Jehovah’s Witnesses are in a unique position globally. While historically persecuted there has been a recent wave of religious persecution in Russia and European countries allied to them.
This has occurred through both draconian laws and looking the other way when individual actors commit violence and destruction against the organization.
Looking online, you can find a large amount of highly negative comments about the group and their beliefs. But they are believers just like all of us are, who tend to follow the general population in terms of characteristics and personality. Outside of the Kingdom Hall, they are generally very friendly and honest, hard-working people.
The key difference is that everyone is trying to conform to a very strict interpretation of the Bible, which means a lot of people feel conflicted inside, but you would likely never know, as there is a lot of risk for being too honest with your opinion or life choices.
Recently World Religion News sat down with the organization and were able to discuss their international persecution, common misconceptions and the role of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the community.
On the common misperceptions, the church admitted that sometimes they are pushed out of the Christian community in various parts of the world.
‘Well it depends on where we are talking about. Of course, as Jehovah’s Witnesses, first and foremost, we worship the God and the Bible and endeavour to follow Jesus’s example. In that regard certainly we are Christian, but in some parts of the world that is called into question.
Some detractors feel that to be a Christian they need to accept a certain church dogma. Then the question is “well which one is that?” we just follow what Jesus said “you are my disciples if you do what I am commanding you and if you have love amongst yourselves. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we try to do that and we find in time that dispels the idea that in some way shape or form that we are not Christian. That is sometimes a misconception.’
The organization also said that in countries like Russia they have been placed next to the word extremism and that often lands them on the left side of the law.
‘Perhaps some of the more recent things that we have found particularly in places like Russia, you heard the word “extremism”. It seems to be used in such a general sense that anyone with a firm belief in something and it might differ from the majority is being labelled as extremism. And when that is being applied in a legal context it creates a real problem. And it goes hand in hand with the idea with evidence of extremism in the belief that you have the truth, but of course, every religion believes they have the truth or they would have a different religion. And that is even in the choice to not believe to be religious. From the way we look at it, the belief you have the correct view on a subject really isn’t the same as a belief you are superior.
Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t campaign against anyone who disagrees with them. That is an issue, this idea of extremism, being associated with a person’s firm conviction. We do not believe that disagreeing with that someone else believes is a threat compelling someone to believe a certain way is a threat. There have been times in history where the majority did try to prevent a minority from believing a certain idea. They called it heresy or rebellion and now we see the term extremism and so it is nothing new and we are aware it is happening in certain parts of the world. I don’t think these are unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses,’ they said.
And on the question of whether they have been getting a lot of mainstream media attention or not in order to help the misinformed people to know them better the witnesses responded:
‘To an extent, yes. A lot depends on what the event is that is the trigger for the interest. Of course, when things happened in Russia if it is the Supreme Court level or there’s an official ban or liquidation of the organization in Russia that of course initiated a lot of media interest. So that, of course, is positive. The interest that was shown, that’s provided some opportunities…
We hope that as time goes on, the seriousness of the situation can sink in… It is difficult to convey that sometimes because there can be a tendency to view Jehovah’s Witnesses as somehow different and maybe it is because in certain parts of the world they may not be popular because of their view on certain things. So, there can be a tendency to not advocate for their rights and we hope that it will improve beyond the recognition or acknowledgement we’ve seen so far.’
Now, you can also tell us what you think about Jehovah’s Witnesses in the comment section.
Read the full interview here.
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