|Re: THE TRAGEDY OF THE ASSYRIANS-1933|
- Sunday, September 26 2004, 23:51:34 (CEST)|
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In 1847, however, a really bad massacre of Assyrians by Kurds took place, leading to a strong protest from Sir Stratford Canning, the British Ambassador at Constantinople. (1)
(1) The Turkish Government exiled Badr Kahn, the Kurdhish Agha responsible for the massacres, perhaps not unwillingly, as it was already seeking to break the power of the several semi-independent Kurdish chieftains in the mountains.
After the succession of Abdul Hamid in 1878, things grew worse for the Assyrians.
The new Sultan’s policy was to use the Kurds to strengthen his throne, for he feared the Ottomans. His downfall in 1908 promised better things, but the hopes that were centered in the Young Turk Movement soon proved vain. The Assyrians now had to compete not only with their wild Kurdish neighbours, but with corrupt officialdom. It was clear some time before the outbreak of the war that a crisis was at hand. In the meantime contact had been obtained between the Church of England and the mountain Assyrians. The very existence of this Christian REMNANT was hardly known in England before members of the Euphrates Expedition of 1837 wrote about them. In 1843 the Mar Shimun wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury asking for help. In 1847 at the time of the Badr Khan’s massacres, the life of Mar Shimun was saved by Dr. Badger, a Church of England Missionary in Mosul. No Definite steps, however, were taken until 1876, when, a mission of inquiry was sent out by the Archbishop. This mission thoroughly investigated the position. It found besides the Patriarch Mar Shimun, one Metropolitan and eight Bishops in Turkey, and three in Persia. It was discovered that the people were abysmally ignorant and that even the Bishops could hardly read or write. They appeared to be better judges or a rifle than of a doctrine. As indeed they are to the present day. The Bishop in Jerusalem when he visited the Bishop Sirkis in the summer of 1933 was not a little shocked to find a rifle hanging on the wall of his room and a box of ammunition under his bed. Superstitions and meaningless rites abounded and spiritual life generally was at a low ebb. At the same time there was a marked devotion to the faith. Even among the RAYAHS, living as serfs, there was remarkably little apostasy.
In 1886, a Mission was established by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the mountains. Similar Missions had already been established by Americans in the comparatively civilized towns of Mosul and Urmiyah. The express object of the Archbishop’s Mission, as stated in a letter to the Mar Shimun, was “to strengthen and illuminate the ancient church…and not to draw anyone from the flock of your church into new and strange fold.” The methods adopted were the opening of schools for priests and deacons and the printing of Church books. The results were highly satisfactory and education was at last beginning to spread among the mountaineers, when the outbreak of the Great War caused the Mission to close down.
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