by Trey Blanton,
STEPANAKERT, Artsakh (ChurchMilitant.com) – A secret mission to send Italian Catholic tradesmen to the war-torn Republic of Artsakh is being unveiled as the effort to teach trade skills to war-weary citizens is bearing fruit — and expanding into an educational exchange.
Church Militant has just received permission from Christians in Need Foundation (CINF) to report on Italian tradesmen, who began arriving at Artsakh’s capital, Stepanakert, on Sept. 30. The first wave consisted of two women and one man, with six more men on the way.
The master craftsmen are teaching 550 students tailoring and carpentry at the school, Antonia Arslan Armenian-Italian Hamalir. More trade skills will be added to the curriculum as teachers arrive.
One of the Italian craftsmen shared his blog, wherein he described over dinner his reason for keeping his pledge to teach in the war-torn country:
The evening ended with an exchange of good wishes for the common work that awaited us and, to the question of what pushed us to the risk of coming to Artsakh, we answered, “For the friendship that binds us to Antonia Arslan and above all because what unites us is the same faith. In him there are no Greeks or Romans but all children of God and brothers in Christ.”
It won’t just be Italian teachers going to Artsakh, however.
An educational exchange will take place between the two countries, with Artsakh’s college students and a trade school teacher traveling to Italy. This program will include:
- The Italian Scuola Alberghiera of the Istituto Scolastico Don Carlo Gnocchi accepting free of charge two Artsakh students who will help develop a hospitality program for Artsakh’s Hamalir
- The Italian Scuola Albergiera of the Istituto Don Gnocchi inviting to Milan, Italy one teacher from the Stepanakert Vocational School who will be taught to administer the exchange program
- The Italian Università di Ferrara accepting one graduate student free of charge to attend its international MBA program
In March 2019, CINF began planning and preparing for the exchange program. Its last major shipment of equipment left Italy a year later just before lockdowns were instituted for COVID-19.
The master craftsmen are teaching 550 students tailoring and carpentry at the school.
Following the pandemic-related delay, the exchange program was next hit by the paralyzing delay of war as documented extensively by Church Militant.
War vs. Artsakh: Latest in Historical Aggression
On Sept. 27, 2020, the so-called secular nation Azerbaijan launched an Islamic jihad against the Christian Republic of Artsakh. The puppet nation of Azerbaijan is ruled by the corrupt regime of President Ilham Aliyev, who enjoys the protection and support of NATO-ally Turkey. Together they violated the human rights of Artsakh, an Armenian enclave, and killed over 5,000 Armenian soldiers before the 45-day war came to an end.
Muslim-majority Azerbaijan has repeatedly violated the Russian-brokered cease-fire, cut off electricity and water to the Armenians in Artsakh, shot soldiers and civilians in the country of Armenia itself, and flouted international law by refusing to release prisoners of war and civilian hostages.
The reason for the secrecy surrounding the Italian exchange program was owing to the complex geopolitical issues at play. During Church Militant’s on-location, investigative reporting, an advocate of Azerbaijan’s conquest of Artsakh attempted to have the U.S. State Department and Azerbaijan’s minister of foreign affairs take action against Church Militant’s reporter in Artsakh, calling him an “illegal traveler” to Azerbaijan.