“Anxiety Over Mission Conditions Now Centers in Turkey–Americans Personally Safe, but In Perilous Condition, as Their People Perish. An American Woman’s Heroism–Chooses Exile with a Band of Hunted Armenian Women.”
Slowly the Christians of America are waking up to a realization that a crisis without precedent is upon the historic work of the Americans Board and Presbyterian missions in Turkey. Interest in all other mission fields is for the moment eclipsed by the amazing news from the most romantic of all mission lands, that on which the drama of revelation was enacted.
Fears for the safety of American missionaries is subordinated by the news, first given to the world in this column, and later corroborated by the American Ambassador, that the worst anti-Christian atrocities since the Middle Ages have been perpetrated by the Turkish government upon the Armenian Christians. Jews and Christians are scheduled to share a like fate. The heroic part that American government officials, and American missionaries, are bearing in Turkey at the present time is beginning to leak out, by way of the Boston offices of the american Board and otherwise.
Wiping Out a Nation.
Even the official statement of Ambassador Morganthau that since last May 350,000 Armenians have been slaughtered or starved has failed to penetrate the horror-calloused and war-paralyzed consciousness of Christendom. A year ago the plight of Belgium aroused the world to unparalleled acts of mercy, but if the worst that was ever feared for Belgium had come true, conditions would not be at all comparable with the atrocities that have befallen the Armenians. And the end is not yet, unless some agency intervenes, the whole nation is to be wiped out–and the Jews in Turkey are to follow!
Clear light upon the present mental condition of the world is shed by this news from Turkey. Middle-aged persons remember the spasm of horror that convulsed civilization in 1895-6, over the news of the Armenian massacres. Then it was that Gladstone flinging official etiquette to the winds, branded the Sultan as “Abdul the damned”–which showed a poor knowledge of Arabic, but a clear understanding of the heart of Christendom. Yet the total deaths of Armenians during that massacre amounted to not more than 50,000 persons; already, with the climax of the present holocaust of blood seemingly not reached, the number of Armenian victims of Turkish ferocity is seven times as great. Relatively little impression has been made as yet upon civilization, because the war has seemingly already exhausted humanity’s capacity for extreme emotions.
America to the Rescue.
The time has not yet come to tell in full the thrilling story of what the American missionaries and American officials have done during recent months for the succor of persecuted peoples in Turkey. The American Ambassador has set a new mark for diplomatic efficiency in altruistic service. To say that he has incarnated in himself the best traditions and ideals of Americanism is to state the case conservatively.
Some of the Consuls have likewise done heroically, notably Consul Leslie, in the new American Consulate at Urfa, where the British, French, Russian and Italian civilians are interned in an Armenian monastery. The rigors of their lot, in this remote city (which, by the way, is just a few miles from Haran, where Abraham lived, and where he found Rebekah, a wife for his son, Isaac.) have been greatly abated by Mr. Leslie. The Consul at Aleppo has been in the thick of the atrocities.
While some American American missionaries, notably Mr. and Mrs. Floyd O. Smith of Diarbeller, have been deported by the Turks for reasons unknown, although efforts on behalf of the Armenians is suspected; most of the missionaries have remained at their posts. Those who have been forced to leave their fields for one reason or another, have been refused permission to return. Thus Dr. Thomas Christle of Tarsus, a veteran of several massacres, went to Constantinople to intercede for the Armenians, but the Turks would not let him go home again. Having abolished the capitulations, the Ottoman government has become severer and severer in its dealings with Americans and other neutral foreigners. Only the vigorous attitude of Ambassador Morganthau has prevented greater embarrassments.
The immigration of the party of American missionaries from Van to Tiflis is a story yet to be told in its fullness. Mrs. Ussher died before starting and her husband arrived critically ill; Mrs. Reynolds broke her leg en route. Apparently all the American board property at Van has been destroyed by the Turks.
An American Woman’s Way.
It is difficult for people in this country to realize how remote and inaccessible are some of the Turkish stations of the American board, especially in Armenia. With a strict censorship on, only the vaguest news can percolate out. Thus, a message has come of the death of Miss Charlotte Ely, in July, at Bitlis, which is in the mountains of Armenia.
A heroic story is hidden behind the brief message that an American missionary, Miss Graffam, of Sivas, secured permission from the Turkish Governor-General to accompany a party of Armenian women and children into exile. Their destination is unknown. Somewhere in the fastnesses of Armenia, or possibly in the farther wastes of Arabia, this fearless, devoted American woman has gone with the defenseless, hunted women and children, not only to minister to the dying and the living, but also, by her presence, as an American, to save them, if possible, from the worst horrors of this exile. This, in a dramatic embodiment, is the sort of sacrificial service that hundreds of Christian American women are doing on the mission field.
A peculiarly-revolting aspect of the method followed by the Turks in exterminating their victims is their skill in eliminating the men first, and then in driving off such of the women and children sa are not selected for Turkish harems into remote and desert places, by forced marches, with no supplies provided. Thus a large proportion of the women and children and aged men die from starvation and hardship, rather than from the more merciful sword. Prior to the order for extermination, all the able-bodied men had been carried off into the Turkish army, where they were put into the positions of greatest danger. This, of course, is in addition to the men slain outright.
Even Zeltun had succumbed to this massacre. That news means much to those persons familiar with the history of Armenian massacres. This town of 10,000 Armenians, near aleppo, has never been conquered in these periodic outbreaks against the Christians. Even during 1895-1896, and again in 1908, it maintained its traditions of 300 years by driving off the Moslem assailants. The present year, however, found Zeltun depleted of men, and the Turks easily overcame it and carried off its women and children, with what peculiar vengefulness can easily be imagined.
Is it any wonder that Christians of all names, sensible of the ties which all disciples of Christ hold in common, are eagerly watching the news from Turkey?