In the South Caucasus, the first cases of the virus appeared in late February, shortly after the outbreak in Iran. Armenia registered the highest number of cases so far: 482 as of March 30, 10:00 am. Armenia was the first of the three South Caucasus countries to declare a state of emergency, which carries implications for domestic politics. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a global, economic and political shock that is already having a significant negative impact in the world. Believers worldwide are conflicting with public health authorities’ warnings that communal gatherings must be limited to combat the virus’ spread. Religion is the alleviation of first resort for billions of people grappling with a pandemic for which scientists, presidents and the secular world seem, so far, to have few answers. The consequences for states will depend on the duration of the pandemic and on the measures taken by states.
There is no doubt, once the number of COVID-19 cases spike, the medical services will be under strain, likewise there will be worsening of social conditions of people, those vulnerable will be harshly impacted. In this context and environment, the role and work of civil society organizations and cooperation with local actors will gain importance and be of considerable input. WCC Armenia Round Table Foundation (ART), as ecumenical organization reacted rapidly to the government’s call for mobilizing resources and volunteers. ART in cooperation with Church based social centres across the country and government, gathered volunteers to support humanitarian aid distribution to the vulnerable families and single elderly people in remote communities in Armenia. ART has already applied to international ecumenical and humanitarian organizations with a request for emergency health support to meet health care needs of locals. This serves as a good example of ecumenical solidarity and how diaconia works in practice.
To fulfil hearts of billion believers with faith and keep spiritual contact with God, Churches across the world call to pray together from homes and workplaces. This is done to help those who are struggling to find means at this difficult and stressful time, and to enable believers to worship in solidarity with one another even if it is not possible to gather in church.
In the fight against spread of the virus, Churches, including Armenian, have to conduct services beyond closed doors. Head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians has declared March 18 “National Day of Prayer” amid the worldwide outbreak of the novel coronavirus. The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin invited everyone at 7:00 pm to join the clergy, in their private prayer from the place where they were during the national day of prayer. The Prayer was aired live on social media, on Public TV channel, thousands of people were praying together for peace and health for those who are in need. Armenian Apostolic Church runs and streams prayers every day during this troubling times. Whether we are confident and brave, or doubt-filled and fearful, God is the source of love, hope and spirituality.
Assistant to the Programme Officer at ART