THE NESTORIAN CHURCH - LETTER
THE NESTORIAN CHURCH.
TO THE EDITOR OR THE TIMES.
Sir,– During the time of my predecessors, from Archbishop Howley downwards, applications were repeatedly made by the Patriarch and Bishops of the Nestorian Church in Turkey and Persia for help from England to educate their clergy.
This Church was once widespread and powerful, had carried the Gospel as far as China, and almost seemed likely to convert the whole of Asia. They were, however, crushed by the rise, of Mahomedanism, and have become a scanty and ill-educated remnant. They have held the heresy of Nestorius, and this has cut them off not only from the Western but from the rest of the Eastern Church. To the name of Nestorius they have clung throughout, but have not now education enough to understand his teaching, and it seemed probable that timely help of the kind they asked for wanly revive their religious life without reviving their forgotten heresy.
Various attempts were made to meet their wishes, and finally Archbishop Benson organized what has since been called his Assyrian mission for this purpose. This mission has been working with good results in Persia, but with less success in Turkey, where the Government looks with litt1e favour on all attempts to open schools and work them. But the mission has now experienced a serious check of two different kinds.
In the first place, their material condition, always very unhappy, has become of late almost intolerable. They have been always oppressed by their Mahomedan neighbours ; their sheep driven off ; their lands seized ; many of them murdered ; and for all this it is impossible to obtain any redress. And now, in consequence of much of the land being uncultivated, the price of the necessaries of life has risen, while the money for purchase of such necessaries is terribly diminished. The people are starving and need immediate pecuniary help. But, in the second place, a mission has entered Persia, organized by the Russian Church, to persuade the people to desert their own Church altogether and join the Russians. It is not to be wondered at that very many, in hopes of Russian protection against their persecutors, have already yielded to this invitation, and that one of their Bishops has taken this step and has been accepted as a Bishop by the Orthodox Synod at Moscow. The Plain of Urmi, hitherto the chief seat of our operations, is practically occupied by those who thus look to Russia to give them what they need and what, indeed, we never proposed to give.
This has wholly changed the position of, the Persian part of our work. We went to Persia at the request of the Nestorians. If they practically withdraw that request the ground on which we stand is gone. If and so far as, the Nestorian Church ceases to exist, so far our mission is necessarily at an end. And it therefore seems probable that before very long we shall be compelled to withdraw from what has hitherto been the most successful part of our work.
The withdrawal, however, from a part does not justify our withdrawal altogether, if those who remain still wish for our presence and our labour. A certain portion of the Persian Nestorians and the whole Turkish still remain, and are still anxious to hold us bound by our former, promises to give them what they originally asked. It is much the most difficult part of our under-taking. If we are to succeed in our efforts we need even more money and more men than we have hitherto had.
After what I have said I hope you will allow me to appeal to all those who have helped us hitherto and to all who feel an interest in the Christians of the East to continue and increase their support. We need a relief fund to help the starving, and we need money for our own ordinary work, and for both these purposes our work is great.
Yours, Lambeth Palace. June 7. F. CANTUAR.