Christian Persecution in Turkey 1922

The Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes gives an historical account of Christian martyrs in Turkey:

Victims of horrible torture, many Orthodox clergy were martyred for their faith. Among the first was Metropolitan Chrysostomos who was martyred, not just to kill a man but, to insult a sacred religion and an ancient and honorable people. Chrysostomos was enthroned as Metropolitan of Smyrna on 10 May 1910. Metropolitan Chrysostomos courageously opposed the anti Christian rage of the Turks and sought to raise international pressure against the persecution of Turkish Christians. He wrote many letters to European leaders and to the western press in an effort to expose the genocide policies of the Turks. In 1922, in unprotected Smyrna, Chrysostomos said to those begging him to flee: “It is the tradition of the Greek Church and the duty of the priest to stay with his congregation.”

On 9 September crowds were rushing into the cathedral for shelter when Chrysostomos, pale from fasting and lack of sleep, led his last prayer. The Divine Liturgy ended as Turkish police came to the church and led Chrysostomos away. The Turkish General Nouredin Pasha, known as the “butcher of Ionia”, first spat on the Metropolitan and informed him that a tribunal in Angora (now Ankara) had already condemned him to death. A mob fell upon Chrysostomos and tore out his eyes. Bleeding profusely, he was dragged through the streets by his beard. He was beaten and kicked and parts of his body were cut off. All the while Chrysostomos, his face covered with blood, prayed: “Holy Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Every now and then, when he had the strength, he would raise his hand and bless his persecutors; a Turk, realizing what the Metropolitan was doing, cut off his hand with a sword. Metropolitan Chrysostomos was then hacked to pieces by the angry mob.

Among the hundreds of Armenian clergy who were persecuted and murdered were Bishop Khosrov Behrigian and Very Reverend Father Mgrdich’ Chghladian.

Bishop Behrigian (1869-1915) was born in Zara and became the primate for the Diocese of Caesarea/Kayseri in 1915. He was arrested by Turkish police upon his return from Etchmiadzin where he had just been consecrated bishop. Informed of his fate, the bishop asked for a bullet to the head. Deliberately ignoring his request, the police tied him to a “yataghan” where sheep were butchered an then proceeded to hack his body apart while he was still alive.

Father Chghladian was born in Tatvan. In May 1915, as part of the campaign of mass arrests, deportations and murders, the priest was tortured and displayed in a procession, led by sheiks and dervishes while accompanied by drums, through the streets of Dikranagerd. Once the procession returned to the mosque, in the presence of government officials, the sheiks poured oil over the priest and burned him alive.

Four of the martyred bishops who were murdered between 1921-1922 are today elevated to sainthood in the Greek Orthodox Church: They are, in addition to Metropolitan Chrysostomos, Bishops Efthimios, Gregorios and Ambrosios.

Bishop Efthimios of Amasia was captured by the Turkish police and tortured daily for 41 days. In the last days of his life he chanted his own funeral memorial until finally dying in his cell on 29 May 1921. Three days later a written order for his execution arrived from Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk).

Metropolitan Gregorios of Kydonion remained with his church until the end, helping 20,000 of his 35,000 parishioners escape to Mytilene and other free parts of Greece. On 3 October 1922, the remaining 15,000 Orthodox Christians were executed; the Metropolitan was saved in order to be buried alive.

Metropolitan Ambrosios of Moshonesion, along with 12 priests and 6,000 Christians, were sent by the Turks on a forced deportation march to Central Asia Minor. All of them perished on the road, some slain by Turkish irregulars and civilians, the remainder left to die of starvation. Bishop Ambrosios died on 15 September 1922 when Turkish police nailed horseshoes to his feet and then cut his body into pieces.

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