Armenia Nazarenes providing relief for refugees displaced by war
Nazarenes in Armenia are providing food and hygiene relief packages to families displaced by the recent war between Armenia and neighboring country Azerbaijan that erupted on 27 September 2020. The Church of the Nazarene does not have a presence in Azerbaijan.
In the wake of a ceasefire between the two nations that began 10 November, international analysts say that about 75,000 people have been displaced from the region—more than half of the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh. Thousands are in government-run shelters, and many more have spread out across the nation, moving in with family members, friends, acquaintances, or into empty apartments and hotel rooms provided rent-free. Thousands of people who were engaged in the conflict were killed, and more than 100 are still missing.
“We are used to the war at the borders,” said Pastor Rita Lao of the Yerevan church. “When you hear about war, we [think], ‘OK, it’ll end in a few days. Maximum four days.’ But it continued. Then there was the involvement of other countries as well. Houses were being destroyed. Even if the war would stop, it would be difficult for people to go back to their homes. And it’s winter.”
According to Pastor Anna Jara, a minister at Yerevan Church of the Nazarene in Armenia’s capital city, laypeople and leaders from the four Nazarene churches in Armenia independently responded to the emergency needs of those around them. They gave personally to provide food, blankets, clothes, and hygiene items. But as the war stretched on, the churches partnered with Nazarene Compassionate Ministries to buy more food, clothes, mattresses, and other items to meet people’s immediate physical needs.
The congregation runs a kids’ club where children receive academic and social support, and some of the families whose children attend began taking in other families who had fled their homes. People who knew about displaced families connected them with Nazarene churches in the area. As volunteers visited these families, they often found multiple families packed into apartments and homes.
Those staying in shelters are receiving a large portion of the government assistance, while families scattered across private homes and other private spaces are falling through the cracks. Those who are staying in empty apartments or hotel rooms may have no furniture and no heating when temperatures are regularly below freezing.
By late November, the churches had provided food, clothing, blankets, and hygiene items to 38 children under the age of 15 and to 74 adults, according to Lusine Melkonyan, a member of a Nazarene church who helps to administer Nazcom Charity Foundation, the Church of the Nazarene’s officially registered organization in Armenia.
Melkonyan said they visited one household to bring food and other needed goods. There were three adults and seven children in the space, and one of the women was pregnant. There was no furniture and just a small gas oven. The grandmother was so thankful to receive all the packages and blankets that she filled a bag with apples and mandarins and gave it as a gift to the visiting volunteers.
“They don’t want just to receive but are very grateful and want to share,” Melkonyan said.
How to help
Churches and individuals around the world can provide support through the Armenians Displaced by Conflict fund.
To send donations by mail:
In the U.S., make checks payable to "General Treasurer" and send them to:
Global Treasury Services
Church of the Nazarene
P.O. Box 843116
Kansas City, MO 64184-3116
Be sure to put 135534 in the Memo area.
In Canada, make checks payable to "Church of the Nazarene Canada" and send them to:
Church of the Nazarene Canada
3657 Ponytrail Drive, Mississauga, ON | L4X 1W5
Be sure to put 135534 in the Memo area.
For any other country, give through your local church or district, designating your gift to Armenians Displaced by Conflict.