PLIGHT OF CHRISTIANS
DR. WIRT'S MISSION
In the interests of the Near East Relief Fund, of which he is a commissioner, Dr. Loyal L. Wirt arrived in Sydney last week on a world tour.
Although of American birth and representing an American organisation, Dr. Wirt is well known in Australian Congregational circles. As a minister in the church he was for four years stationed at both Newcastle and Brisbane. In response to a call from the members of the Harrow Church, London, Dr. Wirt left Australia 14 years ago. San Francisco then claimed him, and he remained there until the war when he was appointed a Red Cross Commissioner. In this capacity he served three years in France, chiefly on canteen work. When the war was over he returned to America, and left shortly afterwards on a relief expedition to Armenia. On this work he also spent three years.
"After the war closed," said Dr Wirt yesterday, "America was asked to take over a mandate for Palestine, Syria and Turkey, because of the terrible condition of the Christian refugees there. President Wilson intended to make his move, but on his resignation the policy was abandoned. With the founding of the Near East Relief Fund, America took over a kind of moral mandate. Three million dollars was immediately subscribed for the work and the USA Government gave eight ships, hospital equipment, food and clothing. One of the ships was despatched to Constantinople, and I was placed in charge. There were 500 relief workers, and we set out on the Berlin-Bagdad railway. Our main work was for the Armenians. As a Christian people they had been terribly oppressed by the Turks before the war, and when the Armenians proved to be in favour of the Allies their lot was even worse. Out of a population of four millions nearly half were killed or died of starvation and we found the remainder of them scattered all over the land. Sixty-three hospitals were founded, as well as 229 orphanages, which are now caring for 110.000 motherless children. Assistance is given to 150,000 people every month, and one and a half millions were cared for during the first year. Already 25,000 girls have been rescued from Turkish harems."
"But the persecution by the Turks has been so terrible," Dr. Wirt continued, "that the help is not nearly sufficient. We are feeding 550,000 adults but twice that number are famishing, and outside our orphanage gates there are 200,000 children half-naked, sleeping on the ground, living on gras and roots, whom we are not able to care for because of inadequite funds."
"When the relief work was established I returned to New York, he continued. "The board of directors of the Near East Relief then included Mr Hughes, Mr. Hoover ex-President Taft, General Leonard Wood, and other well-known American citizens, and I was asked to take up the work of organising commissioner. The organisation is quasi official – with the exception of the Red Cross, it is the only such organisation incorporated by act of Government – and 60 million dollars have been subscribed. But despite all that America has done, we have not yet been able to restore this Christian people. My world tour is to get further assistance. So far I have only touched the Pacific, but even so small a place as Hawaii subscribed 42,000 dollars; and Japan, Korea, China, and the Philippines have all established branches. The work is more than an American charity, and what we want Australia to do is to establish its own organisation. I know what you have done here in the way of giving, and what problems you still have; but still I hope that this splendid international charity will receive practical recognition. We want you to take over some city or district in the affected Near East and help it; youy can have your own relief workers and the handling of money contributed."