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Rendel J. Harris and Helen B. Harris

LETTERS FROM ARMENIA


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LETTER No. IV.

PROJECTED DEPARTURE FROM SMYRNA TO ALEXANDRETTA — AN AMERICAN LADY MISSIONARY FROM THE INTERIOR — POSSIBILITY OF ARMENIAN EMIGRATION.

SMYRNA, April 12, 1896.

MY DEAR FRIENDS, — I have nothing much to add to the news which Helen has already communicated, but as we expect to leave to-morrow in a little Greek steamer for Alexandretta, and this is the last place where our letters will have the protection of a British post-office, I think I had better take the opportunity and report what we are doing.

As we draw nearer and nearer to the places where our call takes us, the accounts become more distressing. We have met here a young lady missionary from Ourfa, who was the companion and helper of Miss Shattuck, the heroine of that place, who has borne all the burden and heat of the day. Miss M. is from Iowa, and an American in every respect; keen and active, as rapid as a rotifer, or whatever those little creatures are that dart about under the microscope; she is a very interesting Christian, and is only waiting for permission to return to the place where she has been labouring for the last five years.

She was in Ourfa until before the great massacres; at that time they were caring for some thousands of refugees

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who had made their way on foot from Moush (nearly fifteen days’ journey), and had arrived in extreme destitution, with their bodies, as she says, a mass of corruption. From these people Miss M. took the fever, and after some weeks, during which she was unconscious, and was nursed by Miss S., who never left her for more than two hours at a time, she recovered, and eventually was able to come to Smyrna. She says she is all the better for having had this dispensation, and would come on with us at once if the American Board would let her, and the Turks give her the necessary pass. But both of these are withheld at present, and perhaps it is all right, for she is doing good service here in digesting written communications which come from the interior, and sending her copies and translations westward. We have arranged for her to send some of her letters to our friends in England. So you must imagine a bright American Western girl, with her hair just growing afresh on her head after the fever, and as full of enthusiasm for Christ and the people of Christ as a whole platform of Exeter Hall people.

I begin to see that the deeds of Christian heroism which have gone on here, and are still going on, equal anything in the pages of Eusebius (indeed much of it is very like his account of the Martyrs of Palestine in the ninth book of the Ecclesiastical History). Also it is clear that things are far worse than we thought; perhaps the destitution has reached the point where it is hopeless to help except by emigration. We hear that from several provinces the Armenians have petitioned the Sultan either to give them the means of re-tilling their fields, or to let them leave the

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country, or to send his soldiers back again to put them out of their misery.

We are thinking much on the second head. It looks as absurd as if one proposed to dig up Armenia and carry it away. I had a long talk yesterday with a rich American railroad king, who was passing through Smyrna, on one of the French steamers. He almost promised to take some thousands of Armenians, if I could get them to New York, and locate them in the Western States. Whether anything will come of it, it is hard to predict. But perhaps something like this would have to be done, and we might have to go to the Government about it. It would not cost more than an ironclad, perhaps.1 However, on these things we must not say more at present; only we must be on our guard against acquiescing in hopeless misery, or giving help where it does not really dispel the distress. We shall know more about this when we get a little nearer to the scene of action.

You will probably have seen by the papers that the Turks have stopped the relief in Harpoot, and proposed to take over the relief funds and distribute them by a local committee of their own. I saw the telegrams, which arrived in Constantinople just before we left. They came from Mr. Gates, who is one of the American missionaries, if I remember rightly.2 Mr. Whittall, the chairman of the Constantinople Committee, was sending them on to the ambassador, and I have no doubt that

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1 Unfortunately a Government that operates, not to destroy men’s lives but to save them, has not yet appeared.
2 This interference with the relief work was afterwards abandoned. — J. R. H.

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immediate pressure will be put on the officials who are so zealously disposed towards the new virtue of charity (but to whom ?). Sir Philip Currie has done a great deal of noble work in this crisis, and must not be condemned for the sins of Lord Beaconsfield, whose policy he has to follow. He is almost the only person in Constantinople who has stood for justice, and has often made himself heard and obeyed.

We have met with astonishing kindness from people of all nationalities and all classes in society. The poorer Armenians in Constantinople seem to have had an inkling of our business, and they have been helpful to us in many little ways. One young man who came to help me bargain for a quilt from a Turkish shop, replied to my thanks for a successful encounter between the buyer and seller, by saying, not “backsheesh,” but “it is nothing, it is for our people.” And this is only a little specimen of a great deal of kindness that has been showered upon us. The wonder is that the Turkish spies, who are everywhere, have not laid their hands upon us. But, so far, we seem to have escaped.

This evening Helen is going to address a meeting at the Sailors’ Rest. We found a friend of ours in charge of this work, a Miss Turnely from Ireland; her brother is also here, engaged in educational mission work. It is very pleasant to find so many of our people everywhere; it makes home nearer, travelling easier, and the world of a smaller radius; and all these advantages are prized by us. The last of them is not the least: it is easier to believe in the unity of humanity in a moderate-sized

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world than in a very large one; and I have had lately a keen feeling of the strong natural ties which defy the severing influences of races and of religions.

Our love with this to all our friends in England. Letters will come now more slowly. God bless you all.

J. R. H.

 


Table of contents
The cover and pages 1-4 | Preface | Table of contents (as in the book)
Turkish Armenia with Route of J.R. & H.B. Harris (a map)
Letter I | Letter II | Letter III | Letter IV | Letter V | Letter VI | Letter VII | Letter VIII
Letter IX | Letter X | Letter XI | Letter XII | Letter XIII | Letter XIV | Letter XV
Letter XVI | Letter XVII | Letter XVIII | Letter XIX | Letter XX | Letter XXI | Letter XXII
Letter XXIII | Letter XXIV | Letter XXV | Letter XXVI | Letter XXVII | Letter XXVIII
Memorandum: Notes of Information from J. R. H. | Letter XXIX | Letter XXX
Letter XXXI | Letter XXXII | Letter XXXIII | Letter XXXIV | Letter XXXV
Letter XXXVI | Letter XXXVII

Acknowledgements:

Source: J. Rendel Harris & B. Helen Harris. Letters from the Scenes of the Recent Massacres in Armenia. London, James Nisbet & Co., Limited, 1897
Provided by: Aram Arkun, Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center
Scanned by: Karen Vrtanesyan
OCR: Irina Minasyan

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