In a 23 November letter to Audrey Azoulay, director-general of UNESCO, World Council of Churches (WCC) interim general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca urged the protection of religious and cultural monuments the Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh region.
“Our concern for the religious and cultural heritage of the region, specifically in the areas newly under Azerbaijani control, is greatly heightened by the repeated shelling of the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shushi that occurred on 8 October, and especially by the numerous reports we are receiving of other more recent desecrations,” Sauca writes. “There are an estimated 4,000 historical, religious and cultural monuments in the areas of Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh now under Azerbaijani control – each of them with a powerful spiritual and cultural legacy to impart.”
The loss of this heritage would be an irreparable loss for the whole of humanity, Sauca continues. “We therefore urge UNESCO to take all possible and appropriate measures to protect these sites on the affected territories,” he writes. “In this regard, we welcome the proposal for a preliminary field mission, in order to draw up an inventory of the most significant cultural assets, as a prerequisite for effective protection of the region’s heritage.”
Included among the WCC’s more than 350 member churches are the Armenian Apostolic Church (Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin) and the Armenian Apostolic Church (Holy See of Cilicia).
The letter follows a WCC executive committee statement adopted earlier in November that appeals for “respect for the holy sites and cultural heritage of Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh” and urges “UNESCO to take all possible and appropriate measures to protect these sites.”