Mount Ararat, pictured above, where Noah’s Ark finally came aground after the great flood, is still considered an Armenian national symbol, though it is now within the borders of neighboring Turkey. According to Armenian tradition, their nation’s founder was Hayk, great-grandson of Japheth, son of Noah. Once an empire spanning an area from the Mediterranean Sea to the Caspian Sea, today Armenia is a smaller, landlocked country bordered by Georgia to the north, Azerbaijan to the east, Iran to the south, and Turkey to the west.
Here stands the first nation to officially declare itself Christian. It did so, in the midst of pagan nations, before Constantine, before Islam, and even before the Roman Empire ended it’s persecutions. It happened in the year 301 A.D. thanks to the powerful ministry of a great Christian, St. Gregory the Illuminator. He was not the founder of this church, however. The Armenian Apostolic Church was founded in apostolic times, by two of Jesus’ twelve Apostles – St. Jude Thaddeus and St. Bartholomew. Neither Roman Catholic nor Orthodox, this Apostolic Church also goes all the way back to Jesus’ time.
The Armenian King Abgar, who reigned in the southern city of Edessa, from 1 B.C. to 37 A.D. had fallen ill with a disease he contracted during his travels. He heard of a man of many miracles called Jesus of Nazareth, so he sent his emissary Anan with a letter inviting Jesus to Edessa. It was near the time of the Lord’s crucifixion when the Armenian delegation arrived in Jerusalem and handed the letter to the Apostle Thomas. After Pentecost, when many of the Apostles went forth to preach the Gospel according to the Christ’s great commission, Thomas sent Thaddeus to Armenia in response to the king’s letter. Thaddeus not only brought healing to the king, who was was baptized and became a fervent Christian, but he also brought the Spear of Longinus, which had pierced Jesus’ heart. The Armenians guard the sacred relic to this day.
St. Jude Thaddeus, pictured in the icon at right, departed the south to spread the Gospel in the northern region of Armenia. Unlike his southern counterpart, King Sanatruk of northern Armenia was a fierce pagan, but his daughter, Sandoukht, gladly received Thaddeus’ teaching and converted to Christianity. She in turn spread the Gospel with many miraculous signs and healings. The enraged king captured and killed both Thaddeus and his own daughter, doing so even in the midst of amazing signs and wonders. It seemed all heaven was trying to save this man with many proofs, but he remained unmoved.
St. Bartholomew is also known as Nathaniel, the one who said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” and whom Jesus called “an Israelite in whom is no guile” (John 1:46). Like Thaddeus, Bartholomew brought thousands of Armenians to the Lord with great miracles, like those described in the Book of Acts. Arriving later on the scene, his ministry continued for a while after his predecessor’s martyrdom, but eventually, he too, was martyred. Along with these saints, more than a thousand other, unnamed martyrs lost their lives for refusing to abandon their new-found faith in the One True God and Savior.
Martyrdom always bears fruit, and Armenia’s fruit was abundantly manifest by the time King Tiridates III was baptized by St. Gregory the Illuminator. Given that title because he spread the light of Christ, illuminating hearts and minds wherever he went, St. Gregory is credited with making Armenia the first officially Christian nation. Now under Christ the nation flourished as never before. The period that followed is known as the Golden Age of Armenian history, when society and trade flourished, and the Armenian alphabet was created, along with great works of art and architecture.
In the mid-fifth Century Armenia was attacked by the king of Persia, who demanded they give up their faith for Zoroastrianism. In a famous quote, Armenian priest, Ghevont, told the Persian ambassador, “Christ, the living and life-giving true God, by his beneficent will became the healer of souls and bodies, and Himself first suffered tortures and pains to cure the entire human race. He granted us second birth in health without pains and afflictions.” The Armenians were defeated and held under Persian rule for about thirty years, and then regained their autonomy thanks to a new, more sympathetic king.
The next several centuries saw repeated attacks, ostensibly because Armenians would not give up their Christian faith to suit the jealousy and greed of neighboring nations. They lost many of their lands through these wars, and often came under foreign rule, suffering persecution and martyrdom. But through it all, the amazing Armenian people held firm to their faith and saw the Lord’s faithfulness even in the midst of diverse and painful trials.
Their history of martyrdom came to a crescendo in the early 20th Century, when they came under the brutal rule of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. In the first genocide of the 20th Century, two million Armenians were forced out of their homeland, most of them killed in forced death marches into the desert, with little or no supplies. Those who fell ill, or who became too weak to continue were shot on the spot.
As the Turks moved in and took over Armenian homes and lands, they destroyed all remnants of Armenian cultural heritage, including priceless treasures, old libraries and archives, and masterpieces of ancient architecture. They even razed to the ground entire cities in a relentless attempt to erase 3000 years of Armenian history.
The caption in the image at left reads: “A common sight among the Armenian refugees in Syria. An Armenian child dead in the fields within sight of help and safety at Aleppo.”
At that time there were communities of Armenians in the United States. Some had been invited to work in American factories during the latter half of the 19th Century, while others came when they saw the mounting Turkish threat. Still more arrived to escape from the Soviet Union’s take over, at which time Armenia came under atheistic Communist rule. Today Armenia is autonomous again, since the dissolution of the USSR and the liberation of its satellite nations.
Despite all these trials, the Armenian people have shown themselves amazingly resilient. Their joy in worship, their strong sense of community and family, all in the tremendous love of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is an inspiring testimony to us today and an example for us to follow, if and when our turn to suffer may come.
This video with beautiful, haunting music shows many scenes of the Armenian countryside, with views of Mt. Ararat, monasteries, etc. Under the video are comments by someone who had an amazing experience of reconciliation about the genocide of the early 20th Century in Armenia, which I mentioned in the article. This inspiring testimony is shared on YouTube under the video.
Lèvon Minassian & Armand Amar (Songs From A World Apart)
Follow the YouTube link to read this video’s YouTube commentary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93q4Wq2KRTc&feature=related
The comments to the above video are a very moving testimony about reconciliation regarding the Armenian genocide. You can find them on YouTube at the above URL and you can read them here:
ARMENİA andKÜRDİSTAN is the friend
barisdaglar 2 years ago
I used to live in Beirut and once I took a road trip to the south of Lebanon and stayed there at a vegetable plantation. There were a group of Kurds working there who used to live on the plantation in a humble one room house. They honored me by inviting me for sweet tea in their modest home.
Over many glasses of sweet tea and listening Kurdish music, I learned that they were refugees from the Kurdish villages that Turkey attacked and destroyed in the ’90s so they moved to Lebanon to work there.
The oldest man there who was near his 60s told me a story his grandfather told him, about how the Turks told the Kurds in 1915 that they were having a holy war against the Armenians and encouraged the Kurds to help them in killing the helpless Armenians. Many did. His Grandfather was one of them and many decades later he told his grandchildren of his regret for joining the murderous killing parties that again and again attacked Armenian villages and pillaged them and killed their inhabitants.
Then something magical happened. I remember very clearly how the elderly Kurd started apologizing to me in the name of his people for what their ancestors did to mine. And I looked around and was touched by the sincerity of this man and the regretful and humbled looks on the faces of the younger Kurds sitting around him who also were shocked to hear of this story. I felt a sudden lightness in my soul. I had no bitterness in my heart, only gratitude for the recognition of my people´s sufferings.
In the next video, below, you will see the traditional Armenian instrument that is featured in the video you have seen above. It’s a Yanni concert, where he introduced a famous virtuoso on this instrument – Armenia’s national instrument – the duduk.