THIS cursory account of the methodical extermination of Christianity at the hands of the Turk should convince any one that he now has no intention of allowing it to be revived and propagated in his domains in foreign schools. An earlier chapter gave an account of the aid and support, both moral and financial, furnished American missionary and philanthropic institutions by the Greeks during their occupation of the Smyrna region, and at Saloniki. The following statement of their treatment under Turkish rule is from the pen of Dana K. Getchell, well known in missionary circles:
“In 1914, when the World War began, Anatolia College, Marsovan, Turkey, had an enrollment of four hundred twenty-five students and the Girls’ School had about three hundred; a total of about one thousand individuals all together were on the American premises, including professors’ families, servants and their families and the American colony. At the close of 1914, the Americans bad just finished the building of a large hospital which was occupied by the Turks before the American doctor had the opportunity of moving in.”
“In 1915, the Armenian deportation took place in the early spring of that year. Out of our faculty of fifteen native teachers and a servant list of fifteen more, twenty of these individuals, men, were deported and, as far as the college authorities knew, were killed, as they have never been heard from since.”
“Our college steward, during this time, went to the market for his usual work and never returned. A noted Turkish lawyer of the city, at that time connected with the college, informed me that if I would go with him to a certain spot in a vineyard near the city he would show me the well into which this man’s body was thrown. He was perfectly in sympathy with this deed that was committed.”
“During the month of June, 1915, I escorted a party of ten American ladies and children to Constantinople, via Angora, the Black Sea route having been closed. While in Constantinople, I learned of the deportation of the Armenians in the interior, especially from Marsovan and vicinity. I worked for days to get permission from Talaat Pasha to return to Marsovan, but his excuse was that ‘things were doing’ in the interior and it was not a good time for foreigners to be traveling. Later, upon hearing that more than four hundred Armenians had crowded into the American premises, information was taken to Talaat and his promise received that no Armenian within the American premises should be deported. Upon the strength of this promise, I sent a telegram to my associates in Marsovan, and having received permission to travel in those days, I hastened back to my work. Upon my arrival in Marsovan, I found that the first great deportation of those sheltered in the American premises had taken place the day before.”
“Two days later, the Turkish gendarmes and police came to our premises and demanded the girls, forty-nine in number, from the American school. These demands were persisted in and on that day, by the order of the Turkish Government, all these girls were started on the road to Sivas, a journey of six days interior from Marsovan. Two of the American teachers, Miss Willard and Miss Gage, by persistence, secured permission to follow these girls one day after they had started on their journey and overtook them just as they were entering Sivas, six days later. By working with the vaii of the province for days, permission was finally given to these American ladies for all these girls to return to the Girls’ School at Marsovan.”
“At the beginning of the deportations in 1915, Marsovan was inhabited by twelve thousand Armenians. When the deportations were finished scarcely one thousand of that nationality could be found in the city. This complete destruction of the Armenians in this city is only an example of what took place throughout the Vilayet of Sivas.”
“In January, 1916, the Greek deportations from the Black Sea began. These Greeks came through the city of Marsovan by thousands, walking for the most part the three days’ journey through the snow and mud and slush of the winter weather. Thousands fell by the wayside from exhaustion and others came into the city of Marsovan in groups of fifty, one hundred and five hundred, always under escort of Turkish gendarmes. Next morning these poor refugees were started on the road and destruction by this treatment was even more radical than a straight massacre such as the Armenians suffered before.”
“In 1917, in the dead of winter, a second deportation of Armenians from the Black Sea coast began and the same treatment was undergone by those who were obliged to flee from their homes.”
“On May 16, the fifteen Americans, men, women and children were obliged to undergo this hardship—to leave their homes and property—for this long overland journey. On that date the American premises were occupied by Turkish soldiers and the buildings all taken over as a base hospital.”
“Six weeks later four of this group returned to Marsovan by permission from Talaat Pasha, with the understanding that they would be able to occupy their homes and use the school buildings for educational purposes. The buildings, with the exception of the houses, which wore obtained with great difficulty, were never returned but were in constant use by the Turkish military authorities up to the time of the Armistice, March, 1919.”
“The treatment of Americans and American property throughout Turkey was the same as that experienced by the Americans in Marsovan. The schools and colleges in Sivas, Caesarea, Harput, Aintab and other places were closed and for the most part the American workers were sent out of the country. Since the Armistice, this same treatment of Americans throughout the interior has continued. The schools have not been allowed to open and property to the value of many thousands of dollars, has continually been occupied by Turks.”
In December of 1914, Turkish soldiers seized the American mission property of Afion Kara Hissar and occupied the church, school and pastor’s house for a period of four years, leaving the buildings with doors, windows and roofs wrecked and generally defiled with human offal. The Turks pulled the Cross down from the church and put the Crescent up in its place. In 1919, the Turks seized these buildings again and housed soldiers in them.
The proposition under which our Christian schools may now operate in Turkey is about as follows: Will you please let us repair our buildings at our own expense with money raised in America, and reopen them in those places where enough human beings remain to furnish a few pupils, and educate Turkish boys in English, arithmetic, etc., if we give our solemn word that we will not teach them any Christianity!
Much consolation is derived in certain quarters from the fact that no religious education of any kind is permitted in Turkish schools, and it is argued that the measure is not aimed particularly at Christian institutions. People who obtain comfort from this feature of the case are evidently not aware that the Turk is familiar with all the different ways of skinning a cat. They do not give him credit for the peculiar brand of intelligence which he certainly possesses. At any rate, the result is the same, in so far as the continuation of foreign evangelical work in Turkey is concerned.
The above is a very moderate and unprejudiced account of what has been done, in part, to the American educational institutions in Turkey, but gives no idea of the actual ferocity shown to students and teachers and the material damage wrought.
I was talking recently to a prominent clergyman, friend of the one-time president of one of the greatest missionary colleges in Turkey, who made the following statement:
“Some time ago, I was talking with the President of one of the American Colleges in Turkey who told me of the frightful treatment of the people in the town where he was located. He told me the college was closed and the professors, their wives and families driven out and some sixty or seventy of them were put to death. The tears streamed down his cheeks as ho said: ‘I can see those dear, good people at this moment, as they were marched away by the heartless Turk.’ ”
Regarding the conditions under which the American missions are now operating in Turkey, Samuel M. Zwemer says, (1924):
“Recent regulations regarding foreigners in Turkey and the prohibition of Christian teaching to Moslem children in Mission schools do not indicate a larger degree of liberty under Islamic Nationalist Government, but rather a recrudescence of the old spirit.”
If the reverend gentleman had said, “A continuance of the steadfast and unalterable policy”, he would have been nearer the truth.
Doctor James L. Barton, Secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, of Boston, Massachusetts, has an interesting article in the “Homiletic Review” of
Doctor Barton is very eminent in missionary work, to which he has devoted the best part of his life, and he is naturally anxious to save as much as possible of the ruins of the magnificent edifice which the Mission Board built up in Turkey with millions of American money, and to keep going somehow. Here, are some quotations from Doctor Barton’s article:
“Some of the American schools have been closed because of the exchange of populations approved by the Lausanne Conference, as, for instance, Euphrates College at Harput, Central Turkey College at Aintab, Teachers’ College at Sivas, and the College at Van, all in the Eastern section of Turkey are no longer in operation. These were conducted almost if not wholly for Christian students, that is, Armenians for the most part, but with a few Greeks and Syrians. Under the deportations the country was almost wholly depopulated of this part of its inhabitants. The teachers were deported or left the country so that these institutions are to-day closed. Central Turkey, which was at Aintab, however, is aiding some work in Aleppo, which is in the French mandate, to which a large number of the people of Aintab have fled, but the constituency of the other institutions are scattered far and wide.”
“Anatolia College, which was at Marsovan, is in practically the same condition, although it had many Turkish students, but its teachers are scattered.”
This is a very carefully worded statement and does full justice to the doctor’s well-deserved reputation for diplomatic ability. There is nothing in it that might in any way offend the Turks. The general subject of the extermination of the Armenians and Greeks, and the massacre of a million of the former, the real reason of the closing of most of the schools, is obscured by reference to the “Exchange of populations approved by the Lausanne Conference.”
The teachers of Anatolia College are “scattered.” This is doubtless a correct expression to apply to people, many of whom have suffered martyrdom and are in Heaven, along with many of the teachers of other colleges. Let us breathe the pious wish that they are not too widely “scattered” up there, as they will certainly long to get together and talk over their experiences. Continuing, the doctor says:
“Just at the present time in the absence of regulations, the schools are hampered in their religious teaching. The Turks have given orders that there shall be no religious instruction and for the present there is nothing in the form of direct instruction during school hours and none of the students can be required to take Biblical studies or be present where religious instruction is given. Under present circumstances, it seems wise to those who are conducting schools in the Near East to comply with these regulations until a more substantial understanding can be reached and the educational system of the country be put on a sound basis”
If by a “sound basis” the doctor means—and he can not mean anything else—the permission of the Turkish Government to convert Turks in Turkey to Christianity, he will wait a long time. The “sound basis,” to arrive at which the Turks have been shedding rivers of Christian blood, has already been achieved. And in the meantime, some of the Christian missionaries have accepted to cease preaching Christ. It is about time for the cock to crow. Doctor Barton continues:
“It is well known by Turks as well as by foreigners, that Turkey needs what these institutions can give, in order to enable her to organize her present administrations on a basis that would give her a worthy place in the sisterhood of nations.”
When Jesus appeared to the Eleven, as they sat at meat after the Crucifixion, He enjoined them: “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. But he that believeth not shall be damned.”
He said nothing about educating foreigners so that they could put their administrations on a sound basis. This is a laudable object but should be done and paid for by the foreigners themselves.
I am informed that the distinguished and erudite Rabbi Stephen Wise, of New York, has estimated the entire value of the American Mission property now existing in Turkey as being not more than ten million dollars. His has been one of the most eloquent voices raised in behalf of the martyred Christians in the Near East.
I wish it distinctly understood that nothing I have said is meant in any way as a reflection on American missionaries in general. I have known so many noble men and women consecrated to spreading the doctrines of the Master in foreign lands that I am incapable of saying or thinking anything derogatory of this saintly band of pioneers, or of their work. I have already described the gallant conduct of the missionary girls and men at Smyrna, and the same story has been repeated over and over in many dark corners of the globe in times of stress and danger.
I am not in sympathy with the policy of certain missionaries with regard to Turkey, and I believe that the utter failure of Christianity to direct the policy of governments, as shown in this sad narrative, renders any campaign in Moslem countries a well-nigh hopeless task. I am convinced, also, that an examination of our private lives and conduct, will convince any one that the conversion of Americans is a more crying need than that of Mohaminedans.
What America needs, and what Europe needs, is a great spiritual awakening. Christ is all right. He is unutterably wonderful and lovely. Let us all unite under His banner, and then think about advancing into foreign lands.
The ruin wrought to our missionary institutions in Turkey, which has inspired so much caution with regard to the fate of the remainder, is epitomized in the following table issued in 1923 by the American Board of Foreign Missions:
Missionary Churches: 90% closed.
American Colleges: Work suspended in six out of eight.
Hospitals: One-half operating.
College Heads: Two dead, one deported, three refused permission to return.
Village Schools: (Estimated at 1000). Abandoned.
High Schools: Only three out of forty-one now open.
Property loss: Estimated at $2,880,000.
Native workers: Two-thirds dead; others in exile.
Constituency: 95% dead or deported or enslaved in harems.
American Workers: Fifty deported.
This chapter can have no more appropriate ending than the following quotation from the pen of the Reverend Ralph Harlow, formerly Missionary to Turkey, and now Professor of Biblical Literature and Comparative Religion at Smith College, Massachusetts:
“One hundred years or more ago, our fathers sent forth to Asia Minor the first American missionary. For all these years our churches have carried on the glorious task of awakening and renewing among the peoples of that land, loyalty to the person and principles of Jesus Christ. Schools and colleges, hospitals and churches have been built. A host of men and women have come to love, generation by generation, the people of that land. It was the laud that gave our faith birth; it was its cradle; it planted the seed from which the church sprang in the blood of the martyrs.”
“To-day the Turkish Government announces that in the future there will be no Christians in that land, and that no Protestant missionary work will be permitted.”
“For five hundred years, the Christians of Asia Minor have been the objects of persecution, while Christian civilization has stood by and looked on. In more recent years the barbarity of that persecution has shocked the conscience of humanity. In the eighties came the Bulgarian horrors; in the nineties came the Armenian atrocities; in 1909 Adana ran red with the blood of slaughtered thousands and echoed to the wail of countless women.”
“In each case the Turk was restored to power; in each case lengthy promises of good conduct to his Christian subjects were extracted.”
“From 1915 to 1918 came that series of atrocities such as the world of our day had hardly the emotions and conscience to comprehend, even amid the horror of the other cruelties of those other years. Those of us who were in the land at that time, who saw these things with our own eyes, have never told half of the truth of those dark hours. The Allied nations swore by all that was sacred, by the crosses of their fallen dead, that these things should not again be possible. One million five hundred thousand is a conservative estimate of the lives struck down in lust and torture. America sent in workers and dollars to the relief of the starving and tattered fragments of the people who survived the blast.”
“The man most responsible for all this horror was Talaat Bey. What is the attitude of the government of Mustapha Khemal to Talaat and his methods? When Talaat died the government at Angora held a service in his honor. The Yeni gun, the official organ of the Nationalist party, came out with great mourning bands of black. In the editorial were these sentences: ‘Talaat wrote the most glorious pages in Turkish history. Let the eyes that do not weep become blind. Let the heart that does not ache cease to beat.’ Khemal has followed in the footsteps of Talaat. Massacres, deportations, cruelty, outrage and terror, have marked the reign of the Nationalist government. The Smyrna tragedy has taken place in hundreds of villages on a smaller scale. The innocence of childhood, the sacredness of womanhood, the tears of mothers, the cries of the helpless, make no appeal at all to the armies or the courts of this government.”