The Fate of Dadivank: The Heart of the Caucasus | Persecution

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The Fate of Dadivank: The Heart of the Caucasus

By Field Correspondent

12/23/2021 Nagorno-Karabakh (International Christian Concern) – The magnificent Dadivank Monastery, built between the 9th and 13th centuries, is an ancient Armenian Apostolic Church located in Nagorno-Karabakh (Armenian: Artsakh), which came under the control of Azerbaijan after the 44-day Artsakh War. After the November 9, 2020 ceasefire agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan a Russian peacekeeper security checkpoint was established nearby the monastery. However, no pilgrims have visited Dadivank since May 2, 2021 due to restrictions imposed by the Azerbaijani side.

Each week since early May the Armenian Apostolic Church has prepared lists of up to 10 people who wish to travel to Dadivank Monastery for Sunday worship. The church hands the lists to the Russian peacekeeping forces, who passes them to the Azerbaijani military. “The Russian peacekeepers keep pass[ing] back to us the rejections,” Vrtanes Abrahamyan, the Bishop of Artsakh said. “Sometimes the Azerbaijanis cite the virus COVID-19, other times they make an excuse the road blockage because of a landslide, etc.”

Fr. Atanas Sargsyan, who is currently serving at Dadivank, said in an interview, “I do not know how long this situation will last, but I am full of hope that there will be a solution. His Holiness Garegin II, the Catholicos of all Armenians is working very hard in this regard.” According to Fr. Atanas, the future of Dadivank is directly comparable to the future of Armenia. He continued saying, “everything is uncertain at this time but the main thing is the faith that should not be lost. The impossible will happen to whoever has faith; we are here with that faith, and we are expecting a miracle. It’s very sad to acknowledge that it’s the second year we welcome the first snow at Dadivank in these uncertain conditions,” concluded Fr. Atanas.

“Not only is the monastery holy, like any house of God, it’s also a symbol of our Armenian identity as Christians that stretches back two millenniums."

When Russian peacekeeping forces arrived at Dadivank on November 13, 2020 the abbot of the monastery, Fr. Hovhannes, announced that he and the other clergymen would remain there. “The monastery belongs to us, we can’t leave. During this war our people have lost their loved ones, villages, homes, everything. They reject to lose Dadivank. We must stay here and pray for the protection of our monastery and the whole country,” Fr. Hovhannes, with a long grey beard and a silver crucifix around his neck, said.

“Not only is the monastery holy, like any house of God, it’s also a symbol of our Armenian identity as Christians that stretches back two millenniums,” Fr. Hovhannes says. It is an outstanding point of the Armenian pride to have been perhaps the first Christian country, even earlier than Romans, and is said that this heritage comes from this monastery specifically. Dadivank was founded in the 1st century by St. Dadi, a disciple of Thaddeus, the Apostle who spread the Christian faith to the region. It has persisted through Mongol, Persian, as well as the two more recent Azerbaijani-Armenian wars over Nagorno-Karabakh. When asked whether Fr. Hovhannes planned to organize the return of the precious carved crosses to the city of Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, he answered: “Who am I to remove stones that have been here for over 800 years.”

Currently, the clergymen of the monastery are in complete isolation. There are a large number of Azerbaijani servicemen on all sides of Dadivank. “Despite all this, there is absolutely no fear. The monastery complex is on its feet, nothing has happened to it, we are here at the cost of our lives, trying to not let the enemy touch it or destroy it”, Fr. Atanas said, completing Fr. Hovhannes thoughts.

Armenian people all over the world are extremely concerned about the fate of this unique heritage, despite assurances from the Azerbaijani officials who promise to preserve the historical and spiritual places. “I don’t trust the Azerbaijanis and their Turkish supporters. History shows that every bite they take just makes them hungrier. This is who our enemy is, and that’s why we can never trust them,” Fr. Hovhannes concluded. Meanwhile surrounded by high mountains, dense forests, and gorges, Dadivank monastery remains as one of the unique and wonderful places of the region and can be truly considered the heart of the Caucasus.

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