“Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, ‘The LORD has done great things for them.’” Psalms 126:2 (The Israel Bible™)
Last month, Breaking Israel News published a story about a pro-Israel rally in Warsaw, Poland. The ongoing story behind that rally is even more amazing, revealing a an inspirational story of how Polish Christians’ love for Israel grew out of the ashes of the Holocaust.
The story begins with Edward Ćwierz, who helped found the Cenacle Church of Kielce in south central Poland in 1992. He is also a senior pastor of their sister-church, the Cenacle Tent of David in Warsaw, which organized the “March of Support for Israel” on January 10th. The march, intended to show support in the face of rising European anti-Semitism, was well-attended, with hundreds of Christians coming from all over Poland to show their support for Israel.
Ćwierz told Breaking Israel News that such a gathering would have been unheard of ten years ago, making him optimistic about the changing relations between Jews and Christians in Poland.
“We have seen enormous positive changes over the last 25 years. We have a growing movement, especially in the communities of evangelical Christians, in the direction of a return to the Jewish roots of Christianity. It is a process, but its effects are visible,” he said.
Ćwierz became actively interested in Israel in 2003. He and some of his followers began to visit Israel on regular basis, not as tourists, but to pray for the Jewish Nation and to bless it. Ćwierz explained, “This was the time when we received a revelation that God still loves Israel and that His covenant with them is eternally alive. We also believe there are many promises to Israel that have yet to be fulfilled.”
Their church sees Israel as part of the Messianic process.”We are at a strategic moment in history,” Ćwierz said. “God is restoring Israel, gathering it back to its land, setting the stage for the coming of the Messiah to Israel.”
Their connection with the Jewish people was further strengthened in 2007 when they began meeting with Israeli youth delegations. The meetings were inspired by a desire to confront the city of Kielce’s tragic history with the Jews. Before World War II, almost one-third of the 23,000 residents were Jewish. During the Holocaust, almost all of the Jews from Kielce died in the Treblinka death camp.
After the war, about 200 Jews returned to Kielce to rebuild their lives. In July, 1946, a pogrom occurred in which 42 Jews were killed, sparking a migration of Jews from Poland. The March of the Living, a Holocaust educational program which brings Jewish people from all over the world to Poland, visits the city on its trips.
Meeting students on the March of the Living has had a profound effect on the pastor and his congregation. “Faced with young people at the cemetery, we feel the urge to say we are sorry for the pogroms and anti-Semitism, but we also feel a need to express our support and love for Israel,” he told Breaking Israel News.
In a strange twist of fate and a powerful fixing of an historic evil, the friends they visit when they go to Israel are Holocaust survivors and their children. “Meeting these people is always a big blessing for both sides,” Ćwierz said, “and our circle of friends is constantly growing.”
Much of Ćwierz’s connection to the Jews is driven and shaped by Poland’s history with the Jews. “God is giving our nation a second chance, a chance to stand with Israel better than we did in the past. We want to seize this historical opportunity to change ways of death into the ways of life,” he shared.
The miraculous coming together of Jews and Christians in Kielce is not without its detractors. Their pro-Israel rally, though successful, became a target for hatred. The church’s Facebook page and Youtube channel received so many anti-Semitic entries that they had to close down the comments.
This has not deterred them from moving forward. On 27th of February, the church will host a conference called “Israel and the Nations”. Ćwierz also regularly teaches in churches all over Poland on the subject of Israel. In 2014, he published a book entitled “Poland-Israel, a Second Chance from God”. July 3, 2016 is the 70th anniversary of the Kielce pogrom, and he is organizing a “March of Life for Israel” through the streets of the city, inviting his friends from Israel and Germany.
Ćwierz is quick to point out that guilt is not their primary motivation. Rather, the Bible is his group’s true source of love for Israel: “Our inspiration is not historical anti-Semitism. It is the love which God has for Israel, which we find in the Bible.
“We want to tell the truth about the past and express our support for Israel and to oppose all forms of contemporary anti-Semitism,” Ćwierz said. “My dream is to see thousands of Poles express public support for Israel.”
He added, “May God bless you and your country with peace!”