Saturday, January 22, 2011

Peacemaking in the Way of Jesus (Part 5 of 5): Metropolitan Kyril Risks His Life to Save Bulgarian Jews

In an attempt to honor the contribution Dr. Martin Luther King has made to the cause of peace, I intend to craft a blog entry each day of this work week highlighting some person or group who is heroically promoting peace in the way of Jesus. Today, I focus the spotlight on Metropolitan Kyril, head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church during WWII.

During the Second World War, not a single Bulgarian Jew died in a concentration camp, largely because of the compassionate bravery of Metropolitan Kyril.

As in all the countries of Nazi-controlled Europe, Bulgaria's Jews were rounded up by SS soldiers and caged behind a barbed-wire fence near the train station. A train would soon arrive to ship them to Auschwitz, where they were certain to face a gruesome death.

Just before the train arrived, however, Metropolitan Kyril intervened. He was head of the Bulgarian Christian Orthodox Church, and he risked his life to identify with the suffering and plight of the Bulgarian Jews. In the presence of the armed SS soldiers who were standing guard, Metropolitan Kyril boldly declared to the Jews that he would share in their fate, whatever it might be.

As Metropolitan Kyril made his stand, thousands of Bulgarians Christians rallied to join him in his solidarity with the Jews. Ultimately, the Nazis surveyed the scene and backed down. The train left Bulgaria without a single Jew on board, and it never returned.

As only he could, Tony Campolo tells the remarkable story in the two-minute clip below (from the longer film, Prince of Peace, God of War found at

Remember the story of the Good Samaritan? Jesus' point was that we must take love to the extreme. It's not enough to love only those who look like us and believe what we believe. If we really wish to follow him, we must love those who are different as well.

Metropolitan Kyril lived this out by laying his life on the line for his Jewish neighbors. Practically, tangibly, and sacrificially, he loved them. Metropolitan Kyril heroically promoted peace in the way of Jesus, and his love became the miracle the Bulgarian Jews needed in their most hopeless hour.

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