Christian faith leaders gathered Saturday at the St. Paul Cathedral for an ecumenical prayer service for peace for Armenians caught up in a bloody conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over disputed territory.
The Rev. Tadeos Barseghyan of St. Sahag Armenian Church in St. Paul was among a half-dozen faith leaders who spoke at the service, held to support the soldiers and civilians under attack in Nagorno-Karabakh, also called the Republic of Artsakh.
"It has been more than a month that we Armenians have had no peace, we had no rest," said Barseghyan. "We have no sleep because our brothers and sisters in Armenia, our families in Armenia, ... our friends in Armenia are under attack.
"Too many already died or are wounded," he said. "Many lost their homes. Many lost their families. We need peace. That's why we come together today, to pray for peace."
The Armenians have been under attack since Sept. 27, when Azerbaijan forces began shelling Nagorno-Karabakh, a state east of Armenia that is home to about 145,000 Armenian Christians. The attack is the latest in the decades-old conflict over the territory. The state is inside Azerbaijan, but Armenian forces have controlled the area since a separatist war ended in 1994.
Ecumenical worship services to pray for peace have been unfolding in cities ranging from New York to Cincinnati to Philadelphia.
Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said that when one part of the church body is attacked, it's an injury to all.
"While we in Minnesota are out of harm's way from the cluster bombs that threaten human life ... even here, halfway around the globe, we can all too easily fall to hatred or thoughts of revenge," said Hebda.
Bishop Patricia Lull of the St. Paul Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) assured Barseghyan that the ELCA "is with you" and called for a "lasting cease-fire" and a diplomatic solution.
"Now is the time to find a more just way for us to live together," Lull said.
For Barseghyan and other Armenians, the attacks are a reminder of the history of genocide against the Armenian people. St. Sahag, like other Armenian churches across the world, has been fundraising for the victims of the violence. It held a candlelight vigil this month and has reached out to congressional leaders to support a resolution condemning the violence.