The Syrian Protestant College and the Great War (1914-18) > 1915 > Relief Work

 

Surrounded by the War's horrors, the SPC faced a moral dilemma: how could it help? How could it reach out to the community and alleviate the horrendous suffering it witnessed all around? How could its Faculty set an example of moral commitment and steadfastness to its students, when the resources at its disposal were meagre, when the Ottoman relief regulations were extremely limiting (SPC staff could receive aid and food on campus, but distribution of aid to their families was not allowed!), when the US still wished to uphold its neutrality at this stage, and when truthfulness and integrity, as well as belief in civic virtues and the rule of law seemed to call for conflicting duties?

 

Without jeopardizing the neutrality of the US, or the College's good relations with the Ottoman Authorities, the SPC Faculty, administration and student body embarked on an extremely demanding relief mission, using their resourcefulness, and adopting a realistic flexibility, without compromising their moral commitment to civic virtue and public service. President Bliss was fully aware of the need to  install in every student a sense of responsibility for public service, rendered through the organized forms of community life, and of the need to obey the laws of one's government, however burdensome they may be, provided they do not conflict with some higher moral principles, and to do all of this while living up to one's moral commitments.

Suk el-Gharb soup kitchen
Souk el-Gharb soup kitchen, Report on Abeih & Souk AL Gharb Soup Kitchen, Howard Bliss Collection, Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library , AUB

 

 

Relief work started to be organized in collaboration with other relief agencies, e.g. the Red Cross, the Ottoman Red Crescent, the YMCA, local efforts, e.g. Omar Daouk Bey, in the form of soup kitchens and medical missions (mostly outside of the city, due to a prohibition on aid in the city, as stipulated by Azmi Bey), and the SPC community tailored its outlook to meet the needs, without giving up its values of civic duty. Shelters and Soup Kitchens were set up in an attempt to diminish the suffering that spread everywhere.

Souk el Gharb assistants weighing out grain
Souk el Gharb assistants weighing out grain, ,Report on Abeih & Souk eL Gharb Soup Kitchen, Howard Bliss Collection, Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library , AUB

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