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Rendel J. Harris and Helen B. Harris

LETTERS FROM ARMENIA


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LETTER No. XVIII.

CLOSING OF THE HIGH SCHOOL — IMPOSING CEREMONIES — VISIT TO THE JACOBITE SCHOOLS, ETC.

MARDIN, June 22, 1896.

DEAR FRIENDS, — Life here is very quiet, while E. and Mr. Andrus are away on their manuscript-hunting tour, the one great event being the closing of the Missionary Schools (High Schools) for the summer. These schools have not been interrupted as those at the other missionary stations have been, there having (as I before mentioned) been no massacre here, though all the country around was pillaged, and one burnt village lies in its desolation on the plain just below the town. The examinations had been going on for the previous week, but as it was all conducted in Arabic I did not attend, except the examinations in English, which were creditable, if not brilliant. But early in the morning of Wednesday, June 17, I went by special invitation1 to witness the recitations and diploma-giving — first in the girls’ school, under the superintendence of Mrs. Andrus, and later in the boys’ department, under Mr. Dewey.

These schools are not large, the boys numbering only forty-five and the girls twenty-five, but being High Schools

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1 I was the first European visitor they ever had.

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they mean a constant supply of good education for the elect of the young people of the town and neighbourhood. Imagine us then in the bright and airy (though heavy) stone building of the girls’ school-room. The windows are prettily draped and adorned with flowering geraniums, &c, though their strong iron grating (common to all windows in the houses here), prison-like, reminds one that danger abounds even during the most peaceful times and occupations. A large part of the room is devoted to the use of the relations of the girls, and here great interest is manifested — the women, veiled and in native costume, occupying one part, and the men (an American innovation) another.

The graduating class were all neatly dressed, and had flowers and ribbons after the manner of girls generally, while one, richer than the rest, added necklace and bracelets to these. Their part was each to read a composition of their own to the assembled company, which they did with as much modesty and yet self-possession as English girls could have shown. Their subjects were — (1) The advantages of learning for women. (2) The love of one’s country. (3) By what means can you lift yourself to a higher plane of life ? The boys’ declamations were on similar subjects, viz. — (1) Civilisation. (2) Your relation to your country. (3) Perseverance in welldoing. (4) Fight the good fight of faith.

With the boys (or young men, for I suppose they were eighteen to twenty years of age) declamation was the object, the subjects being selected, and truly these young Syrians did so well, with hand and eye, as well as voice, that I could not but tell them afterwards I thought they

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were not behind the students I had heard give their commencement orations at Haverford College, U.S.A., some years since. This, of course, pleased them immensely, as America is their beau-ideal in all things. But I felt I must go farther still, not this time in compliment, but in the earnest expression of my desire that their education, as well as natural powers, might be dedicated to the service of God, and, if it were His will, to the preaching of the Gospel to their own people. The two eldest boys at once responded most earnestly, with uplifted hand and eye, according to the Eastern habit, and the words, “May God grant it!” and “If He permits it!”

On Friday I had the pleasure of visiting very different schools, namely, those belonging to the ancient Jacobite Church. This, you know, is the oldest Church in this part of the country, and different from the Gregorian or Armenian, which is probably its contemporary. It is much purer in faith and practice than the Syrian Catholic, which exists here also, and much less bigoted. When taking us over the adjoining church, and showing us the pictures in it, the teacher and sexton took care to inform us that they did not worship them, they “were not so ignorant as that;” but at the same time, I must own they showed some superstition by bringing us “a piece of the true Cross,” and some bones of saints, as very precious treasures!

In the boys’ school, the little fellows, all with the red fez on their heads and their legs tucked under them, spouted for us several of their dirge-like Church hymns, and then the teacher asked me if I would like to ask them some questions. This surprised me much, not only

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because I was a Protestant, but also a woman. However, being pleased with the liberality the invitation showed, I responded and asked what they could tell me about Bethlehem, the Message to the Shepherds, &c, telling them a little of our visit there. To my great pleasure, the boys answered quite as well as they would have done in any English school, and then at a word from their teacher, changing their position to a kneeling one, they sang an Eastern Christmas carol for us — very well indeed. All these young Syrians were perfectly grave and well-behaved during our visit, and all rose to their feet, both at our coming and going. I have given this incident somewhat at length, to show the friendly relations between the American missionaries (for it was a lady missionary who took me) and the ancient Church.

Yesterday (Sunday) the Protestant service was at 6 A.M., and a native gentleman preached. At 2.30 I had a meeting for women, though much smaller than at Ourfa or Aintab, because there is not at all the same spiritual awakening here as in those places; and afterwards there was a “Christian Endeavour” meeting and a boys’ school. The post (weekly), to which we look forward so much, has just come in, but brought us no letters, alas! I wonder where they are, for I feel sure some of you, dear friends, have written to cheer us up with news from “ a far and beloved country ” within the past month. Well, we must wait, and have long patience, for many things (letters included) while in this unhappy land, and in due time, no doubt, there will be a reaping time, if we faint not. — With love to all, your friend sincerely,

HELEN B. 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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