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Jehovah's Witnesses In The Divine Purpose

CHAPTER 35

The Cloud of Modern Witnesses Advance in Faithful Conduct

TOM: Your speaking of the difficulty Jehovah's witnesses received from the Communists in Poland, John, reminds me that you haven't mentioned anything about the Korean war. How did Jehovah's witnesses fare in Korea at that time? I remember you said they had a depot there before the second world war.

JOHN: Yes; it was operated by a couple of brothers in 1931. But from 1939 to 1945, you recall, the work was under total ban. Then, when 1945 arrived liberation came. The brother who had been in charge of the work in Korea was dead. Only about half of those in prison were capable of service when released. The others had died or were physically impaired.

For eight years now the brothers in Korea had had no contact with the organization, but, even so, some of the brothers knew there were many good-will people to be preached to. So they gathered together what literature they had and quickly distributed all of it. Then, in 1948, the Society made arrangements to send trained missionaries to Korea, and the first two of these graduates of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead arrived August 9, 1949. These missionaries immediately organized the brothers for field service, and that first month eight of them participated.

During the Korean war the missionaries were evacuated to Japan and the Korean brothers were caught in the city of Seoul as the Communists captured it. Three months later, however, they were liberated. Then, before Seoul was taken the second time by the Communists, the population had an opportunity to flee and the brothers were scattered as refugees to the cities of the South. Soon new congregations were functioning in Taegu, Pusan, Taejon, Kunsan and Chonju. In November of 1951 one of the American missionaries was able to return and the Korean brothers were quickly organized again, with 407 reporting in August of 1953. On September 1, 1953, a Branch was established in Seoul and increase was rapid so that by 1959, ten years after the first missionaries arrived, the number of publishers in the field had jumped from eight to 3,456. That was in spite of the war that had intervened. a

The expansion in Europe following World II was not accomplished without great difficulties. This was especially true in those countries where Communist influence was strongly felt. Then as Russia gradually lowered the Iron Curtain in Europe after 1948, thousands of the Witnesses found themselves subjected to per-

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secution in many ways worse than that which they had experienced under Nazi rule. After only three or four years of freedom from concentration camps thousands again found themselves forced back into such devilish institutions or were sent to work as slaves in Russian mines or, worse still, were banished to Siberia. In the East Zone of Germany alone 1,016 men and women of the Witnesses were sentenced to a total of 6,865 years in prison and, by 1953, there were fourteen that had been killed. b In 1958 there were 440 still in prison. c

Another example is the tragic story of the Witnesses in Poland. In 1939, before World War II began, there were 1,039 ministers valiantly withstanding the bitter persecution of the fanatical Roman Catholic Hierarchy that had subjected the Witnesses to an underground existence for years. d Release from Nazi tyranny in 1945 was sweet but proved to be short-lived. As freedom opened the door to activity theocratic worship was quickly reorganized in this land, and in 1946 they reached a new peak of 6,994 ministers. e In 1947 Gilead missionaries arrived to aid them further in organizing themselves for expansion f so that by 1948 there was a peak of 10,385 active ministers preaching, g and in 1950 this number had swelled to an amazing 18,116 total. h

Then in 1950 Poland found itself behind the Iron Curtain. Jehovah's witnesses were banned in that year, the Branch office being closed on June 21 and those taking the lead in service being arrested and sentenced to long prison terms. The greater number of servants in the congregations, as well as other brothers from one end of the country to the other, were arrested, the only exception being elderly women and mothers with children up to eight months. Many of these brothers soon afterward were sent off to labor camps, where they continued to preach. The Gilead missionaries were deported and once again the Polish Witnesses went underground to their former "catacomb" activities to keep the torch of Christian worship brightly blazing for the many "other sheep" still seeking a place of refuge in Jehovah's New World society. i

In Czechoslovakia the Witnesses likewise manifested themselves as true fighters for Christian freedom. Before Hitler took away that freedom in 1938 there were 1,166 active ministers. j During Hitler's tight-fisted regimentation the underground activity of the Witnesses kept alive a limited association among these faithful servants of Jehovah God. In 1945, with Hitler's downfall, the work was quickly revived k and for the year 1946 there were 1,209 active Witnesses. l When Czechoslovakia began to disappear behind the Iron Curtain in 1948, here, too, the Witnesses were banned, the Branch office was closed at the end of November and many brothers were arrested. m This did not stop the ingathering work, however. In 1950 there were 2,882 active preachers of Jehovah's kingdom n and in 1951 the number had grown to 3,705. o

If we had time, similar experiences could be reported for the Witnesses in Communist Yugoslavia, p Bulgaria, Hungary q and Romania. r Even in Russia itself in 1948 there were more than 8,000 ministers of Jehovah's kingdom actively keeping up in many ingenious ways the Bible preaching service. s Thousands also had been reported banished to Siberia. For the year 1954

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there were 64,123 Witnesses still active in all these countries behind the Iron Curtain t and in 1959 the number had grown to over 123,000. u The Society does not publish figures for the individual countries behind the Iron Curtain now, so that the respective governments will not know how many real Christians reside in their territory.

A PETITION TO COMMUNIST LEADERS IN RUSSIA

The deplorable treatment of Jehovah's witnesses in Russia was forcefully brought to world attention in 1956 at the district assemblies held throughout the earth. Awake! relates the matter:


The 1956 district assemblies of Jehovah's witnesses had a unique feature. What was that? The thrilling presentation of a petition, usually made on Saturday evening, directed to Premier Nikolai A. Bulganin of the U.S.S.R. It related to the treatment of the witnesses behind the Iron Curtain and particularly in Russia and Siberia. . . .

It begins by telling of the extent of the persecution of Jehovah's witnesses in Russia and Siberia, as known from recent reports. v


MARIA [interrupting]: Excuse me, John. Wouldn't the figures given in the petition and resolution be of interest at this point?

JOHN: Yes, they would. Will you read that paragraph, please?

MARIA [reading]:


In the course of the past two years news has come out of Russia by prominent news dispatches and by repatriated persons, according to which (1) there are or have been some 2,000 of Jehovah's witnesses in the penal camp of Vorkuta; (2) at the beginning of April of the year 1951 some 7,000 of Jehovah's witnesses were arrested from the Baltic States down to Bessarabia and were then transported in freight trains to the distant region between Tomsk and Irkutsk and near Lake Baykal in Siberia; (3) there are witnesses of Jehovah kept in more than fifty camps from European Russia into Siberia and northward to the Arctic Ocean, even on the Arctic island of Novaya Zemlya; and (4) a number of these, especially of the 7,000 mentioned above, died of malnutrition the first two years of their sojourn in Siberia. w


JOHN: Thank you. Now the Awake! report continues:


It requests that an objective government investigation be made and that the witnesses be freed and authorized to organize themselves according to the way they are in other lands. Also that the witnesses in Russia be permitted to establish regular relations with their governing body in the United States and be allowed to publish and import such Bible literature as they need for their ministry. x


Then in a "Statement of Facts" the petition described the work of Jehovah's witnesses and their Scriptural reasons for it, disclaimed any political interests or affiliations, pointed to the world-wide recognition given these Christians for their strict adherence to Bible teachings and asked if the Russian government wanted to take the responsibility of fulfilling Jesus' prophecy that his followers would be hated and persecuted by all nations on account of his name. Matthew 10:16 and 24:9 were cited. Then the Awake! report says:


In conclusion the petition proposes a discussion between the representatives of the governing body of Jehovah's witnesses and those of the Russian government. It also suggests that a delegation of witnesses be permitted to proceed to Moscow for this purpose, as well as for the purpose of visiting the various camps where the witnesses of Jehovah are interned. And it further states:

"In the meantime we can do nothing but inform the world about Jehovah's witnesses in Russian prisons, penal camps and deportation centers, as we owe it to them as our friends and brothers in the faith to inform the world of their situation. However, we would prefer to be able to tell the world that you, the Government of Russia, have ordered Jehovah's witnesses to be freed."

At each assembly the petition was received with great enthusiasm and adopted unanimously. From the latter part of June, 1956,

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through February, 1957, it had been adopted by 199 assemblies numbering a total of 462,936 conventioners. Three copies of the petition were signed by four convention officials on behalf of those present. One copy was sent to Premier Bulganin, one to the local Russian ambassador and one to the Society's headquarters. Additional copies were given to the press, which generally gave a good coverage of the subject. y


Around 1,500 newspapers in the United States alone carried the account of the petition. Then, on March 1, 1957, a combined petition was signed and sent to the Russian government by the seven directors of the Watch Tower Society. The Communists never replied or acknowledged its receipt.

RUSSIAN WITNESSES FIND AND KEEP THEIR FAITH

However, we know that the Russian government is by no means ignorant of the energetic preaching activity of our brothers behind the Iron Curtain. Just listen to this editorial in the Washington Post under the meaningful title "Cloud of Witnesses."

LOIS: That's what the apostle Paul called the very earliest ones of Jehovah's witnesses in the Bible, isn't it? I remember you had me read that text the first night you were here.

JOHN: I'm glad you remember it. It's at Hebrews 12:1. Now, listen to this editorial:


It is interesting to learn, by way of an extended denunciation in Pravda, that the sect of Jehovah's Witnesses has become almost as much of a headache to the rulers of Communist Russia as it was to the rulers of Nazi Germany. It seems that the Witnesses have been making converts all over the Soviet Union, even in such distant places as Siberia and Kurgan, and that they now constitute a formidable movement of underground resistance to the regime.

The editors of Pravda affect to believe that the whole movement is being subsidized by "the most reactionary elements of American capitalism" and that its purpose is to infect the Soviet masses with a spirit of meekness and resignation that will frustrate or delay the world-wide triumph of the revolutionary proletariat. The organizers of the movement are described as "former war criminals, Fascist collaborators and Gestapo informers" who were indoctrinated and trained for the work in German concentration camps.

The assertion that they were indoctrinated in concentration camps may not be without an element of truth.


LOIS [interrupting]: We know it's true, though, don't we? Because you read us many experiences of how the Russian prisoners of war accepted the truth from German Witnesses in the concentration camps.

JOHN: That's right. Now here we have a factual corroboration of it. This is a real testimony to the integrity and zeal of these spiritually young Christians in persevering in their new-found faith after they returned to Russia.

TOM: I'd say, too, it's an evidence of the genuineness of their faith, not like the so-called "fox hole" variety so many American soldiers acquired during the war.

JOHN: The article continues:


Nearly all survivors of these camps have testified to the courage and obduracy of the Witness prisoners and to their ability to withstand intimidation and even torture. It would not be surprising, then, if many Russian prisoners, who had hardly less reason than the German Witnesses to identify the state with the reign of antichrist and no less reason to accept an apocalyptic view of history, were much impressed by this example.

At any rate the chiliastic doctrine of the Witnesses—who believe that the second coming of Jesus Christ has long since been an historical fact, that His invisible reign will soon be transformed into His visible kingdom on earth, and that all existing forms of the state are therefore satanic and doomed to perish in the approaching Battle of Armageddon—has had an immense appeal to people who live under the more totalitarian and tyrannous forms of government. Thus one can readily accept the estimate of the Witnesses themselves that the number of their converts beyond the Iron Cur-

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tain is more than 100,000. One can also believe the complaint of Pravda that in the collective farms and factories of the Soviet Union the Witnesses are resisting the coercive influences of communism and its propaganda with quite as much stubbornness as their brethren in the United States have shown in refusing military service and perfunctory homage to the flag. z


A Wilmington, Delaware, paper editorialized on the Pravda article and sagely commented:


The super-patriots in this country who consider the Jehovah's Witnesses sect subversive have strange bedfellows. The Russians agree with them. Unlike the super-patriots, however, the Russians don't think the Witnesses are Communist-influenced.


The editorial then repeated the Pravda "charge" that "the Witnesses were trained in German concentration camps for this criminal attempt to destroy the militant spirit of the proletariat." Then, after advancing an opinion as to why our message would find converts in Russia, the article concluded:


In Russia, such a doctrine is no opium of the people. At the very least it is a call to civil disobedience. And its effects on the oppressed could be more explosive than its ministers dream. Pravda, which sees capitalists under every bed, was bound to view the movement as a sinister creation of Wall Street. But if the Wall Street bogey is nonsense, Pravda may not be entirely wrong in seeing this particularistic religion as a potential danger to the unwithering Soviet state. aa

KEEPING FAITH UNDER NONCOMMUNIST DICTATORS

LOIS: It's easy for me to see now why Jehovah's witnesses have kept growing in numbers and why nothing has stopped them. And I can imagine why men like Hitler really feared them, even though they knew the Witnesses wouldn't harm them personally. You gave us examples of that in the concentration camps, didn't you?

JOHN: Yes. The same conditions have existed in many countries, even some that are not Communist. Although Greece is not under Communist rule, persecution of the brothers there has been intense. The clergy accused Jehovah's witnesses of being Communists, anarchists, unpatriotic, traitors refusing to take up arms in defense of the country, and urged the people not only to avoid them but to drive them out of their homes as pests when the Witnesses would visit them with the message of the Kingdom.


Here in Greece the law of dictatorship under which we live forbids us to have any kind of meeting in public halls without permission of the Office of Religions, which it never intends to give us. So our meetings are held in private homes, where many times the organs of order break into and drag the brothers and sisters to the police station and thence to the court under the accusation of proselytism. Often brethren are arrested in the streets for either having in their pockets The Watchtower or for being heard to mention the name of Jehovah.

The climax of persecution was reached when two brethren were killed by beatings because they refused to make the sign of the cross and to kiss the images. bb


Here too, though, some of the officials knew who the real troublemakers were. This experience from the Greek Branch servant will illustrate it:


In an island of southern Greece the brothers suffered cruel persecution by certain clergymen. They were frequently brought to the law courts, now because of studying The Watchtower, then because of having spoken to someone about the truth, and next because of having placed a magazine with somebody. In most of the cases, however, the local court discharged the brothers because none of these charges were founded. It happened on one occasion when this area was visited by the police officer that the priest hastened to meet him and make complaints about the increase in the number of Jehovah's witnesses. The police officer told him: "You priests are responsible for the increase. You ought to go in search of them with the gospel. I also advised you not to have them brought before the law courts and cause

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an uproar every now and then. Those you referred to the court the other day were acquitted and then they went into the central coffee shop of the village and were reading The Watchtower. I tell you again that you are the one responsible. The persecution that you raise causes their increase. No Jehovah's witness was in the village before, but now there are. By so doing you are going to make even the court judges themselves witnesses of Jehovah." cc


So the work was not stopped in Greece. The Dominican Republic is another example. This island "republic" just to the southeast of the United States banned Jehovah's witnesses on June 21, 1950, dd then on August 17, 1956, for reasons known only to itself, the government of the Dominican Republic lifted the ban. During that period active Kingdom ministers increased from 217 to 469. ee But in a little less than a year the police began violent attacks on some of the brothers, particularly the congregation servants, and on July 24, 1957, reimposed the ban. On August 3, 1957, ten American missionaries, some of whom had been in the country since 1945, were deported.

This overt act of the Dominican government gave rise to a petition adopted by 33,091 delegates assembled in convention at Baltimore, Maryland, on August 24, 1957. This petition set forth a statement of the facts concerning what had happened to Dominican witnesses of Jehovah and appealed to Generalissimo Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, dictator of the republic, to dignify his government by revoking the ban on Jehovah's witnesses. ff

The petition was subsequently adopted by many other assemblies and congregations of Jehovah's witnesses around the world. Both the petition and the deportation of the missionaries were given wide publicity by the press of the world.

1957 "LIFE-GIVING WISDOM" DISTRICT ASSEMBLIES

TOM: what was the assembly in Baltimore that adopted the resolution?

JOHN: It was one of the 1957 "Life-giving Wisdom" District Assemblies held around the world. Here is a brief description of them in the Yearbook:


A series of special talks covered the poetic books of the Bible: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and The Song of Solomon. As the series of talks progressed anticipation grew, until finally Volume 3 of the New World Translation of the Hebrew Scriptures was released, to the delight of all present.

A symposium covering the first three chapters of Revelation emphasized pointedly the trust and responsibility Jehovah has given to those serving the brothers as congregation overseers or "stars." The grand climax of the spiritual feast was the timely public talk "Healing of the Nations Has Drawn Near," which was also released in booklet form.

For many of the brothers these assemblies may well mark the beginning of a new life of praise, for the invitation was given to "serve where the need is great." We hope that many of the brothers will find it possible to move to other lands where there is much need for mature brothers, there to find employment and help with the expansion of the Kingdom work. The assemblies in the United States concluded in Baltimore, where 33,091 conventioners endorsed a strong protest to the government of the Dominican Republic for banning the work and brutally treating many of the brothers. An early count showed forty assemblies in fourteen countries were attended by over 375,000 brothers, as 8,070 were immersed in symbol of their dedication to Jehovah. gg

MORE EXPANSION IN KINGDOM FACILITIES

In 1956 the new thirteen-story factory for printing The Watchtower and Awake! was completed. It was certainly a joy to all of Jehovah's witnesses to see this concrete evidence of Jehovah's blessing on the increased circulation of these magazines that made construction of this building neces-

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sary. It was described and pictured in the Awake! of September 22, 1956. The account says:


Excavation for the foundation of this urgently needed new printing plant began June 9, 1955. Since then a solidly constructed building of steel and concrete has been built to hold the large rotary presses that are needed to print the wonderful message of God's kingdom.

The new building contains a total of 192,000 square feet of floor space. This is well over a hundred-percent expansion, being 30,000 square feet larger than the 162,000 square-foot area of the two other buildings put together.

The tremendous increase in Watchtower and Awake! circulation has also made it necessary for more presses to be ordered for immediate installation in this new factory. hh


At the close of the 1958 service year the Society received delivery of two new presses. These brought the total to thirteen large high-speed rotary presses with which to meet the constantly growing demand for Bible literature. ii

But this is not all the expansion that was taking place. A new Branch headquarters building was completed for the Canadian brothers about the same time as the Brooklyn factory and was dedicated on May 25, 1956. jj In this plant the Society now prints all the English Watchtower and Awake! magazines for Canadian distribution. At the same time a new Branch home and printing factory was under construction in London, England. kk By 1959 it was in full operation, furnishing most of the British Commonwealth with the Society's English magazines. On August 31, 1957, a new Branch building with a printing plant was dedicated in Copenhagen, Denmark. ll

Another feature that had been produced was the new hour-length film called "Happiness of the New World Society." It presented outstanding scenes of the 1955 "Triumphant Kingdom" Assemblies and was scheduled for showing at circuit assemblies throughout the world beginning June 15, 1956. mm

As a further evidence of expansion, the Society's radio station WBBR was sold on April 15, 1957. It had served its purpose and the interests of God's kingdom well, but was no longer needed. Back in 1924 when the station began to operate there was only one congregation of approximately two hundred publishers covering all five boroughs of New York city, as well as all Long Island and even parts of New Jersey. This small group had millions of people to serve. But when the station was sold there were sixty-two congregations within New York city limits, with a peak of 7,256 publishers besides 322 pioneers associated.

Yes, New York city was getting a good witness. You will remember too that three different assemblies had been held there, two international conventions, one in 1950 and the other in 1953, and also one district assembly in 1955. All three had convened in Yankee Stadium, New York's largest baseball stadium, and the crowds had so completely filled it in 1953, with an overflow of 49,000 at Trailer City forty miles away, that all of Jehovah's witnesses wondered where another such international assembly could be held after a few more years' growth of the New World society. Then, in The Watchtower, issue of December 15, 1956, this item appeared at the bottom of page 763:


ONLY 19 MONTHS AWAY! Yes, in a little more than a year and a half Jehovah's witnesses plan on holding an international assembly. Where? New York city. When? July 27 to August 3, 1958. Start saving now. Plan to be there!


In faith, Jehovah's witnesses all over the world began to prepare. We'll tell you about it next week.



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