OCTOBER 10, 1895, two Americans, of whom the writer was one, and six Armenians, all Seventh-day Adventists, were starting from Constantinople to go out to the head of the bay of Nicomedia. As the time was in the midst of the late uprising of the Armenians in Constantinople, naturally enough all Armenians were held under suspicion, and were subject to search for arms or correspondence. And as we Americans were in company with Armenians our valises were also searched. In the valise of one were a number of letters, etc., in English. This of course was not understood by the Turkish officers, and consequently the whole party was arrested and put under an armed guard to be kept until we could be taken to the chief of police for examination.
A few minutes after we had been arrested, another officer with a squad of soldiers was passing, and seeing us guarded by a squad of soldiers also, he turned aside to see why it was. When he came up he recognized one or two of the Armenians, and knew them to be Seventh-day Adventists. He at once said to the other officers: “Oh, these men are Sabbatarians; you need not be afraid of them; they are all right.” The other officers not knowing what the standing of the “Sabbatarians”—the title given to the Seventh-day Adventists by the Turks—is, could not let us go without authority. They immediately treated us with marked respect however, moved the guard back a considerable distance and gave us seats, while the two chief officers jumped into a carriage and drove rapidly away to the headquarters of the Imperial Police to see further about it. In about half an hour, or perhaps less, they were back again with the word from headquarters that the “Sabbatarians” were all right, and were not to be suspected, and with orders to let us go at once. Immediately, therefore, with such respectful and repeated bows and salutes as to amount almost to an apology, we were conducted by one of the officers aboard the ship; and the officer who had first recognized us came aboard, shook hands with us, and wished us a pleasant journey.
This is the way that Turkey treats the Seventh-day Adventists when they are known. Instead of putting them into prison or the chain-gang, she sets them free when by mistake they are taken prisoners. Instead of hunting them with suspicion, cruelty, and persecution, she orders that they are not to be molested. From this fact it is plain that Tennessee, Georgia, Illinois, and other States of the boasted “Christian nation” of the United States could very well learn some lessons in justice and government from the abhorred Turk whose government is held by Christian(?) nations as hardly fit to be on the earth.
It will not do to say that here we had broken no law, while in those States the Seventh-day Adventists break the law; first, because here as soon as it was stated that we were Seventh-day Adventists there was no sort of inquiry as to whether we were breaking any law—that fact alone settled all such questions; and secondly, when such a government as Turkey can hold Seventh-day Adventists above suspicion, just because of their known character as Seventh-day Adventists, then any law of any other government, and above all any law of such government as that of the States or the United States, that makes them subject to constant surveillance, arrest, prosecution, imprisonment, and chain-gangs, is an unjust, illegal, and barbarous law. Such law shows that the government, and not the people, is wrong.
It is a queer comment on Western civilization and religion that harmless people are safer in Constantinople than in Chicago, and safer under the government of Turkey than under the government of the American States. But such is the living fact in the experience of Seventh-day Adventists, who by the testimony of both American and Turkish judges, are harmless people. All this too was done by the Turkish power altogether on its own part, without any petition or communication from the Seventh-day Adventists.
A. T. J.
Constantinople, Oct. 17.