by | Jun 19, 2019 | Faith, Life, Rachel Toland

Batak, Bulgaria April, 1876

The Ottoman Muslim Millet was trying to take over Bulgaria. The Turkish soldiers were advancing further into Bulgaria but at this time, the role of Batak was to manage nearby towns and prevent these soldiers from reaching their supplies and their destinations. The small village of Batak was left to fend for themselves to help stop the Muslims from infiltrating their entire country and this was a risk they were willing to take.

As the Pomaks (a nearby village) entered into Batak, a battle ensued, many Muslim leaders were killed and so were many Bulgarians. However, they became outnumbered. Batak was reported to the authorities and 5,000 more Muslim troops were sent in.

The leader, Petar Goranov negotiated with the leader of Pomak (a near by village), Ahmet Aga and agreed that if Batak (a Bulgarian village) would surrender their weapons then the Muslims would leave.

Aga promised to withdraw his troops when Batak surrendered their weapons.

So Batak did.

After they surrendered, a mass-beheading occurred.

Some survivors managed to escape the village of Batak, but soon after, the territory was enclosed by the enemy. The Bash-bozouk raided every single house, shot at everyone and everything. Many decided to hide in the houses of the wealthy and the church since they had a stronger construction and the stone could withstand the fires.

This started in April. On May 2, the remaining Bulgarians decided to surrender. because they were promised that their lives would be spared. Over 200 men women and children came out.

As they did, they were stripped of their valuables and clothes by Aga and his men, so that blood would not ruin them. After this, they were brutally murdered.

But not before Aga had the most wealthy men lay down their arms in his camps. These wealthy men included the Mayor and his son. They too, were promised their lives in return for their surrender.

But instead, they were beheaded, impaled or burnt alive.

Unfortunately, the murder of the Mayor was particularly brutal.

Scared men, women and children hid inside behind barricades and walls with no water for days. The Turkish were unrelenting in their shooting of people inside the church, thus successfully killing many inside. Survival was defiance. The Bulgarians drank the blood and lamp oil to hydrate themselves but it was not working. Finally, realizing that they would die behind those walls, they came out surrendered.

Aga waited with sharp knives and swords and beheaded all those who did not convert to Islam. The women that were left, who did not obey, were raped but not before making the remaining women watch the Ottoman (Muslim) commanders completely destroy however they so pleased the last remaining 300 men of the village. However, the Ottoman’s found another remaining 300 people by the school. So on the bridge, they completed their final act of “holy war” in Batak. They cut off arms first, then ears, noses and then shoulder, then they were finished.

The plan was to populate Batak, but Aga and the Ottoman authorities decided that there were not enough people to do this. So they left.

After three months, Russian authorities were to come and inspect the village. The Ottoman authorities desperately tried to cover up their actions by burying all the bodies. But their efforts in covering up their blood bath failed. The stench of the multitudes of the corpses was so intense, that not even layers of dirt and rocks could hide their sins. Even after painting the church walls, the blood stains bled through, as if to remind everyone that you may silence the mouths of the people, but the rocks will cry out on behalf of the blood of the innocent.

The body count was over 5,000.

The total number of victims due to the April uprising were around 15,000, destroying 36 villages.

Since this massacre, Bulgarian children were taken out of school each year to visit the church, to remind them of the bloodshed that it took to protect Bulgaria and to never again let this happen.

As a result of this, during WWII, Bulgaria’s King did side with the Germans, however, when it came time to “give up their Jews” to go to concentration camps, Bulgaria was the only European country to defy the Nazis in this manner. The trains were packed with Jews, ready for departure. However, the Bulgarian society made a courageous attempt to save them.

As the Jews were loaded on the trains ready to be sent like cattle to the concentration camps, Bulgarians from all over the country courageously stood in front of the trains not allowing the trains to depart.

Through Bulgaria’s constant remembrance, thousands of Jews were saved during WWII.

This act of courage can teach us many things if it’s not lost in history.

Previous versions of this article had a picture of a large exhibit of this act of defiance which was displayed at the Rubin-Frankel Galley in 2008, revealing secrets that were long hidden behind the Iron Curtain can no longer be found on the internet. Another dangerous casualty of the this cancel culture.

Remembrance like this his can serve as a healing remedy for America as well. Remembering our painful past can help prevent us from turning around and making the same mistakes on others.

America hasn’t seen war on its soil in over 150 years. Most Americans haven’t witnessed such atrocities with our own eyes. And many of our memorials and reminders of the past like the Confederate Flag and memorials of statues are now banned, putting our nation in grave danger of forgetting our own sacrifices. And now our statutes are being destroyed.

But is remembering such things biblical?

I believe that one of the purposes for the sacrificial system in the Old Testament was to serve as a reminder that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). God knew the hearts of men could become hardened, that’s one of the reasons God ordered sacrifices. These sacrifices were meant to keep our hearts soft. These were a foreshadow of the animal without blemish that would suffer and die on our behalf. They had nothing to do with the wickedness in our hearts.

Deuteronomy 16:1-3 touches on this:

“Observe the month of Abib and celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, for in the month of Abib the LORD your God brought you out of Egypt by night. “You shall sacrifice the Passover to the LORD your God from the flock and the herd, in the place where the LORD chooses to establish His name. “You shall not eat leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat with it unleavened bread, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), so that you may remember all the days of your life the day when you came out of the land of Egypt.

There’s an allegorical element here to remembering our salvation as believers likening the Exodus from Egypt to our salvation from sin. The interesting thing here is that it says in the Bible that they had to take in the Lamb and care for it for four days before they slaughtered it on the Passover.

I believe this was a foreshadow of our relationships with the Lamb of God. Both the Passover lamb and the Lamb of God were pure, without blemish.

Can you imagine taking in a baby lamb and introducing it to your children and feeding it and taking care of it for four days?

My children would be devastated to have to slaughter it. I know my husband and I would be.

But I believe that is the type of reverence that we are supposed to have toward our Messiah Jesus/Yeshua–our Passover Lamb.

I Corinthians 11:24-25 tells us this:

“This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

In fact, in verse 28 it goes on to tell us,

“But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup”

Without remembrance and self-examination, we are running the risk of bringing judgment upon ourselves. As we partake of this cup, we’re called to have a deep introspection of ourselves, literally testing ourselves so as not to subject ourselves to judgment.

The severity of this is deep. I took this to mean that if we partake of His blood but yet don’t fully accept the saving power of His suffering and sacrifice that He ransomed for us, we almost make a mockery of His blood. Sometimes, when we sin its easy for us to feel like there can be nothing that can make right what we have done wrong. Sometimes the offense can feel so grievous that it feels like there is no atonement left and what we did feels too big or too wrong. Unimaginable and unredeemable.

But that’s not the case. There is a Sacrifice that was costly but requires humility and repentance to accept it. Many times while explaining this concept, I use the example of negotiating a deal with someone that has a hostage. Once a ransom is demanded, the one that agrees to pay it makes sure that they will get the full reward of what that ransom will cost them. I Timothy 2:5-6 says,

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all

Since Jesus was the ransom for our freedom, it becomes our due diligence to remember His sacrifice, accept it and perform the “testing of ourselves” as it talks about it in First Corinthians. This testing means to measure ourselves with the freedom that Jesus paid such a dear price for.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

Gal 5:1

Perhaps it becomes our due diligence to preserve liberty and freedom because this is what Jesus suffered and died for. But He didn’t just achieve freedom, His death achieved healing and when we remember His death with discernment of what His body endured, we will be awakened and healed.

It will take remembrance of these things, action and obedience to save a nation.

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