Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Book Review (#52 of 2014) The Trials and Triumps of Thomas E. Hermiz

This little book (free PDF) was suggested by a friend in Turkey who recently visited an area described by the book's early chapters. Hermiz was raised in a Protestant Christian home in Mardin, Turkey. His Jacobite ancestors had emigrated from Mosul, Iraq to Midyat, Turkey, in the Southeastern part of the territory (then all under Ottoman rule). Midyat was predominantly made up of various Christian sects at the time. Protestant missionaries entered the area around 1880 and his grandfather became an evangelical Protestant. I like this quote:

"It became a passion with him to win others to Christ and to the Christian faith. He operated several stores, and each time he opened a store he would take time to speak to his employees about the way of salvation. His businesses became avenues by which he won converts to Christ. He became a thorough Bible student and used his Bible knowledge as a means of converting others."

His grandfather and Midyat survived several persecutions, including an 1895 uprising probably related to the Hamidian Massacres that targeted Armenians but also included Jesuits and Protestants (estimates of the dead across Ottoman territories number up to 500,000). Hermiz's father engaged in more violent activities against Muslims and was soon warned to flee the country. He emigrated to America while Thomas was an infant and enlisted in World War I in order to fight the Ottomans.

In 1915, the greater persecution of Armenians and other minority Christian sects broke out in Turkey and Thomas' mother and several relatives were martyred. He was eventually adopted and raised well by an Arab Muslim family, but when his father received word he had survived the massacres he worked with the Red Cross to get him smuggled out of Turkey and brought to America.

In America, Hermiz spends time in a Christian boarding school in New England and eventually comes to faith in Christ as an adult. Soon thereafter, he enters Bible college and becomes a pastor in the Churches of Christ in Christian Union, primarily in Ohio. Hermiz later takes a trip to the Middle East and visits relatives in Syria and Lebanon but is unable to enter the predominantly Kurdish area of Turkey where his estranged sister reportedly lives.

The book closes with a copy of a sermon by Hermiz's son delivered after the sudden loss of his 22 year old daughter to meningitis; a very good sermon.

I give this book 3 stars out of 5. It's a good third-hand account of what happened in southern Turkey in 1895, of which few first-hand records remain, and a good first-hand account of the massacres of 1915. The martyrdom of Christians there and the choices they had to make-- to fight or not, to compromise or not -- was pretty challenging and very worth reading.

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