Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The New Martyrs of Batak, Bulgaria - Faithful Witnesses for Christ to Strengthen Us in Our Trials

Excerpted below is a key paragraph from the full story of the martyrdom of the Orthodox faithful of Batak, Bulgaria at the hands of the Muslim Turks. This horrific, genocidal slaughter of nearly a whole people was a violent spasm of Islamic hatred and desperation before Bulgaria was liberated in 1878 from the Muslims by the Russians and Romanians, with help from the Bulgarian militia (the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-1878).  Let us keep in mind that this is an example of how Islam, when it finally gains ascendancy, treats non-Muslims who refuse to submit. The Batak Golgotha is the same phenomenon as the Armenian Genocide, in which 4.5 million Orthodox Christians (and other non-Muslims) were martyred — as at Batak — by the Muslim Turks.  May we follow the heroic example of the Bulgarians' unswerving faith in Christ, and may we be aided by their heavenly intercessions!

An ancient proverb says that the gloom is heaviest immediately before the dawn. Indeed, in the history of Bulgaria, the year 1876 was seemingly one of the gloomiest eras, filled with bloodshed, suffering, and horrors. Why? “When the fruit is brought forth,” the (Heavenly) Farmer “immediately...putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come” (St. Mark 4:29). A Russian newspaper thus wrote the following, with regard to this fateful year: “Recently, in neighboring Bulgaria, a pogrom has been underway against the Christians, which—in the words of one of our Hierarchs—has taken us back to the times of the ancient Christian martyrs. Hundreds of Bulgarian towns and villages are in throes and have been drowned in blood. Thousands of men, tens of thousands of old people and women, maidens and children, have been slaughtered, burned alive, or taken into captivity as slaves. Many of the enslaved were forcefully converted to Islam, though not a few preferred death to Islam. In the monasteries and convents, monks and nuns have been cut to pieces; on the roads innocent children are murdered only for having crossed themselves as Orthodox Christians; virgins are raped and burned alive at the stake; unborn babies are cut out of their mothers’ bellies with the sword; and infants are slashed in two or impaled on the yataghan; those whose Bulgarian Faith has remained ineradicable are uprooted from amongst the living.”
From amongst the unknown Martyrs for Faith and kin in 1876, alustrous constellation shines over the land of Bulgaria even to this day: that of Batak, a name both dear and unforgettable for every Bulgarian Christian soul!
The duration of the Batak massacre was but several days. On the night of May 1, 1876 (Old Style), Batak shone forth like a new sun from the conflagration of the Bashibazouks’ vengeance, illuminating henceforth and for all ages, by its martyrdom, our Christian history.
The Batak Golgotha began from the lower end of the village—from the Martyrs in Bogdan’s house. Disarmed by means of deception, the citizens of Batak, lively at the outset, now become Christ’s lambs, doomed to slaughter. Only those children who immediately agreed to accept Islam, upon being asked, were spared their lives. The torturers took even the last shirt or chemise from the Martyrs’ backs, as though to let their souls fly toward the heavens unburdened of all earthly weight. And, by God’s Grace, moments before their demise, heavenly peace descended into the souls of these sufferers (who until then had been weeping and screaming), by their firm decision to be faithful to Christ unto death. One by one, they went to the chopping block in silence. Some pressed their necks tightly to the block, so that the blow might more definitely separate their souls from the flesh. A few mothers pushed their own children forward to be slain before they themselves were killed, so as to be assured that their children would not be taken into Moslem households and lose their Faith, together with their souls. When attempts were made to ravish them moments before their deaths, the maidens of Batak resisted like lionesses, so as to preserve their virginal purity to the last breath. Thus, they were slashed into pieces. At one side of the chopping block rose mountains of martyred bodies, swimming in pools of blood; and separately, on the other side, lesser mountains, consisting of the martyrs’heads, with their eyes half-open, as if looking up towards Heaven itself.

Read the full article here.