Batak Massacre: How Rememberance Saved Thousands

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

courtesy of: http://mixile.tripod.com/MacedoniaBulgaria/id25.html
courtesy of: http://mixile.tripod.com/MacedoniaBulgaria/id25.html

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.

The murder of the Mayor was particularly brutal as described by his daughter-in-law:

“My father in law went to meet the Bashi-Bаzouk when the village was surrounded by the men of Ahmet Aga, who said that he wanted all the arms laid down. Trendafil went to collect them from the villagers. When he surrendered the arms, they shot him with a gun and the bullet scratched his eye. Then I heard Ahmet Aga command with his own mouth for Trendafil to be impaled and burnt. The words he used were “Shishak aor” which is Turkish for “to put on a skewer (as a shish kebab). After that, they took all the money he had, undressed him, gouged his eyes, pulled out his teeth and impaled him slowly on a stake, until it came out of his mouth. Then they roasted him while he was still alive. He lived for half-an-hour during this terrible scene. At the time, I was near Ahmet Aga with other Bulgarian women. We were surrounded by Bashi-Bozouk, who had us surrounded, and forced us to watch what was happening to Trendafil.“[11] One of her children, Vladimir, who was still a baby at his mother’s breast, was impaled on a sword in front of her eyes. “At the time this was happening, Ahmet Aga’s son took my child from my back and cut him to pieces, there in front of me. The burnt bones of Trendafil stood there for one month and only then they were buried.”[12] (Taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batak_massacre, September 17, 2015)

The people hiding in the church yet remained.

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 the Jews” to go to concentration camps, Bulgaria was the only European country to defy them 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 about to be sent off to the concentration camps, Bulgarians from all over courageously stood in front of the trains not allowing the trains to depart. A valiant feat that must not be lost in history. A large exhibit of this act of defiance was displayed at the Rubin-Frankel Galley in 2008, revealing secrets that were long hidden behind the Iron Curtain.

The Power of Civil Society, says Dieringer, serves as a timely reminder “that you have a choice to either follow government dictums or defend what you believe is morally right.”

So, my dear fellow Americans, here is our reminder:

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This country has not seen war on its soil in over 200 years. We have no blood to look upon, only broken war vets that the media teaches us to despise. Our reminders are being plucked from our midst as memorials and Confederate flags have been banned. Even mainstream Christianity has failed to teach us some of the hidden meanings of the sacrificial system by being caught up on law vs. grace.

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 hard, that is one of the reasons God ordered sacrifices, not that those could remove our sins, but to keep our hearts soft. To remind us that an innocent animal would suffer and die on your behalf, foreshadowing the innocent blood of the Messiah. When a priest or even the head of a household had to slaughter an animal, it kept a stern reminder in your mind and heart that every time you chose sin over obedience, that blood would be shed. It was meant to make us weep and return to God with a fully repentant heart.

When was the last time we repented with weeping and gnashing of teeth?
When Jeremiah came to the people, prophesying in the name of the Lord, Jeremiah was commanded to say every word that the Lord gave him. It was for a purpose. Jeremiah spends much time in chapters 21 through 23 telling the people of Jerusalem that all these weapons that they were fighting Babylon with would be turned against them. He tells them of terrible things that would happen. Frightening things. Things that bear eerie resemblance to the Batak Massacre. During the time of Jeremiah, the king Zedekiah was already fighting Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon. They wanted Jeremiah to inquire of the Lord that perhaps the Lord was going to fight on their behalf. It reads in Jeremiah 21:2,

Please inquire of the Lord on our behalf, for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is warring against us; perhaps the Lord will deal with us according to all His wonderful acts, so that the enemy will withdraw from us.”

They were begging of the Lord, just like we are, that God would withdraw the enemy from them. They were scared. They knew they were being outnumbered and defeat was on the horizon.

Unfortunately, God had a totally different answer to their request. This is the answer that the Lord has for them. Not quite what you are expecting. The response is in chapter 21:3-10,

“Thus says the Lord God of Israel, “Behold, I am about to turn back the weapons of war which are in your hands, (remember how the people of Batak were fighting with the Ottoman empire already? And they surrendered their weapons?) with which you are warring against the king of Babylon and the Chaldeans who are besieging you outside the wall; and I will gather them into the center of this city (the church was in the city center). I Myself will war against you with an outstretched hand and a mighty arm, even in anger and wrath and great indignation. I will also strike down the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast; they will die of a great pestilence. Then afterwards,” declares the Lord, “I will give over Zedekiah king of Judah and his servants and the people, even those who survive in this city from the pestilence (remember they were drinking blood and lamp oil to survive, no bathrooms, I can’t imagine there not being disease at this point), the sword and the famine (remember there was no food or water), into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of their foes and into the hand of those who seek their lives; and he will strike them down with the edge of the sword (remember those that survived as they came out, they were waiting outside for them to behead them). He will not spare them nor have pity nor compassion.”’

Jeremiah has just prophetically illustrated the Batak Massacre, and so many others that have been committed by the ones God uses as He lifts His hand of protection off of a nation. I mean the Lord even refers to King Nebuchadnezzar, as His servant in chapter 25, verse 9. I am going start reading verse 8.

““Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Because you have not obeyed My words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will send to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land and against its inhabitants and against all these nations round about; and I will utterly destroy them and make them a horror and a hissing, and an everlasting desolation.”

We must never forget who is really in charge here. That God sets the leaders over a nation, whether good or bad. He does it all for His purposes. This destruction came by Nebuchadnezzar to fulfill God’s intent and Words.

His purpose is for us to not do what we think He wants us to do, but to do what He tells us to do. This requires a daily dependence on Him. We are to be searching His heart out daily, not going about our business with our 5 minutes of quite time as notch on our belt, saying, “See, I spent time with you today. Count it unto me as righteousness.”

Destruction is coming. Prophets have been saying it for years and now it’s very clear how it can happen. The writing is all over the walls. We know the heart of our leader. We know His purposes. We know that Babylon means treason and we operating under that spirit at this very time. And now is not the time for being prideful or hard-hearted, but a time for humility and repentance. That means forgiving everyone in our past, no matter how violating or painful those circumstances were. It means we pay people their wages that are due to them. It means not oppressing the stranger or foreigner within our midst (Jer 22:3). It means  no longer oppressing the widow and the orphan, treating these ones in particular with the respect as you would treat the son or daughter of a king, because that is who they are. It means we daily tear down hidden idols in our heart.

But what are the hidden idols in our hearts? After all, they are in fact hidden. The easiest trail to follow would be by starting at those things that feed our pride with the most ease. Once we lay those things on the alter, God can will begin to take his throne again in every dark crevice in our hearts. But rebuke the enemy first, draw near to God and then let Him speak about what to turn away from!

Jeremiah 25:5-9
Turn now everyone from his evil way and from the evil of your deeds, and dwell on the land which the Lord has given to you and your forefathers forever and ever; and do not go after other gods to serve them and to worship them, and do not provoke Me to anger with the work of your hands, and I will do you no harm.’ Yet you have not listened to Me,” declares the Lord, “in order that you might provoke Me to anger with the work of your hands to your own harm.

“You shall also say to this people, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death.  He who dwells in this city will die by the sword and by famine and by pestilence; but he who goes out and falls away to the Chaldeans who are besieging you will live, and he will have his own life as booty. For I have set My face against this city for harm and not for good,” declares the Lord. “It will be given into the hand of the king of Babylon and he will burn it with fire. (the churches and houses were burnt down with fire in Batak)”’

 Perhaps we will listen and God may repent of the calamity He was planning . . .

Jeremiah 26:2-6
“Thus says the Lord, ‘Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah who have come to worship in the Lord’s house all the words that I have commanded you to speak to them. Do not omit a word!  Perhaps they will listen and everyone will turn from his evil way, that I may repent of the calamity which I am planning to do to them because of the evil of their deeds.’ And you will say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord, “If you will not listen to Me, to walk in My law which I have set before you,  to listen to the words of My servants the prophets, whom I have been sending to you again and again, but you have not listened; then I will make this house like Shiloh, God always wants humility and repentance so we can be closer to Him. We can choose to individually humble ourselves before Him so that we can hear His small, still voice who is eager to deliver and save us from disaster.

And I leave you with this, to remind us to rake refuge in Him, mo matter how widespread the calamity may be.

Psalm 2

Why are the nations in an uproar
And the peoples devising a vain thing?
The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!”

 He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury, saying,
“But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”

“I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.
‘You shall break them with a rod of iron,
You shall shatter them like earthenware.’”

 Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
Worship the Lord with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.
Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!

Get to know our God’s heart… His heart as our Warrior!  Faith to Move the Mountain of the Heart

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