Armenian Bible Church            

Հայ Աստուածաշունչի Եկեղեցի

Mailing Address:  P.O. Box 40322  Pasadena, CA 91114 USA

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By Thomas Cosmades


Chapter 24 


             The allied countries were fully aware about the ongoing Armenian massacre in the Ottoman Empire but they couldn’t do anything to stop it.  Now the time had come to offer help.  The British Commander who took charge of Aleppo immediately ordered that all deported people, some of them still on the roads, be found and escorted to Aleppo.  Soldiers were dispatched to various points from where they assembled these people and then placed them in large army barracks. Stupefying news was reverberating everywhere.  People were retelling the accounts of their terrifying ordeals.  Many stories could have been written, had there been someone to put them down.  Among the massacred relatives were intellectuals, writers, doctors, etc., who were not even given the opportunity to be banished, but were singled out for immediate execution, sometimes with axes. 

               At the various deportation points established by the Ottoman army every Armenian man was wiped out, and sobbing women were left to march on through the desert with their children clinging to them, or in their arms.  Aleppo was like the Valley of Weeping. Long-separated relatives and friends from cities and towns all over Anatolia occasionally were rediscovering each other. These agonizing scenes could drive the most indifferent person to uncontrollable sobs. Such was the aftermath of a merciless war.  The edict for the massacre cost the lives of approximately one and a half million Armenians, simply because they were not of the Muslim religion.  The unleashing of man’s hatred and vindictiveness motivated by religious fanaticism compounded with nationalism generated a literal hell in places it touched.

            The joy experienced by Aneta and her mother-in-law only a few days earlier in Aleppo gave way to the sad realities of the hour. Wounds still festering opened again. Hopeless and bereaved refugees were teeming everywhere in the city. These were people who had lost everything, including many loved ones nearest to them. They were wondering whether there could be a hopeful future ahead. Many Armenians were competent in English. They had studied in the various mission schools throughout Anatolia. A good number of them became interpreters for the British forces.  A sister from Aneta’s Bible group had a son-in-law working for the Red Cross. He was the son of the woman who had rented a huge house in the center of Aleppo and offered the group a large front room for their use.  Their new meeting place was taken as God’s gracious provision.  Passers-by who heard the singing often came in. This center developed into a haven of comfort for the refugees.  Later it was transferred to Apraham Seferian, a well-known leader of the Armenian Brotherhood in the Middle East to carry on his own meetings.

            The war came to an end. Bloodshed stopped for the time being.  The oppression of Christians in Anatolia ceased mainly because the large Armenian population had been wiped out.  The Ottoman Empire having been defeated, the British were now offering free transportation to all Armenians wishing to return to their homes in Anatolia. However, they warned everyone about possible future retaliation. People who had been abruptly cut off from home and hearth were longing for their birthplace and not listening to sound reasoning. Their expectation to resettle did not materialize as they had hoped.  Their homes, businesses and farms had already been taken over by Muslims.  During the deportation many Armenians were forced into Islam.  They now lived as adherents to the Meccan prophet’s religion which they would have never accepted voluntarily. Those who returned seeking another opportunity were dismayed and eventually abandoned their places for good, scattering to the four corners of the earth.  They were never disappointed for the new life they chose in countries which welcomed them.  But those who had thought they preferred life in their hometown melted into the pot of Islam, losing their identity forever.   

            For Aneta, teaching private lessons developed into the means by which she earned her livelihood. It became increasingly clear that she and her mother-in-law were to continue staying together.  Little did Aneta realize then that this relationship was to last for twenty-three years, until the day Anastasia died. Living with a loving husband had been pleasant; carrying on life with a despotic mother-in-law could only have been coped with by God’s grace. If we rephrase Jeremiah’s words to: “It is good for a woman to bear the yoke in her youth” (Lamentations 3:27), this was applicable to Aneta’s life.  Anastasia was a good woman, in spite of her Anatolian peculiarities. Her help and support to Aneta could not be overstated. Aneta said, “I owe my life to her; she was God’s provided protection for me.”  

            The Army barracks continued to be full of refugees. Visiting there and ministering to shattered lives was Aneta’s main service for the Lord. But to gain special permission to enter the barracks was not easy. The British authorities were still afraid of saboteurs.  She and her colleagues asked the Lord to grant them entrance. Confident of His go-ahead, a few of the ladies walked the long distance till they finally reached the immense building, which formerly had housed Ottoman and German soldiers. Two Sikh soldiers stood at the gate. Their hearts were already prepared by the Lord. Following a brief exchange, they raised the barrier and waved the ladies in.

           The women stood in the central court of the barracks and held an open air meeting. Such a get-together could never have been arranged in their own Anatolia. Well-loved hymns filled the air. Immediately people leaned out of every window to see what was going on. Many gathered around them in the courtyard.  A soul-stirring time of praise filled the air. Then many expressed their deep indebtedness to God’s grace which had carried them through until then. Afterwards, Aneta and her friends went from room to room to comfort these people. Hearts were open and eager to listen. Eventually many of these folks began attending the meetings and received Christ. 

            A British missionary attached to the forces gave Aneta a book which brought new depth to her witness: the “Exposition on Job,” by Jesse Pen Lewis. For Aneta who had gone through the school of suffering, the narration was familiar. But the book presented new truths relating to the ordeal.  Since she was serving a people who had drunk the bitter cup, she couldn’t have asked for a more appropriate treatise. She used it widely and it deeply impacted many hearts.

           One day Aneta received an invitation from the Justice Division of the British headquarters through their chaplain. Friends thought that the British must be calling her to investigate the matter of her husband’s execution. The chaplain cordially accompanied her into his office. He had an interpreter with him, who stated the chaplain’s wish: “We heard that your late husband was pastoring in an Anglican church and that in the midst of his duties he was arrested and eventually hung. We would like to hear the story from you.”

            Aneta let the chaplain know she could speak to him directly in English, so the interpreter was asked to leave. The chaplain listened intently to her account. As a westerner, he couldn’t believe that such injustice and arbitrary ruling for execution could happen. He became rather indignant and expressed his interest to reflect the whole matter to His Majesty’s government. Aneta could never have anticipated this proposal.  She responded, “I came here at your kind request. I really don’t wish to see earthly governments enter this case, which to me is shrouded with an aura of the holy. My husband’s battle had nothing to do with the affairs of this present world. He gave his life for his Savior in a spiritual battle. I don’t wish to throw it into the lap of human magistrates who can do nothing to alter the outcome. It will give me great pleasure if you allow it to be put to rest.”

            He was amazed and sought to pursue his request. But Aneta told him that as far as she was concerned the case was closed. Her point was made and they parted cordially.