A New Religious Atmosphere. As we turn from India to the Near East we pass from the mists of pantheism and polytheism which have constituted the spiritual atmosphere of Southern Asia to the dark cloud of Islam which has overshadowed the Levant. In both cases the religion 0f the country has molded almost the entire life of the people.
Possible Access to Islam. In the past Islam has represented the greatest force of vindictive aggressiveness and of stubborn resistance against Christianity, civilization, and culture. For four centuries, how-ever, a period of gradual decay and decline, culminating in the defeat of the recent war, has prepared the way for a new era in the Near East. We believe that the results of the late war may prove the open door, not only to Turkey, but to the Mohammedan world. This apparent defeat may lead to their greatest victory, greater even in its final influence for good than any triumph Mohammed won at the point of the sword. It should open the door to a new era of closer contact with Christian civilization, to a period of reconstruction, of mutual helpfulness, and of broader humanity throughout the Near East. As China’s defeats at the hands of Japan and in the Boxer uprising opened her eyes to her real condition, and led the way to thorough reform and reconstruction, the ultimate effects of the late war will probably be either thoroughly to reform Turkey, or else place her finally under the control of Christian nations. And if it opens a door of access to Islam it places before the Christian Church the last great Gibraltar which must be taken before a Christian civilization can dominate Asia and the world.
The Strategic Center of Mohammedanism. To appreciate the new era in the Near East let us look for a moment at the environment of the Mohammedan world, of the Turkish Empire and of its capital city, Constantinople. As japan led the way to the opening of the Far East, Turkey constitutes the strategic center of the Near East. According to the best authorities there are in the world to-day about 200,000,000 Mohammedans. Of these, about three fourths are in Asia and the remaining fourth in Africa. Almost exactly one third are found in India, and more Moslems bow the knee at the call to prayer in the lands ruled by King George than in those ruled by the Sultan himself. Persia will for some time lag behind Turkey, and is not yet prepared to enter fully into the new era. We may, therefore, concentrate our attention in this chapter chiefly upon the Turkish Empire, for when Turkey is moved it will move the Mohammedan world.
Change in Turkish Empire. The old Turkish Empire embraced a population of 24,000,000.1 But Turkey has now lost all of her European possessions, save a limited territory from the Black Sea to the AEgean, including Constantinople, the Dardanelles and Adrianople.
Crucial Constantinople. Constantinople was long the key t0 Europe, and the strategic center between the East and the West. Founded on the ancient city of Byzantium, which dated from the seventh century B.C., the city was built by Constantine in 330 A.D. and became the new capital of the Roman Empire. For nearly a thousand years it was the center of the wealth and civilization of Europe. Long the Queen City,” its jurists gave to Europe her Roman ” law, and its theologians, artists, scholars, and merchant princes were the leaders of Europe. It shaped the creeds of Christendom, and even when it fell into the hands of the Turks in 1453 A.D. its libraries and manu-scripts helped both to cause and to spread the Renaissance of Europe. Here Justinian, on the site of an earlier edifice of Constantine, erected in his new Rome the great St. Sophia, one of the grandest Christian structures in the world, where Chrysostom preached, and where the councils were held which determined the faith of Christendom. As we stand to-day before the massive walls of Constantinople, which proudly with-stood twenty sieges, and still retain much of their ancient grandeur, we recall the days of old when the armies of Xerxes and Darius, of Demosthenes and Alexander, of the Huns and Tatars, Slays, Crusaders, and Turks fought in turn about them. The city throngs to-day with a million inhabitants of many nationalities, virile Turks, enterprising Armenians, versatile Greeks, and a score of other tribes and tongues. As Sir William M. Ramsay well says : “Constantinople is the center about which the world’s history revolves. It is the bridge that binds together the East and the West, the old to the new civilization, which must be brought into harmony before the culmination of all civilization can appear, bringing peace on earth, good-will to men.”
Turks Have Racial Strength. If we would realize the significance of the present movement in Turkey, we may well examine the conditions that obtained in old Turkey under the full sway of the Moslem power. Let it not be supposed as we examine the dark picture of Turkey’s past and its misrule, that the Turks in themselves are an ignoble race. Rather the opposite is true. There is always some-thing noble about raw manhood. All the potencies of the best races lie within it if it is given a chance to develop. As in the case of Japan, the faults of the Turks are due to sociological rather than biological causes; they are the result of environment rather than of any inherent defect or weakness in the Turkish race. We were informed by leading educators in the Near East that in colleges and schools where Turkish students were placed in competition with Greek, Bulgarian, Servian, Armenian, and other students, that, not only in courtesy and politeness, but in intellectual acumen and virility and strength of character, the Turkish students are often superior to those of the surrounding nations.
A Record of Misrule. As we look back over the history of Turkey we can trace long centuries of criminal injustice and misrule. We find the Turkish population left stagnant and corrupt, subject nations crushed and oppressed, industry choked, agriculture undeveloped, the farmer robbed, the poor oppressed, womanhood despoiled, manhood sensualized, and childhood corrupted. Sir Edwin Pears, after residing a lifetime among the Turks, writes of the old régime in Turkey and Its People:
Beyond Words to Describe. “The career of the Turks during the last five centuries is one of destruction and never of construction. . . . In denouncing the iniquities of misgovernment in Turkey it was hardly possible to employ the language of exaggeration. When writing of the general corruption in the administration of government; of the great variety and number of outrages committed; the torture of prisoners to obtain evidence or confession; of the imprisonment of crowds of Armenians to find one criminal; the daily extortion, shared in or permitted, by those in authority; the organized massacres of tens of thousands whose offenses were, first, that they were Christians, and second, that they were more prosperous than their Moslem neighbors, hardly any language could be characterized as too violent.”
Abdul Hamid. Turkish misrule was concentrated and personalized in Abdul Hamid II., who was the thirty-fourth ruler in succession to Othman. His reign lasted from 1876 to 1909. This man, whom Gladstone called ” Abdul the Damned,” during his rule was responsible for the misery of over a million souls if we include the number subjected to torture, mutilation, rape, robbery, and slavery. Sir William M. Ramsay says : Abdul Hamid has a fair claim to rank among the greatest destroyers of human kind that have ever stained the pages of history. Responsible for half a million deaths, a still larger number have suffered permanently from destitution, torture, mutilation, loss of property, of honor, etc. Not one spark of any grand or great quality illumined his life or ennobled his fall.”
Summary of Conditions. Politically, the old Turkish rule was corrupt almost beyond belief. Bribery, injustice, and robbery characterized most of the officials. Turkey was a fifteenth century Oriental government in conflict with modern civilization.” Intellectually, the people were left in ignorance and mental stagnation. Schoolmasters among the subject races of the Bulgarians, Armenians, etc., were tortured and killed, and their schools closed, as the official followed his unerring instinct in opposing all learning and progress. Economically, industry languished, agriculture was undeveloped, the same plow was used as in the days of Abraham, progress was impossible. There were no good roads, no safe communications, traveling was dangerous if not impossible, the press was throttled, and every man who showed signs of independence, enterprise, or progressive spirit was banished. The social conditions of the old Turkey almost beggar description. Manhood, womanhood, and childhood alike were blighted.
Largely Due to Mohammedan Intolerance. The fanatical intolerance of Mohammedanism must largely be chargeable with this misrule, rather than any inherent inhumanity of the Turkish race. They are naturally a virile and capable race. But after being dominated by Islam for a thousand years, and after a fair trial in Europe for five hundred and fifty years, with repeated warnings from the Powers and en-treaties from their oppressed Christian subjects, is it too much to say that Islam has proved a failure?
View of Lord Cromer. Lord Cromer, in his Modern Egypt, quotes Mohammed’s command in the Koran When ye encounter the unbelievers, strike off their heads until ye have made a great slaughter among them, and bind them in bonds.. O true believers, if ye assist God, by fighting for his religion, he will assist you against your enemies; and will set your feet fast; but as for infidels, let them perish; and their works God shall render vain. . . . Verily, God will introduce those who believe and do good works into gardens beneath which rivers flow, but the unbelievers indulge themselves in pleasures, and eat as beasts eat; and their abode shall be hell fire.” Lord Cromer adds: ” When principles such as these have been dinned for centuries past into the ears of Moslems, it can be no matter for surprise that a spirit of intolerance has been generated.”
Favorable Features. We gladly recognize every wholesome and true element in Mohammedanism. Its fervid and unflinching monotheism, its splendid virility and zeal, its missionary propaganda, its stern legalism, and its ceremonial and moral precepts have made the Turk, generally speaking, clean, sober, obedient, disciplined, contented, and reverent. There is much in the Koran itself to indicate that the religion is not necessarily a foe to Christianity, and there are many points of contact and lines of approach which it opens up to the Christian missionary.
Defects and Shortcomings. But the shortcomings of Mohammedanism, even at its best, cannot be for-gotten. In moral character we find the people, after five centuries of absolute Moslem rule, untruthful to a high degree. That is not strange when Mohammed himself says: ” Verily a lie is allowable in three cases, to women, to reconcile friends, and in war.” Living-stone’s testimony in Africa was : ” Heathen Africans are much superior to the Mohammedans, who are the most worthless one can have.” Lord Curzon finds the same true in Persia, when he says : ” I am convinced that the true son of Iran would sooner lie than tell the truth.” Any one who has lived in Turkey can bear the same testimony as to dishonesty, especially in official classes.
Extreme Sensuality. A second and yet more grave evil fruitage of the Moslem faith is its wide-spread sensuality. Dr. von During, the German specialist, in his scientific report on the widespread diseases in the Turkish army and among the population in general, stated that the race would be extinct in two generations if the present lustful life were continued unchecked. Even Abdul Hamid was alarmed at the conditions existing.
Blighted Womanhood. The third and greatest charge against Mohammedanism is the blight which it has everywhere cast upon womanhood. It has doomed numbers of its women to seclusion and ignorance. The life in the harem, the seraglio, the zenana, and behind the purdah is for the most part unwritten and unknown in the West. And here again Mohammedanism must be held accountable for the fruits of this system. Its permitted polygamy, its unlimited divorce for the most trifling cause or whim, its sanction of slavery, are traceable back to the practise of Mohammed and the commands of the Koran. Indeed, this faith has cast its shadow upon every Moslem home in Asia. Can it be said that the hundred mil-lions or more of Moslem women have their God-given rights under this system? For centuries the desolated villages of Africa, and the long slave gangs on the. dreary march from the Dark Continent to the slave markets of Constantinople, during which mere than half died by the wayside, add their volume to the tale of ruined and wronged womanhood which is chargeable to the Moslem faith. Islam casts its shadow upon womanhood, even within the gates of Paradise, where she is conceived to exist to satisfy the lust of man. Any one who has traveled through Moslem lands can hardly write with calmness or with-out a sense of burning indignation when reviewing the wrongs of womanhood under Islam.
Revolution of 1908. We gladly turn from this dark and depressing picture of the past to the signs of a new day. It began with the revolution of 1908, and was further advanced by the Peace of London in 1913. Contact with the liberty and prosperity of Christian nations, the education of some of the young men of Turkey, and information brought in through the printing-press, set at work within Turkey the leaven of the new principles of life. Every young Turk banished for liberal ideas to the outskirts of the Turkish Empire became a missionary of the new era. A campaign of education and a secret propaganda for liberty were carried on throughout the army and in the distant provinces. In 1891 a group of young Turks formed themselves into ” The Committee of Union and Progress.” Their headquarters were successively in Geneva, Paris, and Salonica. Their first public success was winning the troops stationed in Salonica and Monastir. Here the army took the oath of allegiance to the Committee. Officers who opposed were shot. The leaders opened up telegraphic communication with the Sultan in Constantinople. When he learned that the troops were against him and that even the long-loyal Albanians had joined the movement, he yielded to the insistent and immediate demand for the revival of the Constitution of 1876, which had remained in force only a few months.
Constitutional Government Conceded. On the 24th of July, 1908, the Sultan granted this constitution to the people, providing for a responsible ministry, a senate and chamber of deputies, the right of public meeting, freedom of the press, the appointment of judges for life, compulsory primary education, and religious liberty. To this constitution the Sultan solemnly swore fidelity upon the Koran itself: The Sheik-ul-Islam, the high priest of the Mohammedan faith, proclaimed the declaration of the constitution and of the Sultan’s oath. The motto adopted from the West by the constitutional leaders was ” Liberty, Justice, Equality, and Fraternity.”
Joy Over New Outlook. When the first ballot-boxes were opened for the election of the representatives of the people, little girls dressed in white stood in lines upon either side of these sacred symbols of liberty, while the voters marched by with flags and songs of joy. Parliament was opened on December 18, 1908, by Abdul Hamid himself.
Abdul Hamid’s Counter Move Soon Reversed. This crafty Nero, however, was only biding his time. Enlisting the service of members of the Liberal Unionist Party, using bribery and corruption, he spread disaffection among the troops about Constantinople against the liberal leaders. On April 13, 1909, the troops rose, shot the liberal officers, seized the parliament building, and drove out the Young Turk Party. Once again in possession of power, Abdul Hamid sent his order to Cilicia to kill the Armenians, who were showing some signs of independence. In obedience to his order, simultaneously in Adana, Tarsus, and elsewhere, an attack was made on this defenseless people. This whole movement was a counter-revolution, aimed to fan the flame of the old Moslem fanaticism against the new liberal ideas. The Young Turk leaders, however, quickly rallied at Salonica, hurried the troops by rail toward the capital, and within eleven days arrived within striking distance of Abdul Hamid’s palace itself. The senate reassembled, and the Sheik-ul-Islam read a proclamation deposing the Sultan on the grounds of treason and misgovernment. On the 28th of April the Young Turks regained possession of Constantinople and seized Abdul Hamid, who was sent on a special train as a prisoner to Salonica within two weeks of his launching of the counter-revolution. We passed the villa in which this crafty and cruel monarch was then confined. It is to be hoped that this, like the Boxer uprising in China, was the last convulsive death-struggle of the old era.
Young Turks’ Good Intention. Many of the Young Turks honestly meant to reform the Turkish government. They had deposed the Sultan, recalled 40,000 exiles, dismissed the 30,000 spies, punished many who were guilty of the Adana massacres, granted freedom of worship, of travel, and the education of Moslem students. But they failed to develop unselfish, patriotic leaders. In order to win the support of the fanatical and reactionary Moslem element they endeavored to bring all the subject peoples into conformity to Turkish standards without regard to their race, religion, or language. Macedonia especially bitterly resented the Turkish policy.
Causes of the Balkan War. Dr. Joseph K. Greene, in ” Turkey and the Balkan War ” 1 states the causes of the war as follows : There was the memory of ancient wrongs rankling in the breast of every Greek and Slay. The memories of wrongs suffered by their mothers and grandmothers, and the atrocities committed against their relatives in Macedonia, melted them into one burning unit of indignation. Secondly, the sympathy of the Balkan people for their co-religionists still under the Turkish rule. Thirdly, and perhaps chiefly, the allied States had a passionate desire to extend their own borders, for formerly the Bulgarians and Servians had ruled in turn over almost all the Balkan Peninsula. All these causes combined to drive the Turk from Europe, and to lead the Balkans to successful war.
Turks Weak in Organization and Defeated. The Turks fought with their old-time bravery, but even within fifty miles of Constantinople their corrupt and effete organization, or rather lack of or ganization, was unable to supply the troops with either bread or ammunition. So long as the Balkan allies were united they swept everything before them. Divided, they presented a pitiable spectacle, as a divided Christendom always does. By the Peace of London, Turkey was stripped of practically all her possessions in Europe, and the Turks in large numbers crossed from Europe into Asia, which is to be their future home.
Probable Results. It is too soon to state the final effect of the war, but there is already evidence that certain results will follow. i. There is a distinct loss of prestige by Turkey as the political exponent of Islam, and a consequent check to the Pan-Islamic movement. 2. The Christian nationalities in the empire are now emboldened to demand their rights, The government must finally commit itself to a process of more or less decentralization, with a certain amount of foreign supervision. 3. Turkey will be forced to introduce radical and final reforms, or, if she again proves unable or unwilling to reform, the ultimate disintegration of the empire is at hand. 4. There will be a larger opening up of Turkey to missionary work. This probably will be followed by the ingathering into the Christian Church of a body of Moslem converts in the Near East, and the reconstruction of Islam in the effort to adapt it to modern civilization, culture, and progress.
Problem of Reorganization of Government. Let us consider some of the problems created for Turkey by the new era and the recent war. First of all there is the serious problem of the reorganization of the government, with all the financial, administrative, educational, and economic questions involved in such a reorganization. If Turkey is willing and desirous of accomplishing real reforms at this time, she deserves our hearty sympathy. She is confronted with the enormous difficulties of race division; the Aryan, the Tatar, and the Semite are side by side. Even her present empire embraces ancient races, proud of their past history, with strong traditions and a growing national sentiment in each.
Opposing Religions. Her difficulty is increased further by the differences of religion, for her subjects embrace the followers of the three intolerant religions of the world, reacting upon each other, the bigoted Jew, the fanatical Moslem, and the missionary Christian. Each claims the first place, and from the very nature of their creeds can admit no rival nor equal. With depleted finances, undeveloped resources, a divided population, an almost utter absence of an educational system, and with no preliminary training in a school of subordination to a Western power, Turkey’s political problem of reorganization is overwhelming.
Problem of Moral and Religious Reform. Even more serious than the problem of internal reorganization is the one underlying problem of moral and religious reform. Thus far faith and practise, morality and religion have been widely separated in Turkey. Emphasizing the outward and ceremonial in her own religion, Turkey has seen the worst side of Christian nations in their political propaganda, often without sincerity and without principle. She has had before her the example of the Oriental Churches and the diplomacy of foreign nations. The moral forces of Christianity have not yet been brought to bear sufficiently upon her.
Signs of Hope. There are, however, signs of hope. The Moslems are now finding it possible to interpret the Koran so as to permit them to give a somewhat larger degree of religious toleration and political equity to Christians. They are beginning in this new era to take a deeper interest in science, art, and culture. They are now emphasizing the education of women. In the case of influential individuals they are showing themselves capable of approving in principle all broad philanthropic work, such as is now being carried on by the Young Men’s Christian Association, and similar work that is being begun by the American Board. Turkey is facing, however, the increasing moral degeneracy of the youth of all races within her empire. Something must be done to check the rising tide of agnosticism, infidelity, and immorality. Her deepest problem, underlying political reorganization and international relations is, therefore, moral and religious.
Evidence of New Era. Already there are encouraging evidences of the new era. Politically, in spite of all the depressing features, there are signs of hope. The continuation of the selfish land-grabbing and privilege-grabbing policy of the foreign powers, if persisted in, can only end in the political disintegration of Turkey. But there is now a chance that the less selfish of the European powers may finally insist upon an improvement in the political and social conditions of the Christian races. Many individual Turks are inquiring into the causes of their defeat, and leaders may be raised up from among their own people who will fake to heart the lessons of their recent humiliation. In a Turkish newspaper of November 13, 1912, there was published an open letter written by Prince Sabah-ed-din, a grandson of Sultan Hamid and an heir to the throne, in which, addressing the present Sultan, he says : ” Sire, however bitter this truth may be, we must confess to ourselves that our greatest enemy is not Italy, nor Europe, nor the Balkans, but ourselves. The seat of the evil is in our own private life.”
Movement toward Christian Schools. Educationally, also there are signs of hope. One of the prominent ministers of the Cabinet a few weeks ago made application to place both of his daughters in the American College for Girls at Constantinople. The ten colleges and fifty high schools under the control of American missions in Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt will be overcrowded and unable to receive all the Moslems who will now clamor for admission in the new era.
Prospective Economic Progress. Economically, progress cannot be prevented, though it may be retarded by an antiforeign policy on the part of the government. The coming decade will probably show the development of new modern harbors, the building of railways, the development of manufacturing and mining, and a consequent increase in trade. In spite of the great irrigation projects in Asia Minor and Mesopotamia, which will be rapidly pushed through, and which will offer an opportunity for large numbers of the agricultural population, the darkest prospect is in the matter of agriculture, which bids fair to continue along its present crude lines. The taxes are still being farmed out, and as long as this state of things continues little progress can come to the needy farmer.
Mission Outlook. Let us consider, in closing, the work of Christian missions in Turkey and the Near East, and the call of the new era.
Beginnings by Europe and America. The Mohammedan world will stand as the last challenge before the Christian Church. But the Church has been strangely slow to advance against this great and seemingly impregnable fortress. A few feeble attempts were made in past centuries, but the Church as a whole has never addressed itself to the Mohammedan problem. Rather it has turned to Islam its worst side. As far back as the thirteenth century, Raymond Lull had witnessed to the Moslems. Opposed, imprisoned, banished, he was finally stoned to death in his eightieth year, in 1315 in Africa. Henry Martyn had begun his work for Moslems in India in 1806, and laid down his life at Tokat, Turkey-in-Asia, in 1812. He had fulfilled his ambition ” to burn out for God.” The revived interest in the Jews in 1819 led the American Board to send the first two missionaries to the Jews of Palestine, as well as to the Moslems. Smyrna and Beirut were entered in 1820, and Constantinople in 1831. In 1870 the field was divided between the two principal missions, the American Board taking Turkey and the Balkans, and the Presbyterian Board Syria and Persia. The door of access to the Jews and Moslems being closed, the missionaries were led to turn their attention first to the old Oriental Churches. They did not attempt to establish a new Church, or to proselytize from members of the old Churches. In 1846, however, under a new and ignorant patriarch, all Christians who read the Bible were thrown into . prison, a reign of terror was instituted, and a bull of excommunication drove out the evangelical members of the Armenian Church, and compelled them to form the first Protestant Church.
Praise for American Work. Gladstone wrote : ” The American missions in Turkey have done more good to the inhabitants of that country than has all Europe combined.” Ambassador James Bryce says of the American missions : ” They have been the only good influence that has worked from abroad on the Turkish empire.” Rear Admiral Chester of the American navy makes this statement : ” The eight colleges, the forty-four high schools, and the 300 common schools of the educational system of the American missions have left the masses with high ideals, the knowledge of true institutions, and longings for better government.”
Two Leavening Institutions. Two institutions have stood as radiating centers of light in the darkness of the Near East, Robert College in Constantinople, with 473 students, and the Syrian Protestant College at Beirut, with 897. The former, on the banks of the Bosphorus, has been educating the young Greeks, Bulgarians, Armenians, and, in later years, the Turks also. As Professor Beach says : ” Robert College has exerted an incalculable influence for Christian life all over the empire. Among its graduates are many of the most prominent men in Bulgaria, and it is perhaps not too much to say that the nation really owes its existence to the influence exerted by President George Washburn and his associates. Its students have included representatives of twenty nationalities.” Of the college at Beirut, Dr. Mott writes : ” This is one of the three most important institutions in all Asia. In fact there is no college which has within one generation accomplished a greater work and which to-day has a larger opportunity. It has practically created the medical profession of the Levant. It has been the most influential factor of the East. It has been and is the center for genuine Christian and scientific literature in all that region. Fully one fourth of the graduates of the collegiate department have entered Christian work either as preachers or as teachers in Christian schools.”
Auxiliary Educational Centers. The American College for Girls under the leadership of Dr. Mary Patrick is doing similar work among the women of the Near East. The above colleges and the splendid institutions conducted by the American Board, such as the Euphrates College at Harpoot, the institution at Aintab, the Anatolia College at Marsovan, St. Paul’s Institute at Tarsus, and the International College at Smyrna, stand like a chain of lighthouses along a dark and dangerous coast.
Meetings in Constantinople. For ten days in Constantinople we held meetings separately for the various classes of the community. Near the Imperial Ottoman University, in the meetings held especially for Moslems, it was said that a larger number of Mohammedans were present than have ever before come to Christian meetings in the city. On the last night many were standing, and gave the closest and most earnest attention as we spoke of Christ. For three nights meetings were also held for the Greek young men. The Bishop of the Orthodox Church was present and spoke with fervor. Meetings were also held for the Armenians, and in various higher educational institutions of the city. We devoted several days to Robert College, which draws its students from all parts of the empire, Greeks, Armenians, Bulgarians, Turks, and even Russians. Its graduates have gone out to remold communities, nationalities, and churches. It is to-day the greatest educational force at the center of the Turkish Empire.
War in Prospect. The Balkan war had long been brewing. Signs of it were everywhere apparent even in April, 1912, when the writer visited in turn the Balkan States of Greece, Bulgaria, and Servia. On the day he was permitted to address the students of the National Bulgarian Military Academy in Sofia, which was training all the young officers for their efficient army, a drummer was going through the city summoning the reserves to be in readiness.
Meaning of Emancipation from Moslem Misrule. A prophecy of the. new era in Turkey may be gathered from the emancipation which has followed the Balkan States the moment they were freed from Moslem misrule.
Changed Outlook in Greece. Greece, long crushed and humbled under the Moslem yoke, sank to an almost unbelievable level under that blighting rule. Byron’s Letters While in Greece, and the reports of travelers from 1810 to 1840 who observed the long, eager struggle for freedom, show the pitiful condition of the nation under the Moslems. Even the British consul, writing in 1825, could say : ” There are some persons who choose to call this collection of huts Athens, and profess to believe that the barbarians who live in them are capable of civilization. To such persons I do not address my observations.” Visiting Athens in 1912, only eighty years freed from the Turkish yoke, we found it a beautiful city with 200; 00o inhabitants, with every sign of culture and progressive civilization. The week in Greece exceeded our highest expectations. With only a day’s notice for our evangelistic meetings, in the midst of the excitement of election week, with crowds parading the streets, and many competing political gatherings, we were surprised the first evening to find the hall crowded. On the second night two hundred students were standing, and it was only with difficulty we could get into the hall. After speaking for an hour, we could hardly persuade the students to leave. A Student Christian Association was successfully organized by Dr. Mott the previous year, in 1911, among the men of the University of Athens, with its more than two thousand students. The writer was asked to ad-dress the theological seminary for training the priests of the Orthodox Greek Church, also a society of older priests and theologians, and the society of the Anaplasis. The metropolitan of the Greek Church gave us his blessing and expressed his approval of the work we were doing.
Marks of Wide Appreciation. Our interpreter in Athens was an Olympic champion who is the leading athlete of Greece and an earnest Christian. The Greek athletes crowded to the meetings as a result. He interpreted like a pugilist, and threw himself with fire and force into the work. Just before leaving Athens, Queen Olga received us, and asked with deep interest about the World’s Student Christian Federation, and spoke even with tears of the heroism of modern missions. She urged that we organize Bible classes among the students in Greece.
New Era in Bulgaria. From Greece we came to Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. This little country, with its four and a half million people, rose rapidly after it emerged from the crushing misrule and massacres of the Turkish yoke. In the capital, Sofia, which a generation ago was a ” miserable village of mud huts,” we found paved streets, fine buildings, and a university of twenty-five hundred students.
Eager Interest among Students. This government university of Bulgaria opened its doors and gave us its large hall. The student meetings were crowded and there was eager interest. On Sunday morning the students filled the large theater, in spite of a competing socialist lecture at the same hour. Some five hundred stayed to the after-meeting on personal purity. At the third lecture in the university, there were crowds of students, professors, socialists, and a few Greek priests. Again some five hundred remained to a second meeting, after we had spoken on ” What think ye of Christ?” Over a hundred students in Sofia gave in their names as desiring to join Bible classes, to come into a closer personal relation with Christ, and a large number wished to read privately. The writer was asked also to speak in the government gymnasium, or boys’ high school, in the girls’ gymnasium, and at the national military academy, which is training all the officers for the Bulgarian army.
Rapid Change of Attitude. It was a surprise to see the Student Movement firmly established in Turkey, and in the three Balkan States of Greece, Bulgarla, and Servia, and to find in every city groups of students meeting for Bible study and for personal work. This promises much for the future of these nations. Five years ago, and in most places even two years ago, these meetings would have been impossible. Doors of opportunity are opening now on every hand.
An Urgent Call. The disintegration of Islam, the formalism of the ancient Christian Churches, the rapid growth of skepticism and of immorality among the young men in the unsettled political conditions of the new régime, all constitute a call for us to reenforce the work in this needy field. The Near East and the Balkans, ” the danger zone of Europe,” are of large and growing significance, both politically and religiously, and must not be forgotten in our reckoning for the future. The tide of the Moslem advance was broken at Vienna in 1529, and finally turned back in 1574. The period of decline has been going on during the last four centuries. The defeat of Turkey, culminating in the Treaty of London, as we have seen, marks the possibility of the opening of a new era of reconstruction. Islam must change or die. For the first time since the Hegira the Mohammedans of the Near East are open to free and aggressive missionary work. The last stronghold of spiritual resistance rises before the Church to-day. Let us ” go in and possess the land.”