So, there’s this conversation that has to happen when a major player on the world scene decides your people are extremist, dangerous to the public, & bans you from so much as gathering, let alone preaching.
It’s a conversation I grew up knowing & hearing having been born during the Cold War era. Witnesses were banned under Stalin, and never gained freedom in Russia until 1991. The persecution of people in our faith was pretty wide spread during WWII, all major countries involved in the war imprisoned the Witnesses, including ‘free’ countries such as Canada, The States, & the U.K. In Nazi Germany we were rounded up and told we could renounce our faith, and join the cause or be sent to the concentration camps. We were the only group targeted that had a get-out-of-jail-free card for simply saying we would abandon our faith & support Hitler. No doubt some must have taken the card, but most, chose imprisonment, even in many cases death instead of supporting that vile regime & renouncing Jehovah as God. We did not fight back, but did the tasks & jobs assigned within the camps, earning so much trust that our brothers were assigned as barbers even for the officers because they could be trusted with blades, and so would shave the men who held them. That speaks volumes to the peacefulness of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Nothing has changed.
It is no secret why Russia sees Jehovah’s people as a threat. Patriotism is a powerful tool in the arsenal of all governments. Without the idea that your nation is superior to others, why would you fight for it?
What makes an ideal of a nation great? It’s freedoms? Perhaps. Frankly, I don’t know. Do we need to fight for these freedoms? Absolutely. But what battlefield ever gave anyone freedom? Even in North America, these religious freedoms have many times been attempted to be stripped and it was courts of law where they were won. These freedoms are fragile & anyone who says different did not grow up hearing how quickly they have been lost in various places especially when war is breaking out. Serving the ‘Motherland’ regardless the land, is a dangerous way to pursue peace. Patriotism is an infectious disease which divides & alienates those who somehow did not happen to be born within your borders.
I do not believe that an American wants something different than a Russian, or a Canadian, or a Syrian, or a Korean, or a Venezuelan, or a Congolese. No. I believe all these peoples want the same thing. The choice of how to live their lives in peace, with security & good food & warmth of family & friends. At least in the deep down of them. Many of these peoples have grown up in War & violence, hunger, lost family, many in front of their eyes, damaging them Heart & soul; but if it could have been that those things had never been, the human at the heart, everywhere craves & desires joy & love & peace.
True evil incites the opposite of these basic human feelings of love & joy & peace. It is not easy to keep a feeling of equality in your heart. In all honesty, even hockey can inspire a nationalist attitude, when really, each team is comprised of peoples from several nations & it doesn’t matter what country or city wins really, it should just be fun, and a great way to cheer & have highs, & sometimes humbly get your butt whooped 7-0. But there is for many, this inkling of patriotism in it, no doubt since it opens with the anthems of each country represented. It’s insidious. It’s a thin snaking line of patriotism that can infiltrate & then latch itself to a blood supply of our feeling & thinking & grow if we do not check it, quick & rough.
So, there is this conversation that must be had, where you finally tell your kids that somewhere, just across the upper side of the globe, you’ve been labeled as an extremist organization & it is against the law to meet, to read the Bible together, to sing together. That we have been lumped in with those who would strap bombs to their chests & walk into a group of men, women & children and blow them all into pieces—yes, we, who would go to jail instead of kill our enemies, according to this court, are a ‘harm to the public’ & outlaws.
Freedom is fragile, make no mistake. So use it while you can, enjoy it, fight peaceably for it. Just never take your personal freedoms for granted because it can slip away with the drop of a gavel.