Project Canterbury










A. RILEY, M.A., F.R.G.S.



Copies of this Narrative may be obtained from the Honorar
Secretaries of the Assyrian Christian Committee, viz.:

Rev. H. W. Tucker, S.P.G. Offices, 19, Delahay Street, S.W., and
Rev. R. Milburn Blakiston, 2, Dean's Yard, Westminster, S.W.


HIS Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury requested Mr. Athelstan Riley, M.A., of Pembroke College, Oxford, F.R.G.S., to undertake a journey in the autumn of 1884 to North-Western Persia and Kurdistan, with a view of ascertaining the present condition of the Assyrian or Nestorian Christians, and the state of the Mission sent thither in 1881 by the late Archbishop Tait and the Archbishop of York.

Mr. Riley promptly undertook the journey, without putting the Assyrian Christians Committee to any expense, and the following is the account of his labours.

It may be noticed, in explanation of a passage in his letter to the Archbishop, that as Mr. Riley was passing the chief centre of the Armenian Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury took the opportunity of interchanging friendly communications with the superior authorities of that Church; similarly, the salutations of his Grace were conveyed to the Exarch of Georgia, as the highest representative of the Holy Orthodox Eastern Church met with on the journey.

My Lord Archbishop,

At your Grace's request I shall describe in this present letter the principal details of my recent journey to Armenia and Kurdistan. The general Report on the Assyrian Church I have added separately for the sake of distinctness, and have touched therein upon various matters well known to your Grace, which I considered proper to insert for the information of those to whom your Grace might be pleased to submit it.

Accompanied by Mr. H. P. Cholmeley, B.A., of Magdalen College, Oxford, I left England on August 20th, and travelled via Warsaw, Kieff, [3/4] and Rostoff, to Vladikavkas, and thence across the Caucasus by the Dariel Pass to Tiflis, which we reached in thirteen days. The Exarch of Georgia being absent from his metropolis I was unable personally to convey your Grace's salutation, so I wrote to his Holiness to express the hope that I should see him on my return, and then left Tiflis as soon as my arrangements were complete.

On September 8th we reached the convent of Etchmiadzin at the foot of Mount Ararat, and on the following day I had an interview with Archbishop Megerditch, President of the Holy Synod and Patriarchal Vicar in absence of the Catholicos, the vacancy caused by the death of the late Head of the Armenian Church not having been then filled up, and presented to him your Grace's letter. The rector of the college, Dr. Mesrop Djermak, formerly a Mechitarist of Venice, lint now a Gregorian Armenian, who speaks French and understands English, acted as my interpreter.

This rector is the most learned of all the ecclesiastics of Etchmiadzin; we had many conversations together respecting the Anglican and Armenian Churches, and he expressed a wish to read some works of English theology with a view to enlightening the Armenians as to our doctrines and discipline.

But the space into which I must necessarily compress this letter prevents any further digression from the main subject of my journey; I will only say that the Armenian authorities received us with the utmost cordiality.

On September 13th we crossed the Persian frontier at Djulfa, and reached Tabriz on the 16th. Here to our surprise we found the Rev. Rudolph Wahl, who had arrived with all his family a few days previously, having been forcibly expelled from Urmi by the governor of the province on September 6th. The facts connected with this expulsion are already in your Grace's possession. Finding that the case of Mr. Wahl was in the hands of her Majesty's Minister at Teheran, and that I could not be of any service, in hastening his return to Urmi, I arranged for our departure in a week's time. Before leaving I paid a visit to the Turkish Consul-General, and at his request telegraphed to Constantinople for permission to cross the Ottoman frontier; the answer being unsatisfactory, a further explanatory telegram was necessary, and the Consul promised to send the result by telegraph to Urmi, as I should be unable to proceed into Turkish territory without express orders from him, which he was not then in a position to give. I also telegraphed to your Grace to explain my difficulty.

There is a Protestant Mission at Tabriz (American Presbyterian), the staff of which consists of three ministers (one of them being a physician), an agent of the American Bible Society, and three lady-workers. It maintains two schools; one for boys, with thirty or forty pupils, mostly day scholars; the other for girls, with twenty-three pupils, nearly all boarders. The girls' school, a substantial two-storied building of burnt brick, with a house for the medical missionary, the whole standing in a large garden in the centre of the town, cost, including land, £3,000. There is also a chapel belonging to the Mission. The work is almost entirely amongst the Armenian colony, but latterly the Missionaries have attempted [4/5] to make converts amongst the Mussulmans, with the result, it is said, of seriously endangering the safety of the whole European community.

There are about seven adult English people in Tabriz, not including the consul-general and Mrs. Abbott, who, at the time of my visit, were in England. These are, of course, permanently without the ministrations of at religion. Although Mr. Wahl in his hurried departure from Urmi had neglected to bring the sacred vessels with him, I prevailed upon him to celebrate the Eucharist, and give Communion to such as desired it, which was done during our stay, on St. Matthew's Day. All the English children are baptised; the Consul generally administers this sacrament, in the absence of a priest.

We left Tabriz in caravan on September 23rd, and took the usual road to Urmi, round the northern side of the lake. On the way we stayed two nights at Chosrova, where we were hospitably entertained by the French Missionaries. The plain of Salinas, in which Chosrova is situated, has a large Christian population, Armenian and Assyrian, scattered about in different villages round the town of Dilman. The Latin Mission has been established for over thirty years, and although it has made no progress amongst the Armenians, it has consolidated and enlarged that part of the Assyrian nation, which, since the latter part of the seventeenth century, has been united with Rome under the name of the "Chaldaean Church." [I have used throughout the word "Assyrian" to denote the Nestorian Church and Nation, as being the title by which they are known in this country. They call themselves Syrians (Soorayee), claiming a Jewish descent, Nestorians and Chaldaeans, (see the Patriarch's letter, page 18); but the last name is invariably employed by Europeans to denote the Latin Assyrians.] I believe; there are but very few of the Old Assyrians left in the plain of Salinas; here the Latins are paramount, although a small Protestant propaganda has been established under one of the American Missionaries from Urmi.

The Mission at Chosrova is worked by six Roman Catholic clergymen, consisting of four French Lazarists and two Armenian Mechitarists, who have just arrived from Venice. There are also seven Sisters of Charity. It maintains a seminary or theological college for training young ecclesiastics; twenty students are boarded, lodged, and clothed, at the average annual cost of £28 apiece. The Latins have thus discovered the most effective way of assisting the Chaldaean Church, and in all the villages I afterwards visited, where there was a Chaldaean community, I invariably found the priest to be a well-instructed, intelligent, and polite man, generally a leader in the village, and always a little oasis of civilization in the desert of barbarism. [The Chaldaean Bishops and priests receive regular stipends from France.]

The native Chaldaan Bishop resides at Chosrova, and his church is just outside the Mission House. It is to all intents and purposes a Western Church, and the Old Assyrian rites have been so Latinised that the ordinary spectator would fail to discover wherein they differed from the modern Roman; the altar and the vestments are purely Latin. And here it is the place, to mention that there is a large and increasing spirit of discontent amongst the Chaldeans with respect to the Latin Missionaries. The dogma of the Papal Infallibility, the ever-tightening grasp of the Roman See, the suppression [5/6] of many ancient customs, have produced such mistrust that it needs but a little to convert these smothered feelings into an open rupture with Home. It is rumoured that an attempt is to be made to forbid the marriage of the clergy altogether, but I can hardly believe that the Vatican authorities will be guilty of this shortsighted policy. This discontent is not confined to the laity; it is said that even the Bishops are getting alarmed, and I myself have heard from the lips of a priest that had been educated at Chosrova: "Though we are Catholics and have left the heresy of Nestorius, we have nothing to do with Rome, we will never be mere Romans." Some of these clergymen make no secret of their wish to have an Anglican Mission amongst them; up to the present their only choice has been between Nestorianism and the orthodox faith respecting the doctrine of the Incarnation under the Roman Catholics.

From Chosrova we went in eight hours to Cavilan, and stayed there for Sunday. In this Christian village and in the adjoining one of Jamal Abbat the three communities are represented in the following proportion:--

Old Assyrians 300
Papal Assyrians or Chaldaeans 200
Protestant Assyrians 24

The two latter bodies have each a church and schools, the Americans having the largest buildings. The Old Assyrians have two churches, but no schools. All dwell together in harmony, the bonds of nationality proving stronger than the opposing forces of religion. The Chaldsean priest hoped we should do something for the Old Assyrians. "For," said he, "the French look after us and the Americans protect the Protestants, but the members of the old church have no one to care for them, nobody gives them books or schools and the Mussulmans oppress them horribly, because they know that neither of the two Missions at present established will stir a finger in their behalf." We stayed at the house of the native Protestant pastor, and at my request the Old Assyrian priest celebrated the Liturgy on Sunday morning, which we attended, and after service I addressed a few words to his flock. I have purposely described the condition of this village as an example of many others in the plain of Urmi.

We reached Urmi on September 29th, and put up at the empty house of Mr. Wahl. The Assyrians of the town complained to me that they had been prevented from coming out to meet us by the Serparast, or Governor of the Christians (a Mohammedan), and so the next day I waited upon the Sala, or Supreme Governor of the province, to ask for an explanation respecting this unfriendly action, and also respecting the expulsion of your Grace's representative, Mr. Wahl. [Hassan Ali Khan.] I was received with extreme courtesy, and in the course of a three hours' conversation his Excellency thought proper to deny altogether the fact of the forcible expulsion, and as to my first complaint promised to give orders that all the Christians should come to me, and expressed his intention of paying me a visit as a public mark of honour. Seeing that the Sala was clearly anxious to resume friendly relations with our English Mission, I thought it best to respond to these [6/7] advances, but I took care that he should visit me in Mr. Wahl's house, which he did with some ceremony two days afterwards. His Excellency has held the post of Persian Minister both at Paris and St. Petersburg is a cultivated gentleman, and one of the chief men in Persia. The French and American Missionaries manage to get on very well with him.

We stayed four days in Urmi, our time being occupied in receiving a constant stream of priests and deacons, who came from all parts of the plain to converse with us. The Protestant (Presbyterian) Mission from America has its headquarters at Urmi, with a large establishment in the city and a central training school, theological, medical, and secular, about half an hour beyond the walls. Many chapels and schools are scattered over the plain, and Mission stations, strongly built and surrounded by walls, which go by the name of "castles." Six ministers, one a physician, are attached to the Mission, who live in their own houses with their wives and families. These Americans are constantly building and buying fresh houses and land. I was informed that this summer alone they had built private residences in three or four places. Apparently they have large sums of money at their command, derived partly from America and partly, I believe, from England. They go by the name of "English," and I have frequently had extreme difficulty in persuading the natives that "Englishmen" were not necessarily American Presbyterians. On one, occasion we were very nearly driven out of a large Armenian village, where we had craved hospitality for the night, because the inhabitants declared that "Englishmen" only came for the purpose of drawing away people from their ancient faith.

The Latins have a fine church, large Mission buildings, and a staff consisting of a Bishop, four Lazarist priests, a lay-helper, and some Sisters of Charity, all French.

I found it desirable to leave Urmi earlier than I had intended. The Turkish Vice-Consul informed me that far from being able to assist me in crossing the frontier, he had received absolute instructions from Tabriz to prevent my doing so. I therefore despatched one telegram to the Turkish Ambassador in London to say that I was still in difficulties, and another to the Turkish Consul at Tabriz to tell him that I proposed to cross the frontier on the following day, and then left Urmi on October 3rd. Before my departure I paid a return visit to the Sala, when his Excellency asked me to inform her Majesty's Minister in Teheran that having inquired into the matter of Mr. Wahl's expulsion I was satisfied that his (the Sala's) explanation was correct. I replied that I had that day heard that Mr. Wahl was on his way back to Urmi, and that if on my return from the mountains in three weeks' time I found that he had been received by his Excellency, and that all was satisfactorily arranged, I would take care to report favourably on the matter when I returned to England. The Sala replied that I might count on him.

An escort was sent with us to the frontier. We pursued the ordinary road to Diza for some time and then, dismissing the escort, turned off abruptly towards the south, crossed the frontier by a wild mountain path, [7/8] and arrived safely at the Mattran's house in Sharnsdin on the second day from Urmi.

I adopted this course because your Grace had informed me that you were particularly anxious that I should see the Mattran, and fearing that the Ottoman authorities on the frontier (owing, perhaps, to an error in the transmission of orders from Constantinople), might feel obliged to prevent my entrance into Turkish Kurdistan, I thought it inadvisable, to place myself in their hands. [I regret to learn that news has recently been received of the death of the Mattran.]

I presented your Grace's letter to the Mattran, received his reply, [See Appendix] spent a considerable time in conversation with him, and left Shamsdin on the second day for Diza in the plain of Gavar, the headquarters of Mr. Wahl for the last two years, and the residence of the Pasha. I might have avoided Diza and have gone direct to Kochanes, but it was represented to me that on account of the Kurds it would be inadvisable to penetrate farther into the country without the recognition of the authorities and a proper escort, and as I had now finished my most important business I did not mind running the risk of expulsion.

On our arrival at Diza I found that the favourable communication from Constantinople had not arrived. The Pasha refused to allow us to proceed to the Patriarch's village, was annoyed at our having seen the Mattran, and informed us that we must not visit any of the Christian villages in the plain of Gavar, nor leave the town. However, we managed to employ the time which we were forced to spend at Diza in visiting those villages in which Mr. Wahl had opened schools. In two days the telegrams which I had sent to the Minister of Foreign Affairs at Constantinople and to her Majesty's Ambassador were answered, and I was allowed to proceed to the Patriarch. I arranged that Mr. Cholmeley should return to Urmi with Mr. Wahl (who had joined us in the mountains), and arrange matters with the Sala. I therefore wrote to the Sala begging him to receive Mr. Wahl with Mr. Cholmeley, and left Diza on October 11th. My caravan reached Kochanes the following morning. The Patriarch was absent, and I had to wait a week for his arrival, the time being spent in frequent conversations with the Rabban Johnan, the chief theologian amongst the Assyrians, and venerated for the holiness of his life.

On Friday, October 17th, Mar Shimoon, Patriarch of the East, arrived; I transacted the necessary business with him, presented your Grace's letter, received the reply, and started for Urmi on Monday, October 20th. Early on the third day after leaving Kochanes I reached Urmi, found that Mr. Cholmeley had visited several villages in the plain, and had furthermore most satisfactorily effected the reconciliation between the Sala and Mr. Wahl.

We left Urmi the following day, and taking the road via Dilman and Choi crossed the Russian frontier and reached Tiflis on the last day [8/9] with his Holiness, who expressed his gratification at my visit. The following day, being Sunday, I attended in academical dress the celebration of the Liturgy in the chapel of the Exarchate. We left Tiflis on November 3rd, and travelled to England without stopping, overland, via the Caucasus and the south of Russia, reaching London on November 11th.

And now, my Lord Archbishop, I have only to deliver up my Report, which has assumed larger proportions than I anticipated, and to fulfil my duty to your Grace, and my pledges to the Assyrians, by submitting their condition and their necessities to your Paternal wisdom. I ask your Grace's blessing and beg to subscribe myself,

Your Grace's most obedient and dutiful servant,


November 30th, 1884.



The Rev. Rudolph Wahl, an Austrian by birth, but in Anglican Orders (of the American Church), was sent out to Kurdistan in the spring of 1881 by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, to minister to the needs of the Assyrian Christians, in answer to the many appeals made by them to the Anglican hierarchy. The history of our connection with this ancient Church is briefly the following. Since the year 1838 the Assyrian ecclesiastical authorities have been imploring the help of the Church of England. In 1842 the Rev. Dr. Badger and Mr. J. P. Fletcher were sent out to Kurdistan, but were withdrawn the following year. In 1868 a fresh appeal was made by certain Assyrian Bishops and priests, in consequence of which the Rev. E. L. Cutts was despatched on a Mission of inquiry in 1876. He was received with great enthusiasm by the whole Assyrian people, and has published an interesting account of his journey under the title of Christains under the Crescent in Asia, which forms a supplement to Dr. Badger's lengthy and valuable treatise, The Nestorians and their Rituals. The result of Mr. Cutts's report was the sending out of Mr. Wahl. The cost of this Mission has been borne by the S.P.G. and the S.P.C.K., Mr. Wahl receiving annually £300 stipend, £72 for school expenditure, and occasional small grants for travelling.

He first established himself at Kochanes and opened a school there, but owing, I believe, to a disagreement between himself and the Patriarch, he left this village in the autumn of 1881, and established himself at Diza. Here he remained until this summer, when, believing his life to be in danger from the hostility of the authorities, ho crossed into Persia and bought a house at Urmi, which he had to leave a fortnight later, as I have stated n the account of my journey. [I have written the name of this town as it is pronounced by the native Christians; the Persians call it Ouroumiyah.]

[10] When at Diza, Mr. Wahl employed the £72 in the following ways:--

1. In the stipend of a native secretary.

2. In paying small sums to individual priests to enable them to devote some of their time to giving elementary instruction to children in their villages during the winter months, and in providing school materials.

The schools opened last winter were in the following villages:--

In the plain of Gavar (Turkey),

Gagoran, with about 25 children.*
Zeezan with about 26 children *
Khiat with about 16 children *
Persalan with about 15 children *
Vazeer-Arva with about 20 children

In the district of Targavar (Persia),

Marwana, with about 14 children.*
Ombi ? [I saw the superintendent of this school.]
Tullee ?

[* All these villages I visited and personally inquired into the working of the schools.]

In the district of Shamsdin (Turkey), Binter, with about 25 children. [This school is not far from the Mattran's house.]

In the plain of Urmi (Persia), Mar Sergis, with about 18 children,

and one school in the district of Jeelu (Turkey), to which Mr. Wahl informed me he had contributed but had never visited it, and the Bishop of Jeelu was not acquainted with it.

The schools are held in the priests' houses. Instruction is given in reading and writing in modern Syriac, and in reading the Psalms. Beyond this I do not think many progress. Dogmatic instruction is not given the children are supposed to receive this in church. These schools are, I believe, almost the only work of the existing Mission in Kurdistan. The printing-press sent out with Mr. Wahl is idle, because the necessary permissions have not been obtained from the authorities in either country, and also because Jacobite instead of Syro-Chaldaic type was provided by mistake. No instruction has been given to priests or to candidates for ordination, but Mr. Wahl has occasionally given addresses, with the assistance of his secretary, in some of the village churches, of To give an instance of the native ignorance; on questioning one of their priest-teachers, I found that his faith as to the mystery of the Incarnation was that by the power of God the Blessed Virgin brought forth a man who was called Christ; that during His whole life Christ was but a man, not God in any sense, but that when He worked miracles it was by the power of God, as the prophets of old were enabled to perform them; that Christ was crucified and was buried being mere man, and that afterwards God took Him up to heaven, where He became God and was no longer man, still existing in heaven, simply God. This poor priest was quite ready to acknowledge his ignorance, and listened attentively whilst I explained to him the Catholic doctrine of the Incarnation; his heresy was simply the [10/11] result of his never having had any religious teaching. I believe there are not six men in the whole Assyrian church of sufficient theological learning to be teachers of the faith. To employ ignorant priests to teach even children is only to provide blind guides for the blind, and it is not in this way that this ancient Church will be saved, and brought back into the old paths.

The formal permission of the authorities, Turkish and Persian, should be obtained for the establishment of the Mission; otherwise there results such conflicts with the powers that be as not only to hinder the work of the Mission, to ruin English and European prestige in the eyes of the natives, both Christian and Mohammedan, and to be a source of anxiety to the Missionary and trouble to her Majesty's Consuls, but also to inflict positive cruelty on the very people we wish to help by creating difficulties between them and their rulers, which only end in trouble to the unfortunate Christians whilst we stand by and are powerless to help them.

I believe that Mr. Wahl has honestly tried to do his best; that the money entrusted to him for schools has been properly spent, and that all murmurings on the subject can be entirely accounted for, partly by the natural avarice of the Assyrians, and partly by their refusal to believe that the wealthy Church of England could have allotted so small a sum to the work of their religious regeneration. I have carefully examined and checked Mr. Wahl's accompts of moneys paid and find them to be correct.


The Assyrian Christians were cut off from the communion of the Catholic Church in the fifth century after Christ, because they refused to join in anathematizing Nestorius, who had been condemned by the Third (Ecumenical Council for his heretical opinions respecting the Incarnation of our Blessed Lord. Their ancient theological treatises are undoubtedly tainted with heresy, and although they are at present too ignorant to hold Nestorian doctrines intelligently, still ignorance will not purge heresy, and as a Church they refuse to this day to employ orthodox language by objecting to the title "Theotokos," or "Mother of God," and by using the expression "Two Persons," in speaking of the Nature of Christ. [Not being acquainted with Syriac, I am unable to say how far this expression is the result of confusion of language. The whole matter is fully discussed in Dr. Badger's Nestorians and Their Rituals, with notes by the late Dr. Neale.] They habitually speak of the great heresiarch as "Saint Nestorius," and the popular estimation puts him at least on the level of the Holy Apostles.

Next in importance comes the abuse of hereditary Bishops, which seems to be a corruption of the last three hundred years. The choice being thus limited to single families, the sees are frequently filled with unworthy prelates.

Ecclesiastical discipline is at such a low ebb that bad or careless ecclesiastics seem to be left unpunished. At the present time, of the three Bishops [11/12] whose sees are in the Plain of Urmi, two have been absent in Europe for he last three years, one having utterly refused to return to his people, the other (so the Exarch of Georgia informed me) is now on his way home, simply because he could not get himself supported any longer in Russia; the third Bishop has not left his country, but is reported, whether truly or not, to he thoroughly worthless and immoral. No steps had been taken to deprive these Bishops, but on my representing the state of affairs to the Mattran, he told me that he intended to call a Synod and try to depose them, and the Patriarch promised me that if we established a Mission station at Urrni, he would consecrate fresh Bishops to take the place of the absentees, but that without English support it would be useless to do so, as they could not stand against foreign proselytism.

Since the abandonment of the Old Assyrians of Urmi by their spiritual rulers they have become so disorganised that there have been no services on Sundays in the church, but only occasional Eucharists on festivals. We recommenced the usual services on the Sunday while Mr. Cholmeley was at Urmi, and I left instructions that a priest was to be found to carry them on through the winter, under the superintendence of Mr. Wahl. There is a large body of Christians in and about Urmi who have once been either Presbyterians or Chaldaeans, but who now belong to no community in particular, wishing to return to their own church, but having no one to take them by the hand.

The following is a list of the Assyrian Bishops as furnished to me by the Mattran, and corrected and enlarged by the Patriarch:--

Mar Shimoon, Patriarch of the East, resides at Kochanes.

Mar Joseph Hnan-Ishu (or Joseph Levi), Mattran or Metropolitan of the East, resides at Shamsdin.

Mar Johannan of Shamsdin.

Mar Sor-Ishu of Gavar.

Mar Sleeva of Gavar, now ministering to the necessities of the Assyrian colony in Erivan (Russian Armenia), having escaped thither from persecution.

Mar Sergis of Jeelu.

Mar Ishuyou of Amidia.

Mar Johnan of Ekri.

Mar Shimoon of Artel.

Mar Touma of Artel.

Mar Joseph of Schoch.

Mar Oraham, Patriarch-designate, a young man of twenty-two, first cousin of the Patriarch, and consecrated by him last Easter. He lives at Kochanes.

All the above are in Turkish Kurdistan. On the Persian side of the frontier there are in the Plain of Urmi:

Mar Goriel of Urmi, now in Russia.

Mar Johannan of Gavilan, now in England (and said to be insane).

Mar Johnan of Superghan.

[13] The two principal faults in the Assyrian character are untruthfulness and avarice. To proceed on a begging tour to England or America is the highest ambition of an Assyrian; for many have returned to their native land tr. pass their days in comparative wealth owing to the misplaced zeal of honest and charitable people in England, who are no match for the subtle Oriental. The appeal is usually on behalf of a school, in rare cases there is some establishment of this kind in existence, and if the applicant be more than ordinarily honest he may spend a third or even a half of the sum he has raised in England on his school when lie returns. Any Oriental begging for religious purposes should he suspected, but no support without the most careful inquiry should be given to persons calling themselves Nestorians, Persian Christians, Reformed Nestorians, Protestant Nestorians, Assyrian Christians, and the like, even if they present letters from their highest ecclesiastical authorities.

That the Assyrians really desire our religious aid I see no reason for doubting; their devotion to the See of Canterbury is such that they seem to be confident that the appearance of "Archbishop's men" will be the signal for the cure of all their ills. They trust us because they are persuaded that our desire is not to make them Anglicans, or to create schisms amongst them, and form fresh religious communities as is the aim of the Roman Catholics and the Presbyterians, but only to aid the existing Church; not to destroy but to build up. Besides this desire for religious aid the hope of temporal succour and protection enters largely into their calculations. We cannot interfere with the rule under which they live, but the clergy that are sent out to minister to their spiritual necessities should at least be able to extend towards the Old Assyrians the same protection as is afforded to their converts by the, French and American Missionaries, and this much I think they have a right to expect. At present the temptation to leave their old religion for the sake of temporal advantages is cruelly great. Of course we must take care that the Church we protect shall be a home of true teaching to them, otherwise they might as well be encouraged to leave it.

And here I must briefly do justice to the work of the Latins and the Presbyterians. Both have done much for the Assyrian nation; the former by. cleansing a large body of the native Christians from all taint of Nestorian heresy, and by giving their clergy a sensible theological education; the latter by the printing of the Sacred Scriptures in the ancient and modern tongues, the, excellent secular instruction they have afforded to a large number of the natives, and the philanthropic works in which they have been engaged, such as an hospital and a small school of medicine.

The two immediately pressing necessities of the Assyrian Church are:--

1. Education for the clergy.

2. Printed books, especially liturgies and service-books.

[14] The Assyrians are quite powerless to help themselves in these matters; and without our assistance, as far as one can see, the Church must utterly collapse within one or two generations. Their clergy are without education of any sort, and they have not enough books for the services of the Church, all the existing ones being in manuscript, and only two or three copyists being left.

3. Recommendations.

I now venture at his Grace's request to base upon the above Report certain recommendations. I should suggest the establishment of two Mission stations, one at Urmi, the other in Kurdistan, either at Kochanes or in the plain of Gavar. At one of these the printing-press might be worked (probably Urmi would be the best for this), at the other a Seminary or Theological College should be established.

This college should be under the immediate direction of the English clergy, assisted by native teachers, of whom there are at least three amongst the Old Assyrians who are already sufficiently capable. It seems advisable that the fund at the disposal of the Mission for educational purposes should be concentrated on this object.

The idea I submitted to the Patriarch, the Mattran, the Babban Johnan, and other chief persons, ecclesiastical and lay, and which was approved of by them, was the following:--That the students be educated between the ages of fourteen and eighteen, the latter being the usual age for the ordering of deacons. [They would have learnt already at least to read and write. Thirty is the age for the ordination of priests.] That they reside nine months at the college, and have for their vacation the three winter months, during which the senior students be required to give instruction to the children in their native villages, those being the only months when they can attend school. If this scheme were to be found practicable, we should be maintaining more village schools than at present, and, with hardly any cost beyond the college expenses, the children would get better instruction, and the students would be obtaining experience in one branch of pastoral work before they left the college.

It is difficult to speak as to the cost of such a college. A house to contain thirty boarders with lecture rooms and accommodation for two English priests would probably cost not less than £200 at Kochanes. The people will give the land and what materials and labour they can. At Urmi there is already a suitable house of which I shall speak below. The average annual cost per head of boarding, lodging, and, in some cases, clothing the students would most likely be about £15, but the most different sums were mentioned to me; [The natives put it much lower--£5 or £6.] the Latins (as I have before stated) give £28 as the average at their seminary at Chosrova; this includes clothing and the maintenance of large buildings, things being done on a liberal scale. [In letter containing narrative of journey. See p. 5.]

Supposing such a college to be founded, in four or five years time we should have thirty little centres of spiritual enlightenment and orthodox [14/15] teaching distributed throughout Kurdistan, in eight or ten years, fifty or sixty, and so on.

This is only submitted as a rough scheme, in practice probably many alterations would have to be made.

All the old books should be printed in the two languages, Ancient and Modern Syriac. Liturgies and service-books are necessary immediately. The people would value their old theological works infinitely more than any new Western ones; we might choose for printing such as were either free from Nestorian taint, or such as required the fewest possible omissions. And here it is the place to say that I do not think there will be found any serious difficulties in the way of gradually putting the Assyrians in the path of orthodoxy, provided that the Missionary clergy exercise judgment.

Education and printing are the two works to be taken in hand at once. A national synod to be convoked under the influence of our clergy, for the reformation of abuses which have mostly crept in during the last three hundred years, is a great work to be kept in view, but not immediately pressed.

Less than three English priests would make no impression whatever on the work. Five would, I think, be ample for all purposes, but three are sufficient for the present. [A medical man would be of great use.] They ought to be unmarried, because although European women and children could live comfortably in the plain of Urmi, none ought to be taken into such a country as Kurdistan proper, and Mrs. Wahl deserves the highest credit for having cheerfully submitted to great privations during the last four years in order to be with her husband. Again, if the clergy are married, each must have a separate establishment. Europeans are bound to keep up a certain position in Persia, and thus the expense of their maintenance would be full three times more than if they all lived together in the Mission station. They ought to have a common purse and control of the expenditure. One important matter is that they should be empowered to act on their own responsibility, without having always to wait for orders from home-Occasions must constantly arise when it will be necessary for the Mission to determine upon a course of action without delay, and it takes at least two months in summer and four in winter for an exchange of letters between Gavar and London.

This makes it all the more important to have a good priest at the head of the Mission. He must be a thoroughly capable man with great tact, a theologian and a gentleman, and he must be able to steer the ship of the Mission through many temporal difficulties, and to hold his own in case of necessity, against that most astute of all diplomatists, a polished Oriental.

Again, the Old Assyrians look upon the Latins and the Presbyterians as their two great enemies. The head of our Mission must be a man who is quite sure of his ground, with all his theological lines clear and distinct, and whilst he maintains unswerving fidelity to the decrees of the Universal [15/16] Church, he must not give colour to the suspicion that he is a Papist or a Presbyterian in disguise. ["I pray thee that men leavened with the leaven of the Popes and the Americans be not mixed up with the foundation of this school."--Letter of the Mattran to Mr. Wahl (Mission Field, March, 1882).] The interference of Westerns with any of the old Eastern Churches is always a delicate matter, and requires the greatest caution. And as regards the two Missionary organisations at present established there is no reason why our Mission should not be on friendly terms with both; in fact it would be most unfortunate if the Europeans in Persia should quarrel amongst themselves: putting aside the religious question altogether, one cannot help being thankful for all philanthropic work undertaken by good and zealous men in such a country.

To descend to smaller matters. Total abstinence having been insisted upon as a condition of communion by the Americans, and having become the distinguishing mark of Presbyterianism, a Teetotal Missionary would run the risk of arousing the prejudices of the people. On the other hand, the strongest survival of old customs amidst the general decay of the Assyrian Church is that of fasting, about which all from the highest to the lowest are most strict; and the clergy that arc sent out must be careful as to their conduct in this matter. I need hardly say that they must be endowed with the real Missionary spirit, with, the same disinterested zeal and care for the glory of God and the good of His Church which animated the Apostle of England and his little band, for they will have just the same work as St. Austin had to do.

I cannot speak with any accuracy on the annual income required for the Mission, but I should think that after we have procured the necessary buildings, £1,000 to £1,500 a year would be sufficient.

One more general recommendation I have to make, and an important one, that proper firmans for the Mission in Turkey and Persia be obtained, and the whole affair definitely arranged with the respective Governments, before any clergy are sent out from England.

If it be decided to establish this permanent Mission I should advise the following steps to be taken as early as possible.

1. Three priests to be sent out from England, one to remain at Urmi, the other two to proceed to Kochanes. [In summer a good rider could reach Urmi in two long days from Kochanes.]

2. There is a house at Urmi already in the occupation of Mr. Wahl. It is a large building of two stories containing eight rooms, occupying the whole of one of the long sides of a courtyard measuring 133 ft. x 108 ft. Besides the house proper a row of offices occupies another side of this court, and the stables and a porter's lodge part of a third. There is also a smaller yard, and plenty of space for future addition to the building, if required at any time. In my opinion it is a; suitable house for the purpose of a Mission station, and I recommend its acquirement. Its total cost inclusive of land and necessary repairs was £230, which Mr. Wahl has incurred on his own responsibility. It would require some further repairs and a few alterations.

[17] 3. Proper Syriac (Syro-Chaldaic) type to be sent out to Urmi, and the printing commenced without delay.

4. The opening of a temporary and experimental seminary at Kochanes.

Mr. Wahl was of opinion that a Mission station at Kochanes was unadvisable. I do not think the post ought to be abandoned without grave reasons. It is the centre of the Assyrian Church; at the present time the young Patriarch-designate is living there, and his spiritual and intellectual education is most important; the present Patriarch and all his family wish to have the college amongst them, and the Rabban Johnan, the best and most learned man in the whole Church, lives at Kochanes, and has promised to do his utmost in support of the scheme.

Supposing the two English priests to arrive at the beginning of May, something of this sort might be done. They might provide themselves with two large tents, take in ten pupils as an experiment, and commence their education with the help of the Rabban Johnan and an assistant, (one that speaks English can be found,) occupying themselves with the general direction of the course of studies, and the acquisition of the Syriac language. At the approach of winter the few students would be dismissed to their homes, the Missionaries would retire into one of the houses in the village, and early the following year could either commence building operations at Kochanes, or, if the experiment had not been satisfactory, move down to the plain of Gavar and open the college under the authority of the Mattran.


The following letters were brought from the East by Mr. Riley, and delivered by him to the Archbishop of Canterbury on his return. [See pp. 8, 14, and 17.]

At the request of his Grace, the translations from the original Syriac have been made by the Dean of Canterbury.

They are numbered I., II., and III., and were written by the following persons:--

I. Mar Shimoon, the Patriarch and supreme Ruler of the Assyrian Church and nation.

II. The Mattran, or Metropolitan; hereditary Second Authority in the Church, whose duty it is to invest the Patriarch.

III. Rabban Johnan, or Rabbi Jonah, a learned anchorite, who dwells in a little room attached to the church at Kochanes.

[18] I

Reuben Simeon by the grace of God Patriarch, Catholicos of the East, ruler of the ancient Church of the Chaldaeans.

To His Grace Edward Archbishop of Canterbury and Metropolitan, and general (or universal) ruler of all England and all her possessions, complete in honour and glory, this is brought near with loving greetings.

The writing of your Grace on the 8th of the western month of August 1884, with joy was brought to our hands by the most excellent Athelstan Riley, your beloved son in our Lord and our honoured brother in Christ, student of Pembroke College in the city of Oxford; by meeting whom and seeing him and by his words we have found hope and confidence for the fulfilling of our requests which in our writings were brought before the blessed former Archbishop and also before your Grace. In which we described for your Grace the state of our ancient people, which was eminent and affluent in times past, and has come to this feebleness at the present time. And it seems to us that there is no help nor support from any other place whereby we might be strengthened; because they are our enemies except the pure and cleansed [reformed] Church of the Archbishop. For she can take us by the hand and raise us up and make her [the Nestorian Church] a partaker of the blessings that the Lord has given to her. And if your compassion neglects her as hitherto it has neglected her, she will be dispersed and perish among her enemies, and in a short time her name and memory will vanish for ever.

We have spoken by word of mouth with your honoured messenger about our requests and petitions, that we might have a school in Kochanes and another in Urumia, firstly for the instruction of presbyters who stand at the head and their instruction in the Canons; and then smaller schools for the villages. And also a printing press to print Church books which are needed for holding services and the Sacraments. And it is clear that for these we require money and funds.

And that which ye have written that "they strongly desire help also from your people," this we did not believe to be possible. For since the departure of the honoured Dr. Cutts evil years have come upon us, and by many oppressions that have befallen us the wealth of the labourers has perished by robbery and theft and plunder, and our race is greatly impoverished until what we need even is not collected from the community. On this account our third request is that you would take care for the defence of our nation from those wrongs which in various ways are done to it by our enemies and especially to our soil and lands which are bought and sold by royal decree (wickedness?) to the Kurd chiefs and others.

For the purpose of confirming those things which we have described we beg that your Lordship will take care to choose and send zealous men full of the Holy Ghost, in whom your love shall be fervent in seeking for the rational sheep of Christ's flock, like the good and excellent Dr. Badger.

We believe that love and strength and zeal for the Church are found in you more than in those who rose up before you, and that you can rouse the mind of the council of your kingdom that they may do their duty in the matter of government; and likewise to incite and make zealous the spirit of the rich and noble and powerful of your famous and blessed Church of England, that she may open her hand to give goodly alms, which will be the means of uniting the four portions of the Chaldaean Church into one. After this the goodly Church of the Archbishop shall see that she has brought forth to herself a daughter youthful and pleasing in aspect and in brave deeds in the Eastern Church. Then shall be established a crown of [18/19] victory and a great treasure in heaven for the Archbishop who cared for them, and for the Bishops and presbyters who laboured, and for their messengers who bore the burden and heat of the day, and for the rich and noble who put their money into an incorruptible treasury for ever and ever. Amen.

Given in our palace on the 7th day of the Eastern month of October in the year of Christ 1884.

From your true brother Reuben Simeon. [Seal]


Address. May this book [document] come to the hand of Edward, Archbishop, Metropolitan of London. Amen.


Mar Joseph Hananjesus, Metropolitan of the East; loving greetings and affectionate salutations are offered to thy Holiness, Rabbi of Rabbis and chief of the fathers, that is, to Archbishop Edward, Metropolitan of the blessed Church of England.

I rejoiced greatly when thy letter came unto me, and it was esteemed by me as a treasure full of spiritual blessings. And especially, cause of endless gratitude we have received from [of] thee, even I and all our people, Nestorians; because thou hast remembered us again and hast sent to us that worthy messenger and evangelist of peace our beloved brother in Christ, Athelstan Riley, who was a comfort to us and dawned on us like brightness from the East to lighten the darkness of our hearts, gloomy with the darkness of tribulations and oppressions. And now behold, we receive him with much love, and showed him all our occupations and customs, and have commended to him all our requests, and he shall make known our petitions before thy Holiness, according as ho has seen with his eyes and heard with his ears. For from the day that Mr. Cutts, the first messenger of your Lordship, came unto us, and I assembled our Church to meet him, and he gave us a helping hand, we have taken refuge in your powerful kingdom. And our friend Mr. Voel [Wahl] came and showed much zeal towards us but was not helped according to his zeal. For he was much straitened and persecuted with us by those heathens because he was with us amongst those [word unknown] terrible lions who were thirsting for the blood of Christians. And they destroyed our church and trampled under foot its enclosure [or laura]. And we were thrown down and fell into the hand of our enemies, and would not have been able to arise if we had not been helped by your Lordship with great might and by the will of the Lord. As Mr. Riley also will inform thy Holiness about us. These suffice. Amen.

1884, September 24.
Mar Joseph,
This by my hand.

[20] III.

Rabbi Jonah, a stranger, poor and needy, despoiled, and oppressed, needing help from Christianity [Christendom], who is not worthy of the name and rank which by grace is given to him, even that of an Evangelic Deacon, unworthy either of name or of remembrance or of intercourse with the faithful or of fellowship with the clerical assemblies of the sons of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Church which is in all the ends of the earth, and in the four quarters of creation; in which the discreet wisdom of God is revealed, the mystery which was hidden from worlds and ages in God, who created all, and it was declared by the knowledge of the adorable Persons of the sovereign Trinity. In which truly we take refuge, the exalted with the lowly, the nine ranks of the heavenly churches and the nine degrees of our earthly church, which enclose within them in gospel net by the preachers of the gospel, both Jews and Arameans, and the divided people who desire war. Peace which the archangel proclaimed to the Virgin of our race by Him who is God and man, perfect and complete in the duality of natures and persons of one Sonship, one Person; who by the Holy Spirit took flesh and became man, and the firstborn from the dead, and the Father of the adoption of sons for the world to come; who became the Mediator of the New Testament between God and man, and destroyed the hedge which stood in the midst, and the enmity, by the sacrifice of His human Body and the Blood of His fleshly Person, and came and preached peace to us that were far off and to them that were near. This very peace we give to all who accept our peace [or salutation], we Eastern Chaldaean Nestorians, although we are a reproach amongst the, nations and an abomination accused amongst the peoples. We all indeed finally give peace [or greetings of peace] although we be not worthy, to the star shining in a gloomy night and to the one watchful shepherd and careful pilot and firm pillar, who is the great priest Edward, Metropolitan of England. Whose sealed letter came unto us in these days in which also our writing is penned, and it is sent by the hand of the desirable youth Athelstan Riley, apostle and messenger and a pleasant odour and acceptable sacrifice and pleasant before God and pleasant also to men. For such as he is we thirst, and such as he is we receive. If you remain towards us according to the promise, that is between us we are content with this, we have no complaint at all against any one, if it shall be according to the law of your kingdom which deceives not. And now forthwith this indication is enough for thy wisdom. Farewell.

The Chaldaean October:
8th of it, 1884, of Christ.


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