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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

There is an Armenian Archbishop at Julfa


CHAPTER XXVII

Missionary work in Persia--Educational and medical work--No Mahommedan converts--Bibles--Julfa--Armenian settlement--Conservative customs--Armenian women--Their education--The Armenian man--Europeans--A bird's-eye view of Isfahan--Armenian graveyard--A long bridge--The Rev. James Loraine Garland--Mission among the Jews.

There is little to say of interest in connection with Missionary work in Persia, except that a considerable amount of good is being done in the educational and medical line. There are well-established schools and hospitals. The most praiseworthy institution is the supply of medicinal advice and medicine gratis or at a nominal cost. As far as the work of Christianising is concerned, it must be recollected that Missionaries are only allowed in Persia on sufferance, and are on no account permitted to make converts among the Mahommedans. Any Mussulman, man, woman, or child, who discards his religion for Christianity, will in all probability lose his life.

If any Christianising work is done at all it has to be done surreptitiously and at a considerable amount of risk to both convert and converter. Some interest in the Christian religion is nevertheless shown by Mussulmans of the younger generation--who now are practically atheists at heart--but whether this interest is genuine or not it is not for me to say. There is much

in the Bible that impresses them, and I understand that constant applications are made for copies of translations into the Persian language. To avoid the great waste which occurred when Bibles were given away for nothing, a nominal charge is now made so as to prevent people throwing the book away or using it for evil purposes.

In Isfahan itself there are no missionaries among the Mahommedans, but some are to be found at Julfa, a suburb of Isfahan, on the south bank of the Zindah-rud (river). Julfa was in former days a prosperous Armenian settlement of some 30,000 inhabitants, but is now mostly in ruins since the great migration of Armenians to India.

There is an Armenian Archbishop at Julfa. He has no real power, but is much revered by the Armenians themselves. He provides priests for the Armenians of India.

A handsome cathedral, with elaborate ornamentations and allegorical pictures, is one of the principal structures in Julfa.

One cannot help admiring the Armenians of Julfa for retaining their conservative customs so long. Within the last few years, however, rapid strides have been made towards the abandonment of the ancient dress and tongue. At Julfa the Armenians have to a great extent retained their native language, which they invariably speak among themselves, although many of the men are equally fluent in Persian; but in cities like Teheran, where they are thrown into more direct contact with Persians, the Armenians are almost more conversant with Persian than with their own tongue. The men and women of the better classes have adopted European clothes, in which they might easily be mistaken for Southern Italians or Spaniards.


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