S Peter Cowe

During the past four centuries of its existence the Armenian Church has ministered to an increasingly diversified society whose geographical dispersion now embraces every continent apart from Antarctica. This time frame has also witnessed its encounter with modernism and the major factors associated with the movement that has come to be known as globalisation. Whereas at the beginning of the period the church was fundamentally the sole institution perpetuating Armenians' corporate identity after the fall of the Cilician kingdom, it has since become one body among several others and has had to contend against competing worldviews. In particular, it has had to come to terms with religious plurality, as Armenians have been exposed to different ecclesial forms and confessional affiliation, and in more recent times to various secular ideologies. Similarly, in the sphere of inter-faith relations, it has experienced a complex interaction with Islam, the dominant force in the surrounding region, ranging from peaceful coexistence to proselytism and outbreaks of persecution.

Background

During the sixteenth century the Armenian plateau became a battleground between the rival Ottoman and Safavid empires, with consequent destruction of towns and disruption of communal life. The historian Grigor Daranalc'i vividly documented the decline of monasticism,1 reflected in the notable reduction in manuscript production in monastic scriptoria.2 As a religious minority in eastern Anatolia and southern Caucasia, Armenians had to maintain a low

1 Grigor Daranalc'i, Zamanakagrut'iwn Grigor vardapeti Kamaxec'woy kam Daranatc'woy [Chronicle of Grigor Kamaxec'i or Daranalc'i], ed. M. Nsanean (Jerusalem: St James Press, i9i5).

2 Dickran Kouymjian,'Dated Armenian manuscripts as a statistical tool for Armenian history', in Medieval Armenian culture, ed. T. J. Samuelian and M. E. Stone [University of Pennsylvania Armenian Texts and Studies 6] (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1984), 425-38.

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