LETTERS FROM ARMENIA
LETTER No. XXIX.
PRIVATE LETTER OF THANKS FOR UNEXPECTED CONTRIBUTION — BUILDINGS OF SCHOOLS, ETC., AT MALATIA — THE PEOPLE SET CHURCH BEFORE HOUSES — ONE THOUSAND CHILDREN TO BE ACCOMMODATED — A JOINT SCHOOL BOARD — UNION OF THE CHURCHES.
HARPOOT, Sept. 1, 1896.
BELOVED FRIENDS, — “Before they call I will answer,” &c.
The lovely letter of encouragement and the cheque for £250 seemed like a direct reply to my telegram from Malatia, though posted probably before that was thought of. How good God is thus to fulfil His promises of old, and how lovely of you to have the needs of my now lonely work so much in mind! I do thank you most warmly and shall use it all, or nearly so, for the purpose indicated in my telegram, and already I hear with the inward ear the multiform sounds which accompany building at Malatia.
If permission is granted by the local government for rebuilding the schools, which on Sundays will be used for church, the shape of them will be something like this —
The dotted lines show wooden partitions which will be removed on Sundays, and the preacher can then have an
audience of 1000 or more very well. They get in about twice as many people to the square yard here as in England, because there are no chairs or benches; all sit on carpets as close together, if need be, as is physically possible, and you never saw such a sight as they present when crowded, especially the women.
We have sent the first instalment of money, and oh how glad they are! for this is a religious people, and it is true that they begged that their church might be rebuilt before their houses — and so it will be — though I rejoice to say the Duke of Westminster’s Committee has allotted £2000 for rebuilding houses, and that work will also begin soon. I have also advanced 50 liras for the roof of the boys’ school in the market-place — a new building at the time of the massacre, only needing the roof. Now they will soon get this up, and 500 boys will then be taken from the streets (indeed they are being gathered together now), and so there will be accommodation for 1000 children.
The people will themselves provide the teachers, and Miss Bush and I appointed the school board — part Protestant, part Gregorian, with a Protestant as chairman, and Miss Bush as real, though absent, head, just as Miss Shattuck at Ourfa. This union of the ancient and more modern Churches in joint work is a most blessed thing. The Gregorian priest spoke of it with enthusiasm after the women’s meeting Miss Bush and I had in their big church (1500 at least) as what he longed for — the uplifting, the teaching, the enlightenment of his people. It was at his entreaty that the boys’ school was undertaken
and the committee formed, and now they are working away with a will.
Do not think, beloved friends, that this is any less relief work than feeding the bodies of these poor sufferers. Without public worship or schooling, they do not feel as if they are really living, only existing.
I was extremely touched at the account of that young Christian servant and her noble gift. I read it to our assembled company of missionaries, and I do not think there was a dry eye. I have made her gift a special donation for aiding the most destitute of the Christian women here, under two of the lady missionaries, so that every penny will be prayerfully expended. — Your sister as always, H. B. H.
Armenian Relief Fund.
[I add a report of relief work done in the Harpoot district, which will enable friends in the West to understand the condition of the Armenians in that district at the close of the present summer. — J. R. H.
HARPOOT, September 3, 1896.
DEAR FRIENDS, — For nine months a constant stream of benevolence has been flowing into this country for the relief of the sufferers from the sad events of last November. It is now a fitting time to look forwards and backwards, to recount the good that has been accomplished, and to forecast the needs of continued relief.
The field of which Harpoot is the centre contains a touch larger proportion of desolated towns and villages than any other. In 256 towns and villages we have given relief to 74,805 souls. The money distributed amounts to L.T. 27,544. The greater part of this has been paid out in small sums for the purchase of food ; each family received a sum varying according to the number of souls — ten piastres for every adult, and one-half that amount for children.
In this way relief has been distributed three times, and in some places four times, during the winter : and it is the universal testimony of the people that they owe their lives to the relief money sent to them from England, America, and Europe. They are constantly invoking God’s richest blessing for those who, for love of God and humanity, have cared for them in their distress.
The money thus given has been largely paid from our hands into the hands of the recipients. Favoured by an exceptionally mild winter, the people have come a journey of two and three days to receive the help which has kept them alive. Our premises were thronged daily by crowds of applicants waiting their turn. It would have been impossible for us, with the small number of workers we could command, to have fed this army of 70,000 souls in any other way. We could not go to them, nor send grain to them; but they could come to us, and they could buy food for themselves with the small sums given to them.
At the same time a bureau of industrial relief for women was opened under the care of Misses Bush and Seymour, where the destitute women of the city, and refugees who had fled hither for safety, received small wages for cutting cloth and making garments to be given to the destitute ; 3630 pieces of bedding were given out from this depository, and 18,228 suits of cotton underclothing. Where 70,000 souls are in need, it is very obvious that this supply is wholly inadequate. In some cases money was given to the people to enable them to buy back the beds which had been stolen from them, but thousands of families slept on the ground without covering all through the winter, and in many other families the sick and the well occupied the same beds.
Employment was given to men also in clearing away the ruins of our burned buildings, repairing the Protestant graveyard, making roads, and the like, at wages which would barely provide bread for their families.
L.T. 120 have been expended in giving relief to refugees not reached from any of our relief centres. Many of these were in a deplorable condition. The storm broke upon them when they were away from home. Stripped of clothing, without money or food, ignorant of the condition of their families, they came to us for aid to make their way back to their desolated homes.
From this same fund we have aided the refugees who were crowded together in the cities to go back to their villages and find
employment there, and we have cared for those who came here to obtain relief. To these last we gave sums equal to one or two cents per night, with which to obtain food and shelter. They slept in the khans, huddled together like sheep to keep warm, for they had no covering to protect them from the cold of winter.
L.T. 10 was expended in redeeming girls and women from the hands of the Kurds who had carried them off captive. Others were redeemed in the same way by the help of special gifts or by their friends and relatives.
L.T. 116 have been expended for the relief of Gregorian priests and teachers. The condition of this class is often most deplorable. The communities are no longer able to support them. They are unused to labour, and have no trade with which to support themselves. Their condition is one that appeals strongly to our sympathies, and I should be glad if some special provision could be made for them.
Through the winter we employed a physician to care for the sick; we sheltered many sick and wounded in a temporary hospital, and furnished food and medicines. The whole expense was small, L.T.33.
With the opening of spring we felt that relief methods must be changed, and that efforts must be made to start the people in business, so that they might become independent of aid from abroad. Our missionary force was too small to grapple with this problem, but at this juncture the agents of the Red Cross arrived upon the field, and organised three expeditions to Arabkir, Charsandjak, and Palu. These expeditions were most helpful in just the lines of greatest need, inspiring the people with hope, and furnishing them with means of resuming their former occupations. The very thought that some one cared for them gave hope to the people and proved a stimulus to them. Since the departure of the Red Cross agents the same work has been carried on in Chemeshgesek and Malatia. Time is needed for the country to recover from such terrible ruin as has been wrought. For a long time the people seemed completely paralysed. They were left not only helpless but hopeless.
Now, as it is the season of harvest and fruit-gathering, we are suspending relief work for a season, with the exception of efforts to put the people in the way of earning their own living, and we are trying to estimate how far it will be possible for them to care for themselves during the coming winter.
Much has been accomplished in the lines we have indicated, and the number of those who must still receive relief has been greatly diminished. In Malatia the list has been reduced from 7700 to about 2000 souls, and in other places a great many will be able to get through the winter without aid. But there are some features of the situation which make it inevitable that there should be much distress during the coming winter, and which make it necessary to continue relief measures even though it be on a reduced scale.
In the first place, many have no houses to shelter them. When cold weather sets in they will be no longer able to live in gardens as they have been doing through the summer, but will be forced to huddle together in small and unsuitable quarters, where disease will break out and carry off many. This is notably the condition of Arabkir city, where 1561 houses were burned, and only 621 remain to the Christians. If some provision is not made for sheltering the people, last year’s epidemic of typhus fever is almost certain to be repeated there. More than 600 died of this disease last year; the fatality is likely to be worse this year, because the people are more enfeebled. Many villages are in the same condition as regards shelter. This is the most pressing need at the present moment.
The second need is that of help to start in business. Many are still unable to provide themselves with tools or capital so that they may resume their former occupations. In Arabkir weaving was the principal industry. The Red Cross gave some 150 looms. Others had repaired old looms or provided themselves with new ones. With the opening of the winter there will be a demand for all the cloth they can make, but they have not the capital to purchase thread for their looms, and the merchants who formerly furnished the capital have been impoverished, so the looms stand idle. If L.T.2000 could be invested in thread, and distributed among the weavers of that city, it would set that industry going, and furnish employment for many of the widows and orphans there.
In Choonkoosh business is at a standstill. The people were artisans and tradesmen who pursued their business in the villages, travelling all over the region through the summer and fall, and returning to their houses in the winter. Since the massacres they have not dared to go out to the villages, and they lack the capital to make a start in business. Malatia was in the same condition,
but a recent visit there did much to restore confidence, and to set things going. A visit to Choonkoosh was also planned, but the Vali objected to our going by the direct route on account of danger, so the visit has been deferred. It would be hard to find a better investment for relief money than is offered in this line of furnishing men with a small amount, seldom exceeding ten dollars, with which to begin business. It is better to put a man in the way of earning his own living than to support him by alms.
The third feature of the situation is one that calls for serious thought and effort. It is the large number of widows and orphans left without any bread-winners on whom to depend for support. A careful canvass of the city of Malatia and seven near villages shows that there are 1883 orphans and 630 widows there. The number in Arabkir is said to be even larger. In the village of Harboosi there are between thirty and forty orphans who wander about the village as the dogs do, eating, sleeping where they can. Every town and village furnishes its contingent of widows and orphans, and the villagers are too much engrossed in the struggle to provide bread for their own families to care for these helpless ones as they would ordinarily do. What is to become of them ?
In Malatia, Mrs. Harris, the wife of Professor J. Rendel Harris of Cambridge, England, has gathered samples of embroidery wrought by the women, hoping to find a market for it in England and America. Anything that can be done to furnish lucrative employment to widows and orphans will greatly relieve this saddest feature of the present situation.
Some efforts have been made to care for the orphans. Ten have been sent to the Deaconess’ Home in Smyrna, and a few more will shortly be sent to Broussa and Constantinople. Through Mrs. Harris’ kindness some fifty have been placed in homes in Malatia for one year. But the multitude uncared for is hardly affected by these efforts.
I think the most feasible plan of caring for them is to find homes for them in Christian families, who will receive them and bring them up until they are able to earn their own living. This would involve an expense of about twenty-five dollars (£5) per year for each child. It should be stipulated that the children should attend a Christian school, and wherever the number of orphans in a place will warrant it, some faithful man or woman should be appointed as guardian to visit the children in their homes, and see to it that they are properly brought up.
In some cases, perhaps, ten children could be placed in the care of a worthy widow. Some children could be received into our boarding-schools if provision could be made for the expense. Our schools are already so heavily burdened that we could not assume more without help. The cost per year would be about forty dollars (£8) for a boy or girl. This plan has the advantage, that a beginning can be made at once. Whenever the money is provided a boy or girl can be at once cared for either in a family or in our schools.
After all that has been done, or may be done, in these lines, it is certain that there will be at least 20,000 souls in this field who will need help to get through the coming winter. The provision hitherto made for beds and clothing is wholly inadequate, and there will be great suffering as winter comes on unless help can be given for this.
Then, too, many can make no adequate provision of food for the winter. In the Charsandjak region the harvests are scanty, and it is estimated that by the time the people have paid their taxes little will be left for them. In all quarters the Government is now pressing hard for taxes which have been suffered to remain in arrears until the time of harvests. Now the officials, who have received no salaries for months, collect the taxes with the greatest rigour, and do not scruple at any treatment of the people to extract money from them. A great part of the harvests will go to satisfy the claims of the Government. Moreover, there are many who have no fields, to whom the harvests bring no relief. This is the case with a large proportion of those who dwell in the cities of Malatia, Arabkir, Palu, and Harpoot. Even now the cry for help for food from Arabkir is bitter, and growing increasingly urgent. It is difficult to forecast the future, but I think it will require at least L.T. 12,000 to provide food for the starving during the winter, and if the need of beds, clothing, and shelter is to be met, very much more will be required.
(Signed) C. F. GATES.]
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
J. Rendel Harris & B. Helen Harris. Letters from the Scenes of
the Recent Massacres in Armenia. London, James Nisbet & Co.,