Friday, 2 November 2007

Armenia May 2008...

"And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest." Psalm 55:6

Ever since we left Armenia in July, I can't seem to think about going anywhere else on holiday (DV). So, I was sitting at the computer yesterday looking for cheap airfare when I came across a new airline which offers flights from Dublin to Riga (Latvia) and then from Riga to Yerevan. Now when I saw the price, I was immediately suspicious as it was 25% cheaper then our last flight to Armenia (which was already a good deal) and a shorter transit time (as there are no direct flights.) One of the reasons I chose to travel in May is that the prices are slightly cheaper (although spring is Armenia is supposed to be the greenest time to travel) and also because my youngest boy Judah is turning two in June, so he is able to travel as an infant (90% off) in May. You go Judah! Well I almost couldn't help myself... but Maria convinced me to wait until today. So when I got home from work today... what do you think is the first thing I did? "Click, click, click..." We are booked to travel to Armenia on 6th May 2007 for three glorious weeks (DV). I'm so excited! Thank God for his goodness and mercy!

Monday, 22 October 2007

Armenian Protestants...

"Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance." Psalm 33:12

With Reformation Day fast approaching on 31 October, I thought I would write a short blog about the Protestant Armenian community. At this point you may be thinking... "Reformation Day?"... What the heck is that all about? I'm glad you asked! On 31 October 1517, a German monk, by the name of Martin Luther nailed a challenge to the Roman Church on the doors of the "catholic" church in Wittenberg, Germany. Brother Luther was challenging the Roman church and her practice of selling salvation for money in the form of documents called indulgences. By daring to confront an unbiblical man made practice this simple German monk opened the door of self examination. What does the Bible say about the worship, doctrine and customs of our church? The Armenian Reformation appears to have started in the 19th century with a series of Bible studies which examined the Holy Scriptures without the tinted glasses of the apostolic church. The movement initially sought reform and not separation for those practices and customs in the church which contradicted the Bible. These practices were virtually identical to those in the Roman church which initiated the Protestant Reformation. The Armenian Reformers emphasized the authority of Scripture, the priesthood of all believers and justification by faith alone. Their attempts at reform were met by contempt, persecution and excommunication. The final breach appeared to be the imposition of a new creed which resulted in the beginning of the Armenian Evangelical Church in 1846. By the end of that year, three churches had been established with over 1000 members. The Armenian Evangelical Church clearly stated their reasoning in separating from the mother church:

“We subscribe and have always subscribed to the Church’s Nicean Creed to which all Christians subscribe. No other creed since 400 A.D. was ever imposed on the believers, but in 1846 a new creed is being imposed upon the members of the Armenian Church that is concerned with traditions and ceremonies. Therefore, by subscribing to the ancient Christian creed, we consider ourselves legitimate members of the church.”

So on Reformation Day, our family will be remembering not only Martin Luther, John Calvin and John Knox who were used of God so instrumentally in bringing the Reformation to Western Europe, but also those Armenian Reformers who wondrously brought back the Scriptures into the hand of the common Armenian people. Sadly, there is a dangerous association today that being Armenian means being a member of the apostolic church so that loyalty for the one demands loyalty for the other. Even in Armenia this summer, I can remember seeing a poster on the street that said something along the lines of "We are Armenians, Our Land is Armenia, Our Language is Armenian and our Church is Apostolic." While I can appreciate the attempt to preserve the Armenian Culture, it should never be at expense of the truth of God's Word. We should remember the unbelieving jews at the time of Jesus who were so enslaved by their national pride and blind faith in their religious leaders, that they could not even recognize their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. While false gospels such as Islam, Mormonism and the Jehovah Witnesses (who all deny the divinity of Jesus) are preying on souls, Armenians should not overreact against those Protestant Christians whose "heart's desire and prayer to God" (Romans 10:1) is for their ultimate good. As the Armenian Reformers of 1846 said:

“We respect the ecclesiastical authorities, we honor its traditions, sanctified by the blood of martyrs; we accept the creed of the universal church, we love the Armenian nation with all our heart and soul, but we hold the freedom of conscience more sacred than every thing else, and we cannot let any authority, tradition or mandate deprive us from the Gospel of Christ.”

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

I will not be afraid...

"I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about." Psalm 3:6
This morning I opened the New York Times online and read about how "Support Wanes in House for Genocide Vote." It seems that almost a dozen former supporters of the genocide resolution have now had second thoughts about the timing of the vote and are now pushing the House leadership to drop the vote. Why you ask, would co-sponsors suddenly become opponents of their very own resolution? Well, I'm sure that the numerous Turkish paid lobbyists and the millions of dollars spent by their government to fight the resolution have had some impact, but I think that there is another explanation. No one really knows that is going to happen in Iraq and no one wants to be the one responsible when Turkey suddenly restricts the flow of logistics to Iraq. Imagine watching the news that so many Americans were killed today in Iraq and the next story talking about how the Armenian Genocide resolution is the indirect cause of body armour and supplies not reaching the front line troops (or being responsible for a Turkish invasion of Northern Iraq). You can almost hear the question "Honey, how did our congressman vote?... What an idiot!"
Now, I've never been the biggest supporter of all aspects of the war in Iraq (although I won't hide the fact that I was in favor of the invasion in 2002), but I certainly take issue with such reasoning? What are the Americans in Iraq, if not (as the U.S. State Department says) bringing peace and democracy to the region? How can you have peace in the absence of truth? Less then a century ago over one million, five hundred thousands Armenian fathers, mothers, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, doctors, lawyers, ministers, farmers, school children, artists, etc. with souls, minds and hearts were subjects of rape, torture and murder in an organized attempt to annihilate an entire race of people. How can we not stand up and recognize what happened in 1915? It is quite easy to condemn injustice when it is politically popular and when it doesn't have any cost or negative repercussion that effects you. It's quite another thing to stand upon truth and refuse to waiver amidst a costly storm of opposition. It is at this point that you discover the truth about the sincerity and principals of those who stood with you as fair weather friends, but who had to run back home to get an umbrella. Honest resolutions that have no "resolution" about them are halfhearted and unworthy of the great words and ideas that they contain. America prides itself on being a great nation, and yet it will probably remain silent in 2007 about the Armenian Genocide because of political expediency.
I thought the best quote in the article was from Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania who said "This happened a long time ago and I don't know whether it was a massacre or a genocide, that is beside the point... The point is, we have to deal with today's world." So Congressman Murtha feels that events in the past are only relevant when they prove popular and useful in pursuing our current policies? Congressman, I remember being taught as a boy in school that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. It appears that you have not even come to a historical conclusion about whether the events of 1915 were a series of uncoordinated massacres or a systematic policy of genocide, so how can you even lecture us about it's relative importance? Reading between the lines, it appears that reaching a conclusion as to that question is only of importance if there is something to be gained diplomatically by the United States! Perhaps the question needs to be asked as to who is the mercenary... Turkey or the United States? A congressman that can sell his principals so cheaply has only evidenced that he has already sold his soul.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Welcome to Armenia!

"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." Ephesians 4:32
So here's the story about our arrival in Armenia that I promised. Now bear in mind that we had been travelling with two small bundles of joy since 6am the previous day (we had woken up the previous day at 6 am to drive to Dublin Airport, driven over 100 miles to Dublin Airport, flown to Prague, walked around for five hours in Prague International waiting for our connecting flight to Yerevan and finally flown on to Yerevan.) No one tired or cranky here! When we landed in Yerevan at 5 am (all the flights arrive or depart around this time), I thought we would be one of the first persons off as we were sitting directly behind the fancy smancy first class section (you could almost smell the Dom Perignon!)

We had brought a double pram buggy with us for the children and were told that it would be waiting for us as soon as we got off the plane (which is normal for all airlines.) A buggy is considered to be like a wheelchair in that you are allowed to bring it all the way to the departure gate for collection and as soon as you arrive at your destination and leave the plane, it is always waiting for you outside the plane (DV). So anyway as soon as our plane landed and started to slow down (long before either the seatbelt light went off or we were told it was ok to get up), everyone jumped up and jammed the aisles. One of the stewardess's jumped up at the same time (as if she already knew) and yelled for everyone to sit back down. I don't think they heard her because it took a number of warnings for everyone to back down and sit back in their seats (like good little boys and girls.)

I was starting to think at this point that it was going to be really difficult trying to get our overhead baggage with our half sleeping children and the jammed aisles, so I turned to Maria and said "lets just let everyone else disembark first, and then go." So we stayed seated until everyone else get off and then exited the plane. As soon as we got off I started to look for our double buggy, but there was only a small group of mothers with their children standing around (obviously waiting for their buggies as well.) A few minutes goes by and they bring one of the prams, but it wasn't ours.... and then a few minutes later another one, but it wasn't ours... until finally we are the only ones left waiting outside of the aircraft waiting. Another five minutes goes by and I finally ask one of the staff about our buggy and after making some enquiries, we find out that it was loaded into the checked baggage and that we should collect it with our baggage. No problem, at least we are getting somewhere!

So we head into the airport (half expecting
Taline and her friends to greet us, singing and dancing), following the signs which leads you first into the customs/visa area where you buy your three week visa. Now, you can buy your visa ahead of time, but it costs twice as much (where is the logic in paying more ahead of time?) So we get to the back of the line (still holding two small sleeping children) with about 70 people in front of us. We are waiting for about ten minutes and I kid you not... the line didn't move one inch. Now Maria is tired and had all our documents at about this time, so she's finding our tickets and passports, while I'm holding both kids (and Josiah weighs an awful lot.) I had almost lost my will to live, when out of no where, a female employee at the airport comes up to us (probably out of sheer pity) and tells us to follow her. Now, at this point, I would have followed anyone in a uniform anywhere, but I wasn't exactly sure what was going on. We were half expecting to be hit up for a bribe or something. So the employee leads us all the way around the massive line to the very front... with the people at the front looking at us like we are criminals or something and she tells us that we are next (bless you!) So we are paying for our visa when we hear some arguing back where we were standing at the front of the line.

So I ask Maria to tell me what they are arguing about (since my Armenian is still a work in progress.) It seems that the people who were giving us dirty looks at the front of the line when we were brought forward... started arguing with the employee who brought us to the front of the line. She explained to them that we had two small children and that's why we were being allowed to the front... but that only seemed to make them angrier and they started to shout at her! It looked like things were going to turn ugly (probably because Armenians seem to yell and use their hands a lot when they are annoyed.) In the meantime, several other airport employees had heard the commotion and made their way to the front of the line with all the arguing and shouts getting louder and louder. Maria and I are unconfortably standing there (waiting for our passports to be stamped) and hoping to get far away and soon. So after a few more minutes of this going on, Maria hears the female employee who brought us to the front shouted at them something to the effect "what will these people think of Armenia if this is their first greeting and experience here?" This seemed to calm them down (or shame them down), but for a moment, it really felt like the makings of a full scale riot were in the works.

After that, everything at the airport was a little uneventful. We breezed through the visa area and collected our baggage. (One question: Why do they charge for baggage trolleys in dram, when you have just arrived in the country and there is no where to change currency in the bagggage area?) We had arranged for a driver to collect us at the airport, so he was waiting with an appropriate sign in the arrivals area as soon as we walked out. What a morning? Bye for now (DV). Hoveeg.