The following article about American Protestant missionaries in Albania was published under the title “American Missionaries” in the Adriatic Review, No. 7, Vol. I., March 1919. The journal does not bear the name of the article’s author but the Adriatic Review was a publication of Vatra, edited by Constantin Chekrezi).
Our friends the Greeks, are disconsolate. They are having every day a fit of rage which is, after all, a chronic disease for them. The object of their scurrilous expostulations is none other than the apostles of brotherhood and Christian love, the American missionaries. There passes no day without the Greek newspapers publishing violent editorials against the American missionaries who are now counted as one of their most redoubtable enemies. They are accused of high treason toward Greece, the illustrious center of civilization. They are indicted for bribery, false testimony, and who knows what else, in favoring the cause of the enemies of Greece. And there is no limit to Greek hatred against the missionaries.
But why should the Greeks hate so much the apostles of Christian peace and human brotherhood?
There are two powerful arguments in favor of the Greeks doing so, according to the Greek viewpoint.
In the first place the Greek, being an Orthodox is intolerant of every other form of Christian creed and sect. “Orthodox” means “the true faith,” and that is enough satisfy the Greek mind about the orthodoxy of his own creed. To the Greek, a Catholic, a Protestant and every other adherent to some other Christian sect is nothing less than a vile apostate. In the group of the Cyclades Greek Islands there is a small number of Greeks belonging to the Roman Catholic Church. They are simply treated as foreigners by the bulk of the Greek nation. The sure criterion of being a Greek is to be an Orthodox, and it is on the strength of this infallible criterion that the Greeks found their arguments in claiming Southern Albania as being inhabited by a majority of adherents of the Greek Orthodox Church though they are Albanians by nationality. Race, language, nationality must all humbly bow to the religious tenets, the Greeks firmly believe. The Protestants are looked upon with the same horror by the Greeks. They are merely considered as enemies of the true religion. And when they see the American missionaries going around in the Balkans to teach that the true religion does consist in robbing and murdering your neighbor but in applying to him the lofty doctrines of Christ, not as they are interpreted by the fanatical and ignorant peasant clergy and the hypocritical religious camarilla of the Greek Patriarchate, hut as they are interpreted by the life of Christ himself, the Greek soul immediately revolts thinking that the missionaries have come to “convert” him.
It is to the point to refer here to a presumed occurrence which took place in Paris with Prof. Westerman and some Greek delegates. The Greek newspaper “National Herald” of New York reports that Prof. Westerman had asked the Greek delegates why do the Greeks hate the missionaries. To this the Greeks calmly replied that the root of hatred is to he found in the fact that the Greek nation is Orthodox and Orthodoxy has, in return, saved their people. They, therefore, cannot tolerate any other religion than the one that saved them. And the “National Herald” chuckles merrily over the “pertinent” reply of the Greek delegates. This incident does more than illustrate the religious attitude of the Greek.
But behind this innate religious intolerance of the Greek there stands another powerful argument for the war against the missionaries. For quite a long time, our friends of the south had been allowed to prepare an admirable yarn of lies and falsehoods regarding the real situation of the Balkans. Taking advantage of the worship that ill being rendered to the ancient Greek civilization by all mankind, the modern Greek, who stands on the exact antipodes of the ancient one, so far as civilization, morals and progress is concerned, has always been trying to cloak his own nakedness with the achievements of the men that inhabited formerly the land which is now occupied by such unworthy successors. He strove to make good use of the prestige that does not belong to him in order to discredit the other Balkan nationalities that are not fortunate enough to occupy and inhabit equally classical lands. Using as a premise the axiom that a highly civilized nation, such as the Greek thinks his own nation to he by virtue of the fact that it is in possession of the same land, can do no wrong, the Greek has set out to accumulate all the wrongs committed in the Balkans on the back of the other neighbor nationalities. If something happens in Greece, the untoward event must be charged to the account of some foreign propagandist. If murders are committed in a barbarous manner and in an unprecedented scale in Macedonia, surely the criminal ones are the Bulgarians, “the beasts in the form of men,” as the Greeks affectionately call them. If massacres are perpetrated in Southern Albania, why, there is no doubt that the dastardly deed must be laid at the door of the barbarous and bloodthirsty Albanians. If King George I is foully murdered at Salonica, the criminal is necessarily a Bulgarian although he is bearing a Greek name and himself explains the reasons that prompted him to commit the crime. Assuredly, the Greek nation can do no wrong, and merry Europe has been under this blissful impression until the Carnegie International Commission has lifted the curtain and let the truth come out.
But the report of the Carnegie Commission seemed to he for gotten in the turmoil of the great war, and the worthy Greeks had in the meantime woven a new web of lies and falsehoods. Here there come now in the accursed missionaries who are jeopardizing the whole Greek name. By their presence in the places which are used by the Greeks for the staging of their bloody coups de theatre and by the mere fact that a missionary is rightly thought to he unbiased and disinterested in his testimony, the whole group of missionaries has become the object of execration among the Greeks.
In the issue of March 29, the same “National Herald” is treacherously abusing, in a virulent editorial, the Rev. C. Telford Erickson, Delegate of the Pan-Albanian Federation of America “Vatra” to Paris, because this honored gentleman had the courage of declaring that, as an eyewitness, he is not aware of the existence of any Greeks in Koritza wherein he has resided and that what the Greeks consider as their nationals in this province are merely Christian Albanians of the Greek Orthodox Church but who are the most ardent Albanian patriots. The least that the “National Herald” has to say about the Rev. Erickson is that he is being “exploited” by the Albanians.
Very unfortunately for the Greeks, it is very characteristic of the whole affair that up to the present time no missionary ever came forward without being attacked by the raving agents of M. Venizelos. And this is quite a verdict against the Greek maneuvers.
Does anyone wish now to draw a parallel between the Albanian and the Greek attitude toward the American missionaries? It is quite an interesting one. Ordinarily, the activities of the American missionaries in Albania are mainly directed to the enlightenment of the Moslem rather than of the Christian population. Anyone is aware what an opposition does exist between the Christian and the Moslem religion and how difficult a task is to have a Moslem listen to the preaching of a Christian missionary. And yet the fact is that the missionaries are not only honored and respected by the Albanians, but also that the majority of the delegates of the Extraordinary Convention of the Vatra that elected Rev. Erickson as its delegate in Paris were Moslem. The tolerant, liberal-minded and wide-visioned Albanian, be he a Christian or a Moslem, listens always with attention to the voice of God and the dictates of humanity as laid forth through the mouth of foreign missionaries, whereas the Greek lives in constant dread of compromising his position before the Orthodox God in case he is brought in contact with the apostles of evangelical truth.
Here is one of the sure criterions of civilization and culture, and it is because this criterion is against them that the Greeks are so hostile to missionaries.