Thursday Afternoon and Evening 15th September 1988
Romans 12:17-21 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honourable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
The diplomacy round continued in the afternoon as Colonel, Brain Hart and I went to Warsaw’s City Hall to be greeted by the Mayor. As it turned out the Mayor had been summoned to the Government’s Office along with Lech Wałęsa of Solidarity and Church leaders from the established churches. To put this in context it was less than a week before the government’s resignation was announced. At the City Hall we were greeted by the Deputy Mayor who had signed the vital authorisation for us to march the streets of Warsaw.
At 2:00pm we were back in Zamkowy Square for our third open-air outreach with hundreds of people gathered to listen. Brian, with his former Bible Society hat on had sourced gospel’s in Polish and many people with eager outstretched hands received a copy.
The evening gathering was to be at the reformed church and we were warned that the congregation was rarely over 40.
On route, we went to a large square where we found the stark and somber Warsaw Jewish Ghetto Memorial. In 1940 the area was named by the Nazi forces as the Jüdischer Wohnbezirk in Warschau, "Jewish Residential District in Warsaw". At its height, as many as 460,000 Jews were imprisoned there, in an area of 3.4 km2 (1.3 sq mi), with an average of over 9 people per room, barely subsisting on meagre food rations. To put this in context it would be almost like having the whole populations of Exeter, Torbay and Plymouth squeezed into the Exeter’s Shopping area.
The Ghetto had a transient population with many as 254,000 sent to the Treblinka extermination camp. It is estimated that he total death toll among the prisoners of the Ghetto is estimated to be at least 300,000 killed by bullet or gas, combined with 92,000 victims of starvation and related diseases. In 1943 the Warsaw Ghetto was finally destroyed.
Warsaw Reformed Chruch by Rev’d Paul Collings
From there we moved to the Reformed Church and to our surprise found 300 people gathered in anticipation. There was yet another link with the nearby Ghetto memorial. In 1940 the buildings of the parish including the church, Działyński Palace, the hospital and several other buildings in the so-called "Evangelical enclave" near the Warsaw ghetto area were destroyed during the defence of Warsaw in September 1939. Parishioners and clergy helped save Jews from the ghetto, which is commemorated by one of the monuments on the boundaries of the ghetto, located behind the parish. During the occupation, many parishioners were killed, and several priests murdered. Evangelicals also took part in the Warsaw Uprising.
That night, as the evening’s programme unfolded I was all too aware that the air of that place was think with the history of evil’s attack, yet through it all, actions of selfless goodness triumphed. In fact, that night a collection was taken in aid of the poor in Warsaw and raised 500,000 zlotys, (over £400) the largest that the church had ever seen from a congregation who were relatively poor compared with UK standards of the time.
Loving Lord, help me to not be combative with others. When I experience evil, help me to not get angry and aggressive. Please calm my spirit so I don’t seek revenge. Instead, help me to proactively choose goodness. Allow me to be patient, but faithful. Amen.
Tomorrow, Singing Nun’s and Happy Children