- Armenian Literature, History, Religion in in Russian

Rendel J. Harris and Helen B. Harris


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EDESSA, April 26, 1896.

DEAR PROFESSOR AND MRS. H., — We respectfully welcome you to our obscure but historical city. Your presence here has been a great comfort to our afflicted hearts, and to the thousands of poor orphans and widows. We come to express our heartfelt thanks on behalf of the Armenian people of this city for your kind visit here.

Dear Sir and Lady, pardon us if we take this as an opportunity to present to you some concise information concerning this city — our birthplace — and concerning our Apostolical Church. Also concerning the events which have taken place in these “ latter days ” and the miserable condition to which our people have fallen, and concerning their vital needs, although we believe they are not unknown to your learned minds.

Ourfa or Edessa is one of the oldest of cities, and at the time that Christ did preach on earth it was governed by Abgar, an Armenian king of the dynasty of Arshazoony. This prince, who was contemporary to Christ, desired to know and hear about His teaching, and this desire he

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showed by sending messengers to the land. After the ascension of Christ, St. Thaddeus, one of the Apostles, came to Ourfa and preached the Gospel, both to the king and people, and founded the new religion. . . .

After the death of his pious father, the son of Abgar broke the legs of St. Adde, who was ordained as Bishop by St. Thaddeus, and afterwards put him to death, and his remains were interred in the same church, in a special sepulchre, where they continue till now — but the light of Christianity did not go out by this martyrdom. New disciples rose up, and although the Church of Edessa passed through many religious and political persecutions, from century to century, yet she remained faithful to her apostolical foundation.

In 1845 the Armenian bishop, Haretoon Kahengian of Edessa, considering that the remaining part of the temple was nearly destroyed, and that it was now holding a crowded congregation, began the building of a new and a larger church, which is now standing. . . . On this church the free labour of thousands of pious believers was spent. This mother church had about 20,000 children around her, who, having entered upon a path of mental and material progress, were expecting a very bright future; but alas! the year 1895 brought with it unexpected calamities which not only destroyed the flourishing present, but also ruined the hopeful future.

For the prosperous condition of the Armenians had excited passionate envy, and on October 25th the signal of the first attack was given to our Moslem countrymen by some armed men entering the Armenian quarter, and kill-

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ing a harmless man, a money-changer, by name Baghas. On the following day violent attacks were made on all sides, and also hundreds of houses which were at the entrance of the Armenian quarter were pillaged. About sixty-five persons were killed and thousands of men, women, and children were taken by force to the barracks and there compelled to put on white turbans and to profess Islam to save their lives.
After these painful events the Armenians were besieged. They were deprived of water and victuals; besides this, about seventy Armenians were put in prison, on the pretext that they were revolutionists. After this the Government demanded all the weapons possessed by the Armenians for travelling purposes, on pain of terrible punishment as rebels, which they obediently yielded up, feeling assured that the Imperial Government would protect their lives.

On December 27th and 28th took place the second disturbance, in such a dreadful manner that we spare your feelings the relation of them in detail. It is enough to say that our Moslem countrymen plundered all our houses and shops, and fired very many, making an exception of such as were around the Protestant church, which were protected on account of Miss Shattuck, the American missionary, being a foreign subject. The Moslems carried on their deadly work by means of all kinds of instruments, i.e., by Martini rifles, revolvers, bayonets, axes, daggers, spears, &c.; their aim was to kill all males above ten years of age. Many blind, dumb, sick, and crippled were among the killed.

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Then the gendarmes advised the poor Armenians to take refuge in the church, because they said they were going to protect it. But, instead, the fiercest attack was made upon the church. They set it on fire, and men, women, and children, first embracing each other, were burned to death.

Many ladies and girls were dragged half-naked to the mosques, from which they were taken to different Moslem houses, according to the choice of their captors. After that, under threat of a third massacre, from five to sis hundred weak Christians accepted Islam.

Without reckoning the wounded or those who have lost a limb or been paralysed through fear, the number of the slain is approximately as follows: 2350 men, 820 women, 1290 children. But it is thought that when all the names are collected the number will rise to 5000.

In deep sorrow we mention that among the slain there are found respectable, useful, and diligent public men.

Now this afflicted people, deprived of all its useful members, deprived of its rightful properties, is also deprived of the one single consolation which it can have on earth, namely, the Christian services which had their origin nineteen centuries ago. These have now for six months altogether ceased, on account of the injuries to the church. The capacity of the church of our Protestant brethren not being sufficient to hold the two congregations, many have been deprived of public religious comfort of any kind.

As with the church, so with our schools, which have been dispersed, and the poor forlorn orphans wander about

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in the streets begging. They are in great danger of being immoralised and turned to Moslems.

Thus the once flourishing congregation, which has never before held out its hands to others for help, is now in a languishing state. Those of them who have survived through the kind providence of God, are a group of poor men who, with their material goods, have lost all their means of livelihood; so much so, that they are utterly unable to rebuild the church and re-establish the schools.

Life in the last few months would have been unbearable if England and other Christian countries had not sent us material help through Miss Shattuck. These kind acts have made a great impression upon every heart of this poor people, and this sense will not easily pass away.

Now, dear Professor and Mrs. H., you that have left your happy land and on the wings of kindness have come as far as this unfortunate country, while passing through this half-deserted land you meet on your way a giant who is wounded. It is the people of the unfortunate Armenians. Alas! no surgeon passes this way Be good Samaritans to dress our wounds! And our needs are twofold. First, the salvation of souls, and morality of conduct; secondly, the rebuilding of our ruined church, and the establishment of an orphanage.

These two things alone will be able to comfort us and alleviate our indescribable affliction. These, if done, will keep together our thousands of orphans and widows in the bosom of Christianity.

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Your manifest kindness permits us to apply to you in this righteous cause. But we are not sure that we are not infringing the laws of propriety when we request you to make an appeal to the celebrated generosity of the noble people of England, in order to the restoration of the church and the re-establishment of the school.


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


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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