To save the lives of 800,000 people in Armenia and other Western Asians countries and to care for more than 250,000 orphans who are homeless there former President William Howard Taft, Henry Morgenthau, former ambassador to Turkey, and Alexander J. Hemphill, the New York banker, as members of the Executive Committee of Near East Relief, the former American Committee on Armenian and Syrian Relief, have issued a Christmas appeal for continued support of this organization and its work.
Near East Relief is now operating under a government chapter and is practically alone in the western Asian field, the Red Cross several months ago having announced its withdrawal.
The Christmas letter, a classic of its kind, is as follows:
“Dear Friend- Another little child has shriveled up and died.
The mother, creeping back, gaunt and cold, from the desert, has put down the thin little bones with those that strew the road and has sunk beside them, never to rise again. Only a little child and a mother out on the bleak Armenian road! But what is that vision hovering there and what is that voice the cold winds bear to the ears of our souls- ‘I was hungry and ye gave me no meat; I was naked and ye clothed me not.’ Today- yes, today- while we are preparing our gifts for Christmas, many more of these little children- not a hundred nor a thousand, but 250,000 of them- are still wandering uncared for and alone in that dead land, ‘their wizened skins clinging in fear to their rattling bones, and they are crying out with gasping breath, ‘I am hungry, I am hungry!’ And the voice of one who watches us as we prepare gifts to celebrate his birthday comes again to the ears of our souls- ‘I am hungry! I am hungry!! I am hungry!!!’ Now the children and the mothers in Armenia are dreading the winter. Just human remnants they are, not protected, many of them, from the elements by even the dignity of rags. The most favored have merely shredded rags. How shall we sing our Christmas songs and laugh and light candles and give beautiful gifts while that pleading voice cries in the ears of our souls. ‘I am naked and cold- naked and cold?’ But can feed and clothe these perishing ones- some of them- before it’s too late. Herbert Hoover has cabled from the Caucasus, ‘It is impossible that the loss of 200,000 lives can at this day be prevented, but the remaining 500,000 can possibly be saved.’ They need not starve and freeze and die if we will save them. In the name of him who saw the multitude ‘as sheep not having a shepherd and was moved with compassion toward them,’ who exclaimed when his disciples would turn them away, ‘they need not depart, give ye them to eat!’ open your heart and purse and give these Christians whom he loves, who are suffering from him and with whom he is suffering. They need not die. Give ye them to eat.
Ten dollars a month will provide food, clothes and shelter for one orphan child. Five dollars a month will provide food for one orphan child. He fed 5,000 hungry people in the wilderness and said to his followers, ‘the things that I do shall ye do also, and greater things than these shall ye do.’ Today nearly 800,000 destitute Armenians- his people- need food and clothing.
He took little children in his arms and blessed them. Today will you take one or more of these sad, cold, hungry little children of Armenia into your arms and heart in his name and give them food and warmth and life?
What a joyful Christmas it will be when with your songs and your laughter you hear a voice of wondrous sweetness speaking to you, ‘O, ye blessed of my father, I was hungry and ye gave me meat, I was naked and ye clothed me; inasmuch as ye have done it to these, my brethren, ye have done it to me.’
In his name. Faithfully yours,
WILLIAM H. TAFT
ALEXANDER J. HEMPHILL
For Executive Committee, Near East Relief