated with the European powers present in the area during and after WWII.
The Armenians of Lebanon were, for a time, the most important Armenian community outside of the Soviet Union and the United States. The core of the modern community also arrived as a result of the massacres and genocide in Turkey. By 1926 there were some 75,000 Armenians in Lebanon and the Lebanese Constitution granted them and other minorities civil rights, which, in time, enabled the Armenians to elect their own members of parliament.
What are their beliefs? In 301 AD, during the rule of King Dirtad III, Armenia became the world's first Christian nation. A Christian monk, commonly know as Krikor Lusavorich or St. Gregory the Illuminator, cured the King from a disease. After this event, King Dirtad III was baptized and accepted Christianity as Armenia's official state religion. Before this, two disciples had brought Christianity to Armenia, St. Thaddeus and St. Bartholemew. Today, Armenia is still a Christian nation, comprising: Armenian Apostolic Orthodox (the overwhelming majority), other Christian (a small percentage) and Yezidi (Zoroastrian/animist, very small percentage) of the population.
Prayer Points The traumatizing experience of being expelled from their homeland and the historic genocide made a deep impression on the Armenians.
Pray for healing for this nation and for the ability to integrate into their respective diaspora communities.
Pray for the Armenians in the Middle East to hold on to their Christian faith and to have a personal experience with Jesus Christ.
Pray for peace; this is what Armenia needs most of all.
Pray for Christian humanitarian ministries that are much needed since the rate of unemployment is high.
Pray that God would bring revelation of Christianity as a spiritual relationship, and that Armenians would realize their nationality doesn't make them a Christian.