National Geographic : 1978 Jun
in Turkey, he murmured, prey to the ele ments and vandals, ruins of a civilization. There were two in the nearby city of Mala tya. We would soon be going to Malatya. Another sorrow lay deep. I felt it though I am an odar-foreigner, in the Armenian language. The priest gripped my arm. "Armenians are still being driven from re mote villages," he said grimly. "It is the old hatred. Sometimes a young girl is abducted, or a husband killed. They cannot bear to stay on their land after that. They make their way to the patriarchate in Istanbul. We give them shelter and find them homes." I looked out to the distant Euphrates, not wanting to hear of such agony. The river was a glinting ribbon on its timeless run to Mesopotamia. The priest spoke again. "Once Armenians were heavily concen trated in eastern Turkey. Only a few re main. In all the interior, only three churches are working. Malatya has none. But some of my flock are there, and much time has passed since my last visit. Tonight we will meet in a house." He smiled for the first time. "You shall see the joy of Armenians re newing their faith." A few hours later, after darkness fell, the city's few Armenian families filled a small living room to overflowing. The priest and his deacon, richly robed, led them in prayer and song in the dim glow of a ceiling light, while incense smoldered. It was, I thought, as if a band of early Christians had gathered furtively in a cave to worship. Children were baptized, Com munion given. One aged, failing woman, scarf on head, knelt with tears of happiness falling. Earlier she had despaired. I sat with her afterward. "We are sheep without the shepherd," she said. "At last the shepherd came-and he forgave me." Forgave? She had broken the pre-Communion fast.