Richard Wurmbrand (1909-2001) – Defender of Persecuted Christians

Richard Wurmbrand (sketch by Cristi Bandi)

NOTE: Today is Wurmbrand Feast Day, the celebration day of a Protestant ‘saint’. I share with you here the short presentation of this ‘man of faith – man of justice’, done by Adina Petric for the St Nicholas Project.

Richard Wurmbrand, who earned the name of ‘the Apostle Paul of the Iron Curtain’, was one of the most striking preachers of the 20th century and fought to defend the rights of persecuted Christians.

Wurmbrand was born into a Jewish family in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, in 1909. As a young man he was attracted by the Communist movement, but he soon realised that its promises were false ones. His life was transformed after he met a carpenter who gave him a Bible. His reading of Scripture and the experience of meeting other believers led to his conversion to the Christian faith.

During the Second World War, Wurmbrand was involved in undercover missionary work and helped many Jews to survive. He also preached in numerous air raid shelters and was arrested a number of times.

Wurmbrand continued his missionary activities even after the coming to power of the Communist Party in Romania, although he knew that the authorities regarded what he was doing as illegal. This led to his arrest by the Communist authorities in February 1948. For eight years he was held in solitary confinement under a false name. At first the authorities said that he had fled the country, but later a number of Communist agents posing as former detainees suggested to his family that he had in fact died in prison. He was freed in 1956, but two years later he was imprisoned again, this time for six years.

Pastor Wurmbrand was finally released in 1964 as a result of a general amnesty of prisoners and settled in the United States with his family. While he was in Philadelphia, he happened to be passing a public demonstration in support of the Communist regime in Vietnam. The demonstration was suddenly interrupted by an unknown person who claimed to have a doctorate in Communism. As he spoke these words, he showed the crowd the scars of old wounds on his chest and back as evidence of the torture to which he had been subjected. Then the stranger – no other than Wurmbrand –exhorted those present to side with the victims and not with the torturers.

Later, Wurmbrand gave evidence before the US Senate Committee on Internal Security. As a result, news of the atrocities Christians were suffering in Communist countries spread throughout the world.

While in America, he founded Voice of the Martyrs, an organisation that fights against the persecution of Christians by Communist regimes anywhere in the world.

Richard Wurmbrand died in 2001. His legacy – quite apart from his Christian testimony and his books – can be summed up in his own words: “In all that I have suffered alongside my brethren in the faith, it is Jesus Christ alone that I want to be seen. He is the one who kept us in the faith and gave us the power to be victorious”.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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