‘If they try to shoot, they will regret it’: Priest at Amaras Monastery to Azerbaijanis

The priest at the Amaras Monastery, Father Geghard Hovhannisyan, is one of the priests who participated in the April War and the second Artsakh War. Upon Aravot Daily’s request, the priest spoke about the security of the Amaras Monastery, since now it is located at the border as a result of the war, and the enemy’s troops have gotten closer to Amaras.

Father Geghard mentioned that the monastery complex was being renovated due to the efforts of the Luys Foundation, but construction came to a stop after the war. “Now, we need to continue construction, which will be in four phases. We completed the first phase, and now we will start the second phase. Overall, I will not say that the monastery is in extreme danger, but there are security issues if I or even construction workers were to stay here at night. One night, two nights, or even three to four months, we will have serious problems here if the enemy continues to be located on the hill in front of us where we have vineyards and wheat fields. How will villagers go there are tend to the fields? If the villagers do not come here, it will be meaningless to renovate Amaras since we are renovating it for the faithful to come and go. That is the entire issue. I must repeat, however, that the situation is not extremely terrible, and our troops are there.”

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He said that he met with the Russians a few times, and he appealed to them to establish an outpost. The Russians said that they would agree to it, but the issue must be discussed. “They also said that, if their flag is displayed there, that means that the monastery complex is under the protection of the Russian peacekeepers. Even one gunshot would be a violation of the agreement, which the Azerbaijani side will regret doing and they will have to be held responsible. Now, we are holding discussions. I am emphasizing the fact that we must continue construction at Amaras. And if we are to reconstruct it and finish all the rooms, and an issue arises, that would be the same as someone building an apartment and having no one live there,” the priest said.

We asked him if the enemy was ever at Amaras during the war. Father Geghard had difficulty answering that. “But they did come close to Amaras. They moved forward, and Amaras was fired upon using GRAD missiles and sniper bullets. That is a fact.”

According to Father Geghard, the main condition of bringing Amaras to life is its security. “I am personally not afraid of anything. I can stay here with my weapon as I did in the trenches. But now, if we renovate Amaras and the construction workers stay because they are not afraid, what can we say about the faithful? If the faithful come here in groups as they go to Gandzasar or Tatev and stay here, am I supposed to maintain their security? Will our army do it? Or will the Russians give us guarantees that everything will be fine? Of course, the faithful can come here during the day. Our troops are here and it’s safe. They can come and light candles, the church is open. But how will life at Amaras continue in the future? In these conditions? Or will the church continue with its activities as usual?”

He also spoke about the fact that the main entrance to the church was closed for some time. The priest said that the main entrance is already open. They had closed it off when the Azerbaijanis tried to enter the village several times.

Gohar Hakobyan

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