The Great Crisis
In Great Britain
In the United States
the hostilities were breaking out in Europe, the leaders of the
Romanian Union of the SDA Church encouraged its members to take
part in the war. In a declaration issued (August 4, 1914) by P.
P. Paulini and G. Danila, respectively president and secretary
of the Union, they said:
members who are called to serve in the army should not lose sight
of the fact that, in time of war, all must fully perform their
duties. From Joshua 6, we see that the children of God bore arms
and that they fulfilled their military duties even on the Sabbath
day. . . . Therefore, in a special meeting with our leaders, which
was attended by a large number of fellow believers who had been
called to bear arms, we came to the conclusion that all members
should cooperate in the above spirit."
following decision was later published in a denominational paper
the Conference of the Romanian Seventh-day Adventists, make known
the biblical standpoint that military service and the call to
bear arms is a duty imposed by the state, to whom God has rightfully
given authority, according to 1 Peter 2:13, 14 and Romans 13:4,
same stand was also taken by the General Conference Committee
during their meeting of November 1915. So, in this matter the
different countries in the world have complete liberty, of their
own, to continue meeting these legal requirements as they have
done until now." Curierul Misionar, 1916, No.
3, p. 35.
combatant position taken by the Adventist leadership caused much
confusion also in Romania, and the faithful few who stood in defense
of the law of God suffered much abuse at the hands of the leadersnot
only criticism and defamation, but also disfellowshipment and
persecution. Betrayed to the authorities, they were separated
from one another, imprisoned, and tortured (only God knows how
many died under these circumstances), while the regular members,
following the recommendations of the church leaders, had no problem,
because they were prepared to do what all others were doing. The
leaders explained the official position of the church as follows:
have had cases in which the brethren in Germany asked: What
must we do in war? The answer was: Remain faithful
to God, but do what everyone else is doing. And what happened?
Where the soldiers could get permission to rest on Sunday and
keep it holy, our soldiers went to their officers with the request:
We ask you to give us Saturday off. . . . But where
no one could think of holidays, it would have been a strange attitude
for our brethren to ask permission to keep the Sabbath."
Ibid., p. 37.
it happened in other European countries, it also happened in Romania.
Some conscientious objectors distinguished themselves as heroes.
Gheorghe Panaitescu reported the following experiences:
Romania entered the war, 1916, in one regiment three faithful
Adventists were sentenced to be executed by a firing squad because
they had refused to serve as combatants. One of the three was
called and ordered to dig his grave. Then, as he was standing
on the edge of the hole, the officer appealed to him: Soldier,
because of your position as conscientious objector, you have been
condemned to be shot. But, before you fall backwards into the
hole, you are given a short moment to meditate upon what you are
going to do. Consider your family. If you want to escape being
shot to death, take your gun and go to the front. Not all soldiers
are killed in battle. Many will return home and be with their
families. Think about it quickly. That brother said he had
already thought about it a long time before and was determined
to remain firm in his position, because he could not act against
his conscience. When the officer saw the resoluteness of the brother,
he said to him: Follow me, and he led him away. A
shot was fired into the air, the hole was filled up, and a bit
of blood of an animal was spilled on the ground nearby.
the second brother was called and the same appeal was made to
him with the following warning: You see, your brother is
dead and buried in this first hole because of his stubbornness,
and this second hole is reserved for you in case you continue
showing the same stubborn attitude. This other man said:
If my brother remained faithful to Christ unto death, I
will also remain faithful to Him who taught us to love one another,
because I dont want to forfeit the crown of life.
The same procedure was repeated. Again a shot was fired into the
air, the hole was covered, and a few drops of blood were sprinkled
the third brother was called, the officer said to him, pointing
to the two covered holes: This is where the bodies of your
two brothers lie. They lost their lives because of their obstinacy.
But you still have a chance to save your life. Its easy.
Take your gun and fulfill your military duties to avoid being
shot to death. After the end of the war you can live in peace
and happily follow your religion. This third man began to
think. Then he hesitated for a little while. And finally he declared
himself ready to bear arms, go to the front, and do as all other
combatants were doing. The officer said to him: We must
shoot you, because you are not faithful to your God as your two
brethren were. You are a hypocrite and a coward. If you do not
serve your God, we have no confidence that you will serve our
government. You will shoot into the air, and when in danger you
will play into the hands of the enemy. Your two brethren, who
maintained their decision and remained faithful to the end, have
survived; but you will be executed. He then ordered the
firing squad to shoot.
two survivors who did not deny their faith were put to work in
the fields and were sent home after the end of the war. That is
when the whole story became known among the brethren in Romania."
is another interesting case that was reported by Brother Panaitescu.
Because of his religious convictions, which did not allow him
to be a combatant, a faithful Adventist brother was condemned
to death by the military court. Standing with his back turned
toward his grave, he asked permission to pray for the last time
on this earth. Kneeling down, he prayed aloud imploring God to
be merciful to his executioners and forgive all those who were
responsible for the death sentence that was being applied. Before
he finished his prayer, a high officer happened to pass by and
asked what was going on.
gave orders to shoot this man? and for what reason?"
a few words, the soldiers explained the problem: "He will
be executed because, as a conscientious objector, he says he cannot
break the law of God. This means that he will not bear arms or
do any secular work on Saturdays."
man shall not die," said the officer. "He will go with
me to the military court, and I will defend him."
is the gist of the appeal that the officer made in court, in defense
of that faithful believer:
we have a great man before us. A man who is conscientious in the
fulfillment of his religious duties, and who would rather die
than break the commandments of God, is a great man. This is the
kind of men that Romania needs, and we dont have machines
to manufacture them in one day. Not all competent men go to the
front. Many things must be done all over the country, far away
from the firing line. There are men who were not born to killmen
who have their religious convictionsmen who can be a blessing
to mankind in many other occupations. It is in the best interest
of the country not to put such men to death, but to preserve their
some cases, God was honored in delivering His faithful servants
in a miraculous way; in other cases God was honored in giving
His faithful servants strength and resignation to suffer martyrdom.
Whichever way God chooses, He knows what He is doing. May His
name be honored and glorified!