Christian aid groups call for response after Armenian Orthodox cathedral shelled

Cross at church Credit Saigi Elemacr Shutterstock CNA Saigi Elemacr/Shutterstock.

A historic cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Nagorno-Karabakh was attacked this week, and Armenia says Turkish-backed Azerbaijan carried out the attack. Turkey is supporting Azerbaijan in what humanitarian and Christian aid organizations say is a campaign of violence against Armenian Christians in the terrority.

Holy Savior Cathedral in Shusha, Nagorno-Karabakh - a disputed territory - was shelled Oct. 8 amid increasing violence in the region.

Artsrun Hovhannisyan, spokesman for Armenia's defense ministry, blamed "enemy Azerbaijan" for the attack, the BBC said.

In Defense of Christians, which advocates for persecuted Christians around the world, affirmed on Friday its opposition to Turkish-backed aggression from Azerbaijan against Armenian Christians.

"The world stood in shock and horror when observing what ISIS did to Christians and churches in Iraq and Syria. The Turkish-backed onslaught against this ancient Christian community is no different. Turkey must be heavily sanctioned for its continued persecution of Christians," said IDC President Toufic Baaklini.

According to reports, a section of the cathedral's roof was destroyed in the attack, while limestone walls were damaged and pews knocked over.

One local resident told AFP news agency that "it is a very important cathedral for Armenians." He noted that the city of Shusha contains no military operations and questioned the reason for the attack.

Nagorno-Karabakh is an area recognized in the United Nations as belonging to Azerbaijan, a predominately Muslim country, but administered by ethnic Armenians, who mostly belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, one of six Churches belonging to the Oriental Orthodox communion.

The dispute over the territory has been ongoing since the collapse of the Soviet Union, with a war breaking out from 1988 to 1994.

Violence has reignited in recent months, with Turkey supporting Azerbaijan's forces in a campaign against Armenians in the territory, and other states calling for a diplomatic resolution.

The French government and other official and media sources have confirmed that Turkey is recruiting jihadist mercenaries to Azerbaijan, an IDC press release said Friday.

"Turkey – one of the enablers of ISIS – is targeting the world's first Christian nation in Armenia and trying to perpetrate another genocide. It is time for the world to finally hold Turkey accountable. Sanctions must be imposed on Ankara for its destabilizing behavior here and in multiple other regions. And military support to Turkey's reprehensible wingmen in Azerbaijan must end as well. Today, we are all Armenian." said Endy Zemenides, of the Hellenic American Leadership Council.

Since the fighting picked up on Sept. 27, thousands of people have been displaced from their homes and more than 300 people have died, the BBC reported.

Holy Savior Cathedral was consecrated in 1888 and later damaged in 1920 in the Shusa massacre of Armenians by Azerbaijanis. During the Nagorno-Karabakh War, Azerbaijan used the cathedral as a missile armory.

The cathedral was restored after the war and reconsecrated in 1998. The building is 35 meters high, making it one of the largest Armenian churches in the world, and an important symbol for the Armenian people.

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