Mission: Ararat 2010
Twin mountains of Ararat: 12,782-foot/3896-meter Little Ararat, left, and 16,946-foot/5165-meter Great Ararat. (Photo by Art Salisbury)
The debate has raged for some time: Where did Noah’s ark come to rest? It may be on modern-day Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey or on another peak found in neighboring Armenia or Iran. We do not search for timber possibly preserved since the The Flood (historically documented in the Book of Genesis from chapter 6 to 9). We are called to one of His majestic peaks (16,946 foot/5165 meter) Ararat in search of those who do not know Jesus Christ, specifically the Kurdish people.
Kurds, which number about 25 million people, are the largest ethnic group in the world without a state of their own. They are unevenly distributed between Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Armenia and Azerbaijan. They have always lived in the same area, tracing their roots back to ancient Persia.
The Kurds are tribal people and many of them lived, until recently, a nomadic lifestyle in the mountainous regions of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Their refuge has always been in the mountains.
Nearly all Kurds are Muslim. Among the Northern Kurd of Turkey, with a population of more than 8 million, there reportedly are only 551 Christians. In his 1867 account of Dr. Freiderich Parrot’s first modern ascent of Mount Ararat, Rev. E. Greenwald writes: “One, and perhaps the chief reason, why the mountain of Ararat is not more frequently visited, is the hostile character of the people that inhabit the region through which travelers must pass. They are bitter Kurds, and Turkmans, and other tribes, who profess the religion of Mahomet, and are so hostile to Christians as to make it extremely dangerous to travel among them.”
It is more dangerous to be a Kurd, a people who live in very poor conditions (good water supplies are scarce and diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis are common) and who are oppressed by governments. In Turkey, it was a crime to speak Kurdish in public until 1991.
The needs are great for the Kurds, but the biggest need is to hear about the freedom found in Christ. We will explore ways to do that while exploring the mountains of Ararat, wherever those might be.
Ararat, photographed from Armenia, with the Khor Virap monastery in the foreground. This is the closest point in Armenia to the mountain. The border between Muslim Turkey and Christian Armenia is closed to ground transportation. Ararat once stood in Armenia. (Photo by Art Salisbury)