Today marks the celebration of Vartan the Brave and his epic stand against the Sassanid Persian empire over freedom of religion. In A.D. 451, King Yazdegerd II of Persia made a decree that Armenians abandon their Christian faith and accept Zoroastrianism. The Armenian nobles received a letter from the Zoroastrian leaders, detailing the grievances they had with Christianity. The Armenian clergy responded with a letter of their own defending the faith and ending it with these words:
“From this faith no one can shake us, neither angels nor men; neither sword, nor fire, nor water, nor any, nor all other horrid tortures. All our goods and possessions are in your hands, our bodies are before you; dispose of them as you will. If you leave us to our belief, we will, here on earth, choose no other master in your place, and in heaven choose no other God in place of Jesus Christ, for there is no other God. But should you require anything beyond this great testimony, here we are; our bodies are in your hands; do with them as you please. Tortures from you, Submission from us; the swords is yours, the neck ours. We are no better than our forefathers, who, for the sake of this faith, surrendered their goods, their possessions, and their bodies. Were we even immortal, it would become us to die for the love of Christ; He himself is immortal and so loved us that He took death on Himself, that we, by His death, might be freed from eternal death.
On May 26th, A.D. 451 on the plains of Avarayr, led by Vartan the Brave, 66,000 Armenian soldiers went up against 300,000 Persian forces. They lost the battle, but won the war in keeping the Christian faith.