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232 JOURNEYS IN PERSIA NOTES
circumstances and country, and to look down upon those
who ape European dress and manners. Denationalisation
is fought against in every possible way.
A year and a half ago work among women was begun
by four ladies of the community of the Sisters of Bethany.
The position of Syrian women, in spite of its partial
elevation by means of the Fiske Seminary, is still very
low, and within the Old Church there is an absolute
necessity for raising it, and through it the tone of the
home life and the training of children. These ladies have
thirty boarders in their school between the ages of eight
and sixteen, a previous knowledge of reading acquired in
the village schools being a condition of admission. The
daily lessons consist of Bible teaching, the catechism
before referred to, ancient and modern Syriac, geography,
arithmetic, and all branches of housework and needle-
work. Due regard is paid to Syrian customs, and the
picturesque Syrian costume is retained.
Since these ladies have acquired an elementary know-
ledge of Syriac they have been itinerating in the Urmi
villages, holding Bible classes, giving instruction, and dis-
tributing medicines among the sick The ignorance and
superstition of the Christian women are almost past belief.
One great difficulty which the " sisters " have to encounter
arises from the early marriages of the girls, child-brides
of eleven and twelve years old being quite common. It
may reasonably be expected that the presence and influ-
ence, the gentleness and self-sacrifice of these refined
and cultured Christian ladies will tell most favourably
upon their pupils, and strengthen with every month of
their residence in Urmi. The Moslems understand and
respect the position of voluntarily celibate women, and
speak of them as " those who have left the world."
The Mission clergy of late have striven to instruct
the adult Syrian population of the Urmi Plain by