Every time I return from a trip to Armenia, I find the flight full of Asian and European travelers. I often have wondered what attracts those visitors to Armenia. A few random questions reveal that many people visit Armenia to learn about its Christian history. That, of course, would have been a dignified cause had it been the only reason. There is no doubt that Pope Francis’ visit and his courageous statement about the Armenian Genocide put Armenia on the tourist map.
But going from the sublime to the ridiculous, Kim Kardashian’s visit in 2015 also has created tremendous interest in that tiny country tucked away in the Caucasus Mountains in a different audience.
We may also be loath to admit that Kardashian’s statements about the Armenian Genocide have, perhaps, been as equally effective in generating awareness about this historic wrong as the volumes of serious academic publications on the subject.
As ironic as it may sound, that predicts what triggers the interest of other people.
Another flow of tourists into Armenia comes from Iran. The Muslim tourists from that country have the least interest in Armenia’s Christian heritage; instead, the source of their interest in Armenia is their own closed society which enforces rigorous moral codes, restricting people from enjoying the social freedoms of an open society.
Armenia’s Christian heritage is a recent discovery even for its own people. In today’s world, many countries filter their politics through religion. Even in America, the Bible Belt has been a staunch supporter of President Trump, regardless of his frivolous romps (allegedly) with adult actresses, several divorces and out-of-wedlock dalliances. The Bible does preach understanding and compassion, and Mary Magdalene is more virtuous that many others who were socially superior to her.