Father Alexopoulos is an Archimandrite of the Greek Orthodox Church, and rector of the Church of the Assumption in Boston. He has been in America for 15 years, the early part of which was spent as rector of a church in Pittsburgh.
The civilized world was shocked the other day when it received the news of the massacres and burning of Smyrna by the Turks under the very eyes and cannon of the warships of the most powerful countries in the world. A Christian population of a million or more--all that has remained after the centuries' old oppression by the Turks--belonging to a progressive race established in Asia Minor since time immemorial, that has rendered invaluable services to literature, civilization, and Christianity, is being exterminated or exiled from their country which gave the world Homer, Euclid, Herodotus and other masters of thought.
And to add to all of this, another tragedy is going to be enacted in Europe, where, owing to the pressure of France, Russia and Italy and the apathy of the rest of the civilized world, the entire Christian population of Thrace is even now being exterminated by expatriation.
For the Allies have decided that Thrace should be brought under the control of Turkey. Naturally the unfortunate Christian inhabitants, rather than face massacre at the hands of the Turks, are leaving by tens of thousands their fields, schools, churches and the graves of their fathers, and men, women, old people and children in long columns of tired and depressed humanity, are wending they way to Greece. It is a veritable march of exiles. Greece, which has a population of not more than five million, will soon be called upon to take care of more than a million refugees, a task practically beyond her powers.
In a few weeks the Peace Conference will meet once more to attempt the solution of the ancient problem of the East,--a problem which, after the recent victory of the Turks and the decision to re-establish Turkey in Europe, will become still more difficult of solution and still more dangerous to the peace of the world.
Peace Conference Powerless
If one may judge from the terms of the Mudania armistice and from the boldness with which the Turks draw moral and material assistance from the French, Russians and Italians, and were to add the mutual jealousies and disagreements of the Great Powers as well as the reserved policy of this country, he would be led to the conclusion that not even the coming Conference will be able to achieve anything important or prevent the Turks from returning to Europe; nor will it be able to secure the safety of the non-Turkish minority in Asia Minor which, according to the opinion of eye witnesses like Dr. Ward, Professor Harlow and other Americans, unless protected from the outside, will be unable to escape death by the sword or by expatriation. The Conference is similarly bound to fail in the matter of the Straits and Constantinople and also in the matter of establishing a home for the Armenian nation, a question which has been regarded as a matter of honor for the United States.
Assuming that such will be the outcome of the coming Conference (unless this country sees its way to some form of intervention) sooner or later the following consequences will result:
a. Turkey, despite its defeat in the European war, will appear substantially as the victor of Europe. Mistress of extended and rich territories from the Aegean and the Mediterranean, from Syria and Mesopotamia to the Black Sea and Russia, and allied with the Moslem world toward the east, and the Bolsheviks to the north, and possibly Bulgaria or Hungary to the west, Turkey will be in a position to defy any friendly recommendations or threats on the part of any Christian country. In fact, it is possible that Turkey may become the center of an eastern military federation, which would prove very dangerous for the interests of the countries of the West, whether such interests be commercial or cultural.
b. By escaping today punishment for its unheard of destruction and massacres of the Christians, and indeed by receiving again Armenia, Ionia, Thrace, Constantinople and the Straits in the shape of a reward for her conduct, Turkey will become emboldened to such a degree that it will be inclined to exterminate not merely the remaining Greeks and Armenians in the country of their forefathers under her control, but also the non-Turkish minorities of Circassians, Kurds and others. For we know from the past that a mere suspicion of hostile feelings is sufficient to arouse the Turks to their policy of murder.
150,000 Christian Children Will Suffer
c. More specifically, 150 thousand Christian children now taken care on in American orphanages, will suffer when they become 15 years old in the sense that the males will be taken by force into the Turkish army, and the girls into the Turkish harems. This, in accordance with the traditional policy of Turkey. And more generally, all the educational and philanthropic establishments which for many decades have been operating as centres of salvation, enlightenment, and culture in the various towns of Asia Minor, along with the funds and the kind efforts contributed by the American people, all the heroic sacrifices of American missionaries, and all the hopes concerning a revival of that ancient spiritual life and civilization of Asia Minor, will be of no avail whatsoever. And this great peninsula of Asia Minor, stretching toward Europe, which in previous times has served as a bridge for the crossing of western civilization to Asia will now, while in the hands of a powerful and fanatical Turkey, become an impenetrable wall, blocking the passage of progress and civilization to the east. Someone has said that the Turks always constitute the undertow to every tide of civilization. History has proven this, and it will be repeated if the Turks are not kept out of non-Turkish territories.
Civilized World Must be Aroused
Such obviously will be the consequences of the present tendencies, unless the civilized world is aroused and compels the Turkophile diplomacy of such European powers as France and Italy to establish a treaty based on justice, having due regard to the rights of the people concerned and not a treaty dictated by the jealousies and selfishness of the Allied Powers themselves. There lies the hope of the Christians of the east, and indeed of all others, for salvation and peace; Let the Turks be free in all the territories in which they are a majority; Let Armenia, Ionia and Thrace be emancipated from the bonds of slavery to the Turks; Put an end to the sufferings of the Christian and other minorities of the Near East; Avert the dangers of a new Balkan war and consequent danger of a new world conflagration; Let the way to Constantinople and through the Straits remain free for commerce; Let the American philanthropic and civilizing agencies, and American enterprises be given free scope.
Only in this way can peace be re-established and the Christian civilization in the territories that for so long have passed through fire and sword, be saved and strengthened to the interest of humanity.