For the members of the American Council of the World Alliance for Promoting International Friendship through the Churches and for Trustees of The Church Peace Union only.
Tuesday, July 24, Dr. Gulick and I spent the afternoon with Dr. Benjamin F. Battin, and we met again in the evening at the home of Mr. James Bertram and talked late into the night. The results of these conversations were so interesting and so illuminating that I am taking occasion to recall them here for your perusal.
Dr. Gulick and I asked Dr. Battin many questions about the condition of the World Alliance work in Europe at the present time. I think you will be interested in some of the things which he told us.
The English Committee has been hard at work building up its membership and publishing its magazine and pamphlets ever since the war started three years ago. It is working as hard as ever at the present time. It has built up a membership in England of nearly 6,000, all of whom receive the regular issues of "Goodwill."
The subjects on which the British Council have been most actively engaged are interesting. Through their organ "Goodwill" they have stood for the Christian treatment of German prisoners, both of the soldiers taken [page 2] in battle and of the civilians interned, and they have consistently worked to establish a Christian atmosphere and to see that Christian treatment is provided in all the camps of Great Britain.
Secondly, in "Goodwill" they have published those utterances in Germany which have retained a Christian spirit of any sort.
Thirdly, they have stood out firmly against reprisals in kind and have had a large influence in this regard.
Fourthly, they have endeavored to maintain, as far as possible, friendly touch with the German Council, in the hope that, when this war shall have ceased and Germany and England must again live side by side, there might be left this point of contact in the churches, although all others may have broken down.
But chiefly they have endeavored to prepare the churches for some great work at the close of this war, when the reconstruction of the world shall lie before it. All the great united activities of the churches must again be taken up, and the feeling is very prevalent in Europe that a new political order must rise out of the ashes of this old order. The churches must be prepared to play a great part in insisting that any new order shall have as its basis Christian principles, just as the relationship of individuals is based upon the fundamental teachings of Christianity. Here will be the great opportunity of the Church, and the English Council, through its magazines and its pamphlets, is having considerable success in interesting the churches in preparing for this thing.
The men who are most active in the British group at present are J. Allen Baker, M.P., who devotes considerable time to the office, and who has still preserved certain personal relationships [page 3] with members of the German group; W. H. Dickinson, M.P., Secretary of the British group, who is also Secretary of the League of Nations Society, and who is devoting practically all his time to the interesting of the churches in the infusion of the principles of Christianity into the new political order, and in advocating the League of Nations as the political basis of this order. In Mr. Dickinson's mind a League of Nations pledged to settle disputes between nations by judicial methods, with a World Court as its center, is a legitimate fruit of the Christian principle applied to international polity. Rev. J. H. Rushbrooke, the eminent Baptist pastor of London, is the editor of "Goodwill" and devotes much of his time to the publication of this excellent magazine. (It is a question whether the American Council ought not soon combine with the British group in the publication of "Goodwill," the British and American editions containing partly the same matter and partly matter relating to the country in which the issue is published.) Rev. John Clifford, D.D., still devotes considerable time to the British Council and is a regular attendant at its meetings, as is the Dean of Worcester. Mr. Temple, who previously gave a great deal of time to the Executive Committee, is still greatly interested and attends the meetings of the Committee whenever possible. With these Mr. Henry Hodgkin is a most faithful worker.
The point that Dr. Battin wished to emphasize is that all through the duration of the war, with feeling between Germany and Great Britain growing more and more bitter and with all the resources of the nation strained to the utmost, the English Executive Committee has [page 4] continued its work with unflagging energy, and is doing much to prepare the way for a resumption of friendly relationships between Great Britain and Germany, that might otherwise be postponed for many years.
Dr. Battin, while in London, has devoted his time to the British Council, giving them most valuable assistance, and acting as intermediary between them and the continental groups.
The pamphlets which have been published by the British Council have had a very wide reading and have attracted much attention, and some of them, having reached Germany, have perhaps had no little influence in opening the eyes of German readers to the point of view of the British nation.
It should be said in all justice to the German group that its Secretary, Dr. Siegmund-Schultze, has taken pains to present to the German people certain expressions from the eminent leaders of religious thought in Great Britain voicing somewhat the sentiment of the nation, which have been consistently kept out of the German daily press.
The British Council is ready to meet members of the German Council immediately upon the close of the war, and it seems to be the feeling in most circles in Great Britain that this is the right attitude to take. So far as Dr. Battin can gather, some members of the German Council are willing to meet their British brethren, but this willingness will of course be governed somewhat by the nature of the terms of peace. Should Germany be utterly humiliated, it is, of course, hardly to be expected that the German brethren would be so cordially willing to meet the brethren of the Allied Nations. [page 5]
Dr. Battin has recently visited Scotland, with the purpose of organizing a Scottish group. This group would be in a sense a department of the English group, but the Scottish people and the English people do things differently, so that on the whole it seems necessary that there should be two distinct committees within the British Council. In Church affairs in England the people themselves are apt to act directly, whereas in Scotland almost every relationship of the church to any social movement is determined through the Assemblies. Consequently it has been thought best to organize a separate Scottish Committee. Dr. Battin had interesting conversations in Scotland with the result that some of the leaders of Scottish religious thought are willing to assume the organization of a Committee immediately upon the close of the war, but they feel that at present it would be somewhat impracticable.
Dr. Battin had a conversation with Prof George [Adam] Smith. Dr. Smith was greatly interested in the whole matter and felt that no Europe was possible if this sort of thing which has come upon it had got to come, again, and that every Christian man should devote all his energies to somehow or other infusing the spirit of Christianity into international relationships, but that there had been such terrible losses in Scotland, and the feeling against certain methods of warfare practiced by the Central Powers had been so intense, and the conviction that certain things had now got to be established by force before any peace negotiations could come was so prevalent, that it was not wise to attempt the establishment of a council at the present time. [page 6]
Dr. Battin had conversations with other leaders in the Scottish church, such men as Dr. Whyte and Dr. Williamson of Edinburgh, Y.M.C.A. workers in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and everywhere found them greatly interested in the World Alliance, and convinced that there was no hope for the future unless the united churches could in some way Christianize international relationships.
In Germany the World Alliance group has confined its activities largely to work for prisoners and to the publication of "Die Eiche." Dr. Siegmund-Schultze, the secretary, has been most unceasing in his work among the prison camps, especially the one at Ruheleben. He himself speaking perfect English has held conference with many British soldiers confined in these camps, and has been insistent in his plans for service for these prisoners. Many of the prisoners who have returned to England have borne fine testimony to his work. Some of the money which the German Committee had from a previous appropriation of The Church Peace Union has been expended in this way. The German Committee feels that this is peace work of the highest kind.
The publication of "Die Eiche" has gone on through the war and has, perhaps, been the only organ through which the German people have been able to get uncensored expressions of the feeling of the Allies and have been able to read the most Christian things that have been said on both sides. For instance, one edition of "Die Eiche" was given over to the publication of the English "White Book," and other editions were given over to the work for German prisoners by the English and for [page 7] English prisoners by the Germans. Other editions were devoted to expressions from both sides which breathed a fine Christian spirit, whereas in the regular press of Germany only those utterances from the Allies were published which were full of bitterness, and sometimes only those utterances of Germans themselves of this sort found expression.
Prof. Battin reports that the bitterness which was manifest in certain circles, even among members of our own Committee, has been largely assuaged through the work of "Die Eiche," and especially through his meeting with the members of the Committee and his interpreting to them the real attitude of the Allies on the questions at issue.
It must be remembered that the German people have been given to understand from the beginning that they were engaged in a defensive war, that Russia started the war, and that England saw her opportunity to rush in. This has been believed almost universally in Germany and it has, of course, colored their feeling toward the Allies. Prof. Battin, through his interviews and through his missions back and forth between the Germans and the English, has done much to interpret the minds of one group to the other.
At present the German group is disposed to meet the English group at the close of the war. The only thing which might perhaps prevent this, Prof. Battin says, would be, of course, a crushing defeat of Germany. On the other hand, should there be a crushing defeat of the Allies, the English and French Committees might feel the same reluctance to meet the Germans.
There is on the German Committee a group of men who are still interested in The World [page 8] Alliance and are ready to resume relationships with the churches of other lands in an enthusiastic spirit. Of course, chief of these is Dr. Siegmund-Schultze. Then there is Pastor Kessler, of Dresden, who throughout the course of the whole war has cherished the hope of international understanding. Others are Admiral Eisendecher, who, it will be remembered, welcomed the delegates to Constance so cordially, and Prof. [Deissmann], whose weekly letter appeared uninterruptedly up to the time of America's entering the war. Dr. Spiecker, Prof. Rade and Mr. Forster (the younger) are ready to resume relationships with the English and the other brethren.
Dr. Quidde, of Munich, while he has not been directly related to the church movement, will be found a valuable friend when the time comes for bringing the German and English peace groups together again.
Should the war happen to end by negotiations there is no doubt that several of the members of the original German Committee would be willing to meet their English and French brethren. Should some enlargement of constitutional government come in Germany, Prof. Battin feels that the interest in international goodwill would soon be as great in Germany as it is among the groups in other democratic countries.
The French group has done very little. Every member has bound himself with all his energies to the prosecution of the war. The report from all of them has been practically the same, that France, being on the defensive, could do nothing that would divert her thought to anything except preservation of life. [page 9]
But there are several men on the French Committee with whom Prof. Battin has had extended conversations, who, when the war is over, will be ready to work harder than ever before for the institution of Christian relationships in international matters. Among these men are Wilfred Monot, Charles Wagner, and M. Demesnil.
Strong interest has been expressed in France in the League of Nations. While the church group has devoted no particular, concerted study to it, yet the members are interested in the idea and will be found among those immediately ready to back the French statesmen who have been considering the League, and considering it to such an extent that they have sent a distinguished scholar to the United States to study the propositions of the League to Enforce Peace.
Holland has been very active, ever since the war broke out, in the study of peace propositions. The Central Organization for a Durable Peace tried to bring together delegates from all the countries to study a Minimum Program that might be offered to the nations at the close of the war. This did not prove successful on the whole, but they have gathered things from every land and have published them in two or three volumes of rare interest.
The Anti-Oorlag Raad was for a time very active in trying to bring about negotiations among the powers, but has lately sunk in quiescence, seeing that such effort was fruitless until some change had come about in the present status of things.
The World Alliance has taken good hold upon Holland and the pastors in general are [page 10] greatly interested in it. Dr. Cramer of The Hague and Prof. J. Pont of the University of Amsterdam have been enthusiastic leaders of the movement. With the war raging all about them they have held several public meetings of The World Alliance, and there has been a good deal of public interest. Many of the Dutch pastors have joined The World Alliance, and we shall find Holland a very great help to us in the future work in Europe.
Dr. Battin spent several weeks in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. In Norway 400 out of 600 pastors have become active members of The World Alliance. Archdeacon [Hansteen] of Bergen is the leader of the movement in Norway and is greatly interested in it. He hopes to have every pastor in Norway a member of the World Alliance.
One of the striking things that Dr. Battin reported from Norway is the widespread interest in the idea of a League of Nations. The Norwegian statesmen and publicists have taken up the study seriously. Much is being written about it and public meetings are being held. They are making a careful study of the proposals of the American League to Enforce Peace and of the League of Nations Society of Great Britain, of which our own Secretary, W. H. Dickinson, M.P., is also Secretary.
In Sweden the situation is somewhat different from that in Norway. In Norway the Church is a democratic organization; in Sweden it is more an Episcopal organization, and the Church as a whole either endorses or refuses to endorse a movement.
The Swedish Church is unofficially endorsing The World Alliance with great heartiness, and [page 11] will be ready at the close of the war to go into it as a body. Archbishop Soderblom, who is persona grata in every country in Europe, and has the confidence of all the governments, is greatly interested in our movement, one of its chief upholders. This will be of great help, because there is no doubt that he will have an important office in the reconciliation of the various nations of Europe. It has been hoped by many that he might come to this country this fall, in which case there would be opportunities for the American Council to meet him and talk over the work of the future.
In Switzerland, as in Sweden, the Church acts officially on such matters as association with world organizations such as The World Alliance or the Edinburgh Conference of Foreign Missions.
There has been great interest in the movement in Switzerland, as there has been in all peace movements. It will be remembered that the meeting of the International Committee two years ago this August, during the progress of the war, was held in Switzerland. The matter of international friendship and reconstruction of the World on a Christian basis has in this way been presented in the Swiss pulpits, and several conferences have been held in the interest of The World Alliance.
The leaders in the work are Prof. Choisy of Geneva and Pastor Herold of Winterthur. Dr. Muetzenberg is also one of the men prominent in the movement.