In a wooded area of Nagorno-Karabakh, new recruits to the war besieging the region are underwent a ritual Monday they hope will help them endure the fight — baptism into the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Associated Press writes.
One by one, the young men in camouflage fatigues approached a priest, who dipped their clasped hands into a water-filled kettle and then anointed their heads and necks. Afterwards, the young men stood at attention as the priest hung wooden crosses around their necks.
Their faces were impassive, but one betrayed the emotion churning beneath by kissing the cross.
“The baptism cleansed us and helped us forget about the horrors of the war,” Tigran Kagramanian, an 18-year-old recruit, told The Associated Press after the Monday ceremony.
The newly baptized soldiers and the priests who blessed them are prepared for more suffering to come.
“We came here to inspire, but it is us who are inspired, looking into the eyes of these young guys, who fully understand the situation and are nonetheless ready to take on this martyrs’ death, knowing that behind them are their shrines, their families and their mothers,” said one of the priests, Aristakes Hovhannisian.