One of the most amazing stories to come out of World War II concernns a church leader in Bulgaria named Metropolitan Kyril. When the Nazis rounded up the Jews in his city and herded them into a barbed wire enclosure, he decided to act.
The train that was supposed to take the Jews to Auschwitz pulled up at the station. The S.S. guards were just about ready to load the Jews into the box cars that would take them to the gas chambers, when suddenly, out of the darkness, Metropolitan Kyril appeared. He was a tall man to start with, but as an Orthodox priest, he wore a miter on his head, which must have made him appear like a giant as he emerged out of the darkness. He was wearing his black robes and his white beard hung over them. Marching behind him were many of the townspeople.
Kyril went to the entrance of the barbed wire enclosure, which was then surrounded by his supporters. When the Nazi guards tried to stop them, he laughed at them and pushed aside their guns. He went in among the Jews and as they surrounded them, crying hysterically, he raised his hands. He quoted one Verse of Scripture, and with that verse her contibuted signifcantly to the changing destiny of a nation. Quoting from the Book of Ruth he declared to his Jewish friends, “Whither thou goest, I will go. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God!” The Jews cheered and the Christians joined in cheering. They were no longer separate peoples. They had become on in the declaration of the Word of God.
Because of such heroics, not a single Bulgarian Jew ever died in a Nazi conventration campe during World War II, in spite of the fact that Bulgaria was one of the Nazi powers. When a man is willing to lay down his life to oppose oppression and injustice, amazing things can happen.
This is one of my favorite stories by Tony Campolo. It reminds me how much one person acting out of faith can do. At the same time it reminds me of how little I do out of faith but rather reason and security.
I wonder what Metropolitan Kyril was thinking as he marched up to the S.S. troops who were no doubt aiming their weapons at him, yelling at him to stop. I wondered if he thought he was going to die, or be herded onto the boxcars to die later in the gas chambers, or if he knew he would persevere. I am not sure that any of those thoughts would have been comforting or take away from the courage it took to confront the SS on that day.