LIGHT AFTER DARKNESS
Eight results of the upheaval - Enormous development of Bible circulation - The new impetus to educational work.
"The wrath of man shall praise Thee: with the remainder of wrath wilt Thou gird Thyself." - Ps. 76.10.
THE year 1860 had thus been a crisis in the history of Syria. It was also a crisis in the Protestant missionary work. From that time the tide turned. The plowshare of God's judgment had upturned the soil and overturned many of the mightiest obstacles to the Gospel. Syria had been little known in Protestant England and Germany and little cared for. But great disasters, famines, pestilence and massacres draw forth human sympathy and make all men brothers. The events in Bulgaria in 1876, in Armenia in 1894, in China in 1900 and the Indian famine in 1900, prove the power of Christian sympathy. After the massacres, Syria was filled with correspondents of the English, Scotch, Dutch, Swiss and American journals, who supplied their readers with facts concerning the appalling condition of the Oriental Christian sects in Syria. I was asked by Dr. George W. Wood of New York to act as "our own correspondent" for a new Christian daily journal just started in New York, The New York World, edited by Rev. Dr. Spalding. To this journal I wrote about thirty letters, giving minute day-to-day accounts of the massacres and the resultant sufferings of the survivors, and these letters probably had something to do with the awakened interest in Syria. Then came messengers of mercy from America, England, Scotland, Germany and Switzerland, who opened schools, orphanages and hospitals all over the land.
We can see several distinct results more or less direct from the events of 1860:
To understand these results in Syria, let us look at what had already been accomplished. The American Mission had established thirty-three schools with 967 Pupils, 176 of them girls. There were four organized churches with seventy-five members. The press was printing about 4,000,000 pages annually, and had printed from the outset 112,825,780 pages. The New Testament had been translated, and two editions printed; a 12mo reference edition and a pocket edition, and in 1860, 4,293 copies were sold notwithstanding the poverty of the people. The country had been largely explored. Patriarchs and bishops had ceased to hurl anathemas at the "accursed sect" of the Protestants. Education and the press had opened the eyes of multitudes. The Protestant sect had been legally sanctioned by imperial firman, and became entitled to official recognition and protection. The American Mission in Syria had withdrawn, in 1843, from Jerusalem and all of Palestine south of Acre and Tiberias, and concentrated its efforts on Lebanon, the Bookaa and Northern Syria. A large number of prominent Syrians bad embraced Protestantism, among them the martyr Asaad es Shidiak, Gregory Wortabet, Butrus Bistany and Dr. Meshaka of Damascus. The two latter are immortalized by their contributions to Arabic Christian literature.
When the smoke had cleared away, after the close of the war of 1860, and a reasonable estimate could be made of the actual losses of the Protestant community, it was found that only nine Protestants had been killed out of a community of several hundred. One missionary, Rev. Mr. Graham of the Irish Presbyterian Mission in Damascus was killed. The Hasbeiya church was partially destroyed. The scattering of villagers and people of the large towns like Zahleh, Hasbeiya and Deir el Komr, was a great disaster and set back all systematic work for months.
But on the other hand the -final outcome was a great gain to Syria, as will appear from the following eight results.:
1. The power of the old feudal families and tribes was forever broken. These sheikhs, begs and emirs had enjoyed almost unlimited power. The fellahin or farmers were their serfs. ["Fellah" means "plowman."] A Druse beg or a Shehab Maronite emir could order twenty or fifty fellahs to leave their work without notice, and walk before him ten or twenty miles, without compensation. These feudal lords were gradually appropriating the landed estates, and shared with the monks the best property in Lebanon.
But by the new "Organic Statute," the official status of these titular families was forever abolished, and since that time they have had to take their chance with others in getting office. Their sons now go into business, or enter college to become law lawyers, doctors or officials. As a fact, the kaimakam of the great Druse district of Es-Shoof in Southern Lebanon has been chosen alternately from one of the two great rival Druse houses of the Arslan emirs and the Jumblatt begs. In the other districts which are either Maronite, Greek or Papal Greek, the kaimakarns are taken from the predominant sect. Each district has its medjlis or local council, and the pasha at the capital of the mountain has a central council and court of appeals.
2. The political power of the native hierarchy was broken. The patriarchs and bishops, priests and monks, had interfered in the courts, set up and put down officials, and made Lebanon on a small scale what the papal states were before Garibaldi entered into Rome. They even had the power of life and death as in the case of Asaad es Shidak. They kept the people in ignorance, and allowed of no schools, excepting those for training up a priesthood. They had for ages been appropriating the best lands of Lebanon, by intimidation of men on their death-beds, and by seizing the property of widows and orphans, so that it is true even today, that all the most fertile land, the finest water rights even to and the wooded hills of Lebanon belong to the bishops and the monks, and the fellahin are chiefly their tenants.
But the upheaval of 1860 deprived the priesthood of political power. The collapse of the patriarch's crusade to exterminate the Druses lessened greatly his prestige. When Rustem Pasha was in office (from 1871 to 1881) he exited the Maronite Bishop Butrus el Bistany of B'teddin to Jerusalem, for political intrigue and banished a Papal Greek priest from Zahleh for beating a Protestant in the street. [That priest, Jeraijity, afterwards was made bishop and patriarch, and became the most broad-minded and liberal of the Romish clergy, the friend of education and most courteous and friendly to Americans.]
In the purely Maronite districts, the priests still try to "manage" political affairs, but the people have learned their rights and are free to assert them:
3. A stable, free, and virtually independent government was established in Lebanon. This was politically and socially the greatest boon to Syria in modern times. It is the freest, most peaceful and prosperous province in the empire, and is envied by the other provinces. It opened the way for the vigorous and industrious people to improve their property without fear of armed horsemen, tithe gatherers, extortioners and bribe-taking officials. No longer do mercenary judges and arbitrary rulers intimidate witnesses and corrupt the tribunals. [At the present time, alas, this is no longer true.] The taxation is light and is all expended on local interests. When murders occur, the culprits are arrested and imprisoned, and murders would be much fewer, were capital punishment allowed.
4. The domineering pride of the Damascus Mohammedans was broken. The enforcement of military conscription, the enormous money levies on the city and Moslem villages, the increase of the military garrison, and the introduction of municipal improvements, have lowered the tone and subdued the manner of the Damascene Moslems towards native Christians and foreigners. Christian schools have multiplied, the Turkish schools for boys and even girls are crowded with pupils, newspapers are published and read, and there is friendly intercourse between Moslems, Christians and Jews,
5. The war of 1860 forced tens of thousands of the people, great and small, rich and poor, out of their secluded villages and brought them into contact with foreign Christian benevolence. The very men whom their priests had taught them were godless, enemies of God and man, and emissaries of Satan, had fed and clothed them for months, given them medicine and medical attendance and helped them in rebuilding their houses in the fall and winter. No wonder that months afterwards, deputation after deputation came to Beirut asking the missionaries for teachers and schools, and that there was a growing demand for Arabic Scriptures and other useful books.
In some of the remote and stricken villages there are now flourishing evangelical churches. In Zahleh, from which missionaries had twice been driven out and stoned, there is a fine church edifice and four Protestant schools. This is the town which sent thirty armed horsemen in July, 1848, to Hasbeiya, ordering the Protestants to leave on penalty of death. In 1860, the mission had twenty-seven village schools. Now in the same territorial districts there are not less than 150, and the number could easily be increased were the means sufficient.
6. A demand for education. No sooner had the sky cleared after the storm of 1860, than there sprang up in all parts of the land a demand for schools, which has continued to increase until the present time. It has resulted in the founding of not less than twenty Protestant boarding-schools and institutions in Syria and Palestine whose influence for good is incalculable.
7. Then came a new demand for the Arabic Scriptures and other religious and miscellaneous books. The new translation of the Arabic New Testament was printed in March, 1860, just before the outbreak of the Civil War, and was ready for the multitudes who poured like a flood into Beirut from hundreds of villages in and around Mount Lebanon. Many out of their deep poverty bought the New Testament, to others it was given, and thus God's Word went back with the poor and stricken and disheartened people to comfort them in their desolate homes. On August 23, 1864, Dr. Van Dyck completed the translation and printing of the Old Testament, and in June left for the United States to attend to electrotyping the entire Arabic Bible. Since that time, thirty-two editions of the Bible and parts of it have been issued from the Beirut Press, all of which bear on the title page the imperial sanction of the Ottoman government. Up to 1909, more than nine hundred thousand copies of the Arabic Scriptures have been printed at the Beirut Press, and it now has a capacity for printing 50,000 Bibles a year.
Dr. A. J. Brown says that "the Beirut Press is next to the greatest mission press in the world, being exceeded in output only by the Presbyterian Mission Press in Shanghai."
The demand for the Arabic Scriptures is increasing, not only in Syria and Palestine, but in Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Arabia, India, Egypt and the Sudan, Tunis, Algiers, Morocco, Zanzibar, Aden, the East Indies, North China, and every other country where the Arabic language is read and spoken.
Much the same is true of the religious, educational and scientific works published by the American Press. About seven hundred and fifty millions of pages of all classes of publications have been printed at the American Press. The first impulse given by this press has called into existence a score of printing houses in Beirut and other parts of Syria. The largest of these is the Jesuit Press of the University of St. Joseph, which has published a translation of the Vulgate Bible into the Arabic and a large line of works in Arabic literature.
The land is filled with newspapers, and the people have awakened to a new intellectual life. Native booksellers tell me that the best selling books in the monasteries and among monks and priests are the flashy French novels translated into Arabic.
But the best selling book throughout the East today is the Bible. It has now a firm footing in the empire, and has been published in eleven languages. The Arabic version contests with the Koran the supremacy over the future intellectual, moral and religious life of the Arab race. The Koran is in one language exclusively for one sect, and is not allowed to be translated; there are no Koran societies for distributing Korans among non-Moslems, and any copy of the Koran found in the possession of a native Christian or a European traveller is confiscated. The Bible is freely offered for sale to all. More than sixty thousand copies of the Scriptures are sold annually in the Turkish Empire. The Word of God is having "free course" and it shall "be glorified."
8. After the events of 1860 and largely as a result of Protestant Missions, there was an intellectual and educational awakening throughout the whole Turkish Empire. The American schools had been in operation forty years, before the Turkish government officially promulgated (in 1869) school laws, and instituted a scheme of governmental education. But there was no public school system for all the people. The government schools are for Mohammedan children, and thus exclude the millions of Christian children who must be provided for by their own sects, or by missionary societies.
In 1864 there were said to be twelve thousand five hundred elementary mosque schools for reading the Koran, in which there were said to be half a million of students. In 1890, according to official reports, there were in the empire 41,659 schools of all kinds of which 3,000 are probably Christian and Jewish. As there are 35,598 mosques in the empire, and each mosque is supposed to have its "medriseh" or school, there would appear to be about 4,000 secular government schools not connected with the mosques, independent of ecclesiastical control by mollahs and sheikhs, and belonging to the imperial graded system of public instruction; yet many of the mosque schools have now been absorbed into the government system so that there may be 20,000 of these so-called government schools. The great majority of the schools' public and private, native and foreign in the empire, have come into existence since 1860, and now there are in the empire not less than 1,000 Protestant schools, with nearly 50,000 pupils. Of these 20,000 are girls, a fact most potent and eloquent with regard to the future of these interesting peoples.
I can only recount briefly the history and work of the various evangelical institutions of the post-massacre period, i. e., since the year 1860.
After the events of 1860 there followed an unprecedented demand for education for both boys and girls, and this in higher schools than those in the villages. Foreign languages were wanted, especially the French, owing to the intimate commercial relations between Syria and France. After the reconstruction of Lebanon, the Abeih Seminary was reopened. But owing to the strictly vernacular policy enjoined by the American Board of Missions neither English nor French could be taught in it. The same was true of female education. Dr. De Forest had taught all the young women in his family school the English language, and it proved a priceless boon to them. But after the departure of the American young ladies who were expected to carry on his work, the question was reopened in Beirut, with regard to the propriety of teaching English and French. As it could not be done in a school supported by the Board it was decided in 1861 to open a girls' boarding-school in Beirut independent of the Board, and with native Syrian teachers.
The first contribution towards it was given by Colonel Frazier H. B. M. Commissioner. Mr. M. Araman, his lovely wife and Miss Rufka Gregory, who had been trained in the families of Mrs. Whiting and Mrs. De Forest, undertook the work. The school soon attained a high reputation, and after the departure of Miss Gregory (as Mrs. Muir) to. Australia, it was found necessary to engage American lady teachers, and through the labours of Miss Everett, Miss Carruth, Miss Jackson, Miss Loring, Miss Fisher, Miss Thomson, Miss Barber, Miss Law, Miss Tolles, and Miss Horne, with an excellent corps of Syrian teachers, the seminary has become the leading girls' boarding school south of Constantinople. It began with six charity pupils and now has sixty paying boarders, and gives a high-grade diploma to its graduates. And these graduates are in demand as teachers at good salaries in Syria and Egypt. When Dr. A, J. Brown, secretary of the Presbyterian Board of Missions, visited Cairo in 1902 with his wife they were sur prised and delighted to attend an evening reception at the house of a lady eminent as a teacher in Cairo, where they met about fifty cultivated ladies, her fellow graduates of the Beirut Seminary.
The English language is taught thoroughly, as it is now in all the Protestant high schools for boys and girls in Syria and Palestine and Egypt. The demand for English is one of the facts to be confronted in the opening of the twentieth century. It is rapidly supplanting French and Italian. No school can succeed without it. In 1870, on the transfer of the Syria Mission to the Presbyterian Board of Missions, this institution was adopted by the Women's Board of Missions and has been maintained by them to the present time.
On December 14, 1870, the executive committee of the seminary consisted of Drs. Thomson, Van Dyck, H. H. Jessup, of Beirut, Messrs. Bird and Calhoun of Abeih, Dr. Daniel Bliss and Dr. George E. Post of the Syrian Protestant College. We then addressed to the new Presbyterian Board of Missions a historical statement and appeal on behalf of the seminary. We urged the raising of an endowment of $30,000, or, in default of this, a permanent provision for its support. We said, "We believe that it has an important future before it in the great work of female education and evangelization in this land. It is an institution which should enlist the sympathies and prayers of the mothers and daughters of the thousands in our Presbyterian Israel. Here in the land of Hannah and Rachel, of Ruth and Mary, would we lay wisely and permanently the foundations of a school which is to train the daughters of Syria of all sects and tribes in all the generations to come."
In 1864, the mission authorized me, during a brief visit of thirteen weeks in the United States, to raise funds for the erection of a suitable building for the Beirut Seminary, on the mission premises, by adding to the old mission house or "Burj Bird," erected by, Rev. Isaac Bird in 1834. With the cordial cooperation of Hon. William E. Dodge, and Mr. William A. Booth of New York, Matthew Baldwin, John A. Brown, Horace Pitkin and Jay Cooke of Philadelphia, and many others, a sum of ten thousand dollars was raised. A cholera epidemic interrupted the building from July to November, 1865, but it was completed and dedicated in 1866. In 1869 a beautiful porch was erected over the main entrance by Mrs. D. Stuart Dodge.
What changes and what contrasts are suggested by such a building, and for such an object on the shores of old Phoenicia! Young maidens of the children of Japheth coming seven thousand miles across the great ocean beyond the Pillars of Hercules to teach the Semitic girls the religion of their own greatest Prophet, the Incarnate Son of God! An American school for Syrian girls! An evangelical school for Moslem and Druse, Greek and Maronite, Papal Greek, Jacobite, Armenian and Jewish girls! Any school for girls would have been an impossibility when the American missionaries first landed in Syria. The people thought and said that there was more hope of teaching a cat than a girl. The Moslems said that girls could not be trusted with a knowledge of reading and writing. Girls were to be servants, slaves, beaten, despised, degraded, dishonoured. They could not be trusted. No Moslem would allow his wife's face to be seen by his own father or brother. No Moslem would mention the word woman in the presence of other men without saying, "Ajellak Allah," which means, May God exalt you above the contamination of such a vile subject! The Mohammedan religion has destroyed the family, degraded women, heaped ignominy and reproach upon the girls. Secluded at home, veiled when abroad, without training, veracity, virtue or self-respect, men despised them and they despised themselves. If a European doctor insists on seeing the face of a sick Moslem woman, the husband has often been known to say, "Never, let her die first - but no man shall ever see her face."
The Oriental Christian women were driven into partial seclusion by the intense fanaticism of their Moslem neighbours, When the seminary was opened in 1861, no parent could be induced to pay a piastre for the education of a daughter. The first class of six consisted only of charity pupils, and the first demand for payment for board met a serious rebellion. From 1861 to 1870, the burden of supporting this school rested on me. The American Board declined to help it as it taught English and French.
This school was carried on in faith. At times we did not know where the funds for the week's expenses were to come from, but the Lord provided wonderfully and the school lacked no good thing. On the last day of December, 1869, Mr. Araman, the teacher, came to me and asked for money to the amount of three or four thousand piastres (about $150) to pay urgent bills. I told him we had not a piastre in the treasury. We conferred and laid the matter before the Lord in prayer, and he went away. Just then came a knock at the door. Mr. Stuart Dodge came in with a package containing thirty-three and a half Napoleons, which he had found in the mission safe, deposited there by Mr. Booth and labelled, "for the girls' school" Then came another gift of ten Napoleons from an unexpected source, making 850 francs or about $170, so that our prayers were answered and our credit saved.
For nine years I raised by correspondence with personal friends and Sabbath-schools the salaries of the teachers and the scholarship funds to support the girls. Tourists passing through Beirut gave substantial aid, but it was a growing burden, and great was my joy when the new Presbyterian Women's Board of Missions assumed the support of the Beirut Girls' School and placed it on a substantial basis. Up to that time the school had no financial connection with the American Board, Miss Everett, its first American teacher, was appointed missionary of the Board, but her salary was paid by Mrs. Walter Baker, the saint of Dorchester.
We fought the battle to maintain the school, although it was not on the simple vernacular basis required by the American Board and I regard it as one of the best labours of my life that I carried this darling school on my shoulders and on my heart for nine years. It has been a blessing indescribable to Syria and the East. A change has come over men and women, too, in Syria. In 1878, the seminary received from paying pupils eleven hundred dollars. It now (1909) receives annually about three thousand dollars and has to turn away many pupils for want of room.
It is a high school teaching Arabic grammar, arithmetic, algebra, astronomy, botany, physiology, history, ethics, English and French, with music and drawing for those willing to pay for them. There is a regular academic course giving a diploma which warrants the preparation of the graduates for teaching. It is also a thoroughly evangelical and Biblical school. All the pupils are instructed daily in the Bible, and brought under religious influence in the church and Sabbath-school and in the seminary family. Nothing of religious instruction is abated or relaxed on account of the religion or nationality of any pupil. Her parents know that it is a religious institution, and yet are willing to pay for its privileges. The Orientals do not believe in non-religious schools. They think every man is bound to have a religion of some kind, and prefer to have their children taught our religion rather than none at all.
The building cost about eleven thousand dollars. The lumber was brought from the state of Maine. The windows and doors were made in Lowell, Mass., as before mentioned. The stone pavement of the floor was brought from Italy, the tiles for the roof from Marseilles. The cream-coloured sandstone of which the walls are built was quarried near Beirut; the stone stairs are from Mount Lebanon. The desks are from New York, the zinc roof of the cupola from England, the glass from Vienna, and the petroleum oil for the lamps from Batoum. The playground in the rear of the seminary is shaded with beautiful zinzalakht or Pride of India trees which were planted in 1839 by Dr. Thomson and Mr. Story Hebard. In the attic of the old part of the seminary building is the room where the Bible was translated by Dr. Eli Smith (1848-1857) and Dr. Cornelius V. A. Van Dyck (18571865). This great work is commemorated by a marble tablet on, the wall, erected by Dr. Daniel C. Gilman of Johns Hopkins just in front of the church is a memorial column, to mark the site on which was erected in 1835, for Mrs. Eli Smith, the first edifice for the education of girls ever erected in the Turkish Empire. It was a day-school for thirty little girls which only continued for a few months and was suspended on the departure of Mrs. Smith for Smyrna where she died September 30, 1836.
The pupils of the Beirut Seminary are native Syrian, Egyptian and a few Armenian girls, from ten to sixteen years of age. Many of them are bright and quick to learn, and comely in appearance. Nine out of ten of them have black eyes, as have the majority of the Arab race. A blonde in Syria is rare, and consequently greatly admired. These girls go forth from the seminary cultivated and refined, ready to be teachers of youth or wives and mothers of families. Many of the graduates have been truly converted. This seminary is a light shining in a dark place, and it has been shining to such good purpose that the dark place itself is becoming light. Beirut is a city of schools, and it has none more useful or successful than this American female seminary. In April, 1904, the alumnae of the seminary, resident in Egypt, presented to the institution an elegant oil portrait of Miss Eliza D. Everett, the first American teacher in the seminary, and who was connected with it for more than twenty-five years. Mrs. W. W. Taylor (nee Miss Sophie B. Loring) of the seminary in the year 1886 raised in the United States the necessary funds for building a summer home or sanitarium for the Beirut Seminary. It is located in Suk el Gharb on a rocky ledge overlooking the mountain slopes, the plain and the blue sea, is well built and convenient and is known as Beit Loring or Loring House. It is in sight of Beirut, and nine miles distant, 2,500 feet above sea level.
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