Highlights of the Past Year

AFTER another blessed year of sacred service, we have every reason to rejoice. When we review some of the highlights of the tremendous work our God is doing by means of his servants, we can say without reservation: “You have crowned the year with your goodness”!—Ps. 65:11.

“GOOD NEWS” ON THE INTERNET

As Jehovah’s Witnesses we take seriously our responsibility to ‘preach this good news of the kingdom in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations’ before the end comes. (Matt. 24:14) Over the years innovative technological developments have helped to accelerate the dissemination of “the word of the kingdom.” (Matt. 13:18-23) For the past 11 years, we have been using our official Web site, www.watchtower.org, to present spiritual material to the public in electronic format on the Internet. Visitors to the Web site can learn Bible truth in any of 314 languages and can browse through such headings as “Beliefs and Activities,” “Current Topics,” “God and Your Future,” “Medical Care and Blood,” and “Publications Available.”

Many people who visit www.watchtower.org do so to read the Bible. Each day more than 6,300 consult the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures online in any of ten languages. Favorite Bible books on the Web site are Psalms, Proverbs, and the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life.

Each week selected Watchtower or Awake! articles are added to the Web site in 12 languages—specifically articles that have appeared in print with the public in mind. Many wonder what we believe, how our meetings are conducted, and how our preaching work is financed. Visitors to the Web site have these questions answered by electronically opening the brochure Jehovah’s Witnesses—Who Are They? What Do They Believe? The publication The End of False Religion Is Near! is available on www.watchtower.org in 252 languages, including video segments in five sign languages.

FINDING THE TRUTH ON THE INTERNET

What have been the results of having these publications online? An average of over 60,000 people visit www.watchtower.org every day! Many live where there are relatively few Witnesses or in countries where our work is banned or restricted. Yet, those thirsting for the truth can electronically tap into thirst-quenching waters of truth on our Web site.

“I’ve always liked learning about the Bible,” says Bryon, “but every time I went to church with friends, they only sang songs or played games.” Bryon pursued his education and athletics. He studied five languages and earned a college scholarship, but nothing satisfied him spiritually. So he prayed to find the truth.

“I was desperate for answers,” Bryon relates. “I decided to look up Jehovah’s Witnesses on the Internet because some Witness friends in school had told me that God’s name is Jehovah. I logged onto the organization’s Web site and began reading the brochure What Does God Require of Us? Finally, I had answers to my questions.” Bryon requested a Bible study, made rapid progress, and dedicated his life to Jehovah in 2004. He now serves as a regular pioneer and hopes to use his language skills as a Bible-trained missionary.

“GOD IS WITH YOU PEOPLE”

How thrilling it is to know that thousands of people “out of all the languages of the nations” visit the Web site www.watchtower.org every day! An average of 94 persons a day submit the online form Would You Welcome a Visit?—Zech. 8:23.

Denise was one who had questions about the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but she hesitated to go into the local Kingdom Hall. Instead, she decided to search the Internet and found www.watchtower.org. The information there convinced Denise that she had found the truth, but she was reluctant to request a Bible study because she knew that she would need to make changes in her life to conform to Bible standards. Four times she filled out the electronic form Would You Welcome a Visit? but each time she lacked the courage to click the Submit button.

In March 2007, Denise filled out the form for a fifth time. This time she clicked the Submit button requesting a personal visit. Her request was referred to the local congregation, and the elders asked a sister, Vonnie, to call on Denise. Within the first week of Vonnie’s visit, Denise began attending meetings at the Kingdom Hall.

By the end of the summer, Denise had destroyed her religious paraphernalia, resigned from her former religion, and qualified to become an unbaptized publisher. Both she and her two sons made rapid progress, and her eight-year-old son enrolled in the Theocratic Ministry School. In January 2008, Denise was baptized, and two months later—exactly one year after filling out the online form—she qualified to serve as an auxiliary pioneer. “Without the Web site,” says Denise, “I would not be relating this experience.”

In January 2008, a new service was made available on the Web site www.jw.org—audio versions of certain publications that can be downloaded in 17 languages. Interest in this provision has been overwhelming, and over a million publications and individual articles are being downloaded every month! Many publishers listen to the magazine articles as they travel to work or school.

TRANSLATIONS THAT FILL A NEED

What a delight it is to have angelic support as we urge people of “every nation and tribe and tongue” to give God glory! (Rev. 14:6, 7) To help people respond more readily to the Bible’s message in a language that they truly understand, Jehovah’s Witnesses now produce literature in some 450 languages.

The book What Does the Bible Really Teach? was recently released in Tetum, the local language of East Timor, but there were not sufficient copies available. Maria, a new student who had been using the Indonesian Bible Teach book, did not have one in Tetum. She begged her Bible teacher to lend her the Tetum book for two days. In the days that followed, she enthusiastically repeated all the things she had learned. Now, in her mother tongue, she understood many truths more clearly than she had grasped in her study of the Indonesian book. Her teacher did not have the heart to ask her to return the Tetum book. Maria continues to study and attend the meetings.

English and Swahili are languages commonly used in Kenya in government and trade. However, millions of Kenyans are more comfortable speaking Kikuyu, Kikamba, Luo, and other local tongues. Hence, producing literature in these local languages has done much to stimulate interest in Jehovah’s worship. After the Siaya Congregation began using literature and conducting meetings in the Luo language, the elders wrote: “The brothers can now understand better what is being taught. Children are more attentive. Since we started giving talks based on Luo outlines, our meeting attendance has increased by 60 percent.”

In Nicaragua, many speak the Miskito language rather than Spanish, and over 200 attended the Miskito district convention. Some made great sacrifices to attend. For example, 13 brothers from the small town of Asang, on the Coco River, built a log raft and floated down the river for two days to the town of Waspam. Then they got a ride on the back of a truck for five hours to the convention city. It was the first district convention that the majority in this group had attended. They loved hearing the program in their own language. Since they had spent all their money on getting to the convention city, other delegates contributed so that the brothers would have the funds needed for their trip home.

The Miskito audience at that convention was delighted when the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? was released in their language. The pioneers, in particular, were very grateful. Until then, they had to use the Spanish Bible Teach book with their Bible students and translate the paragraphs and questions into Miskito. Now they can concentrate on teaching Bible truths instead of thinking about how to translate.

Quechua is an Amerindian language spoken in South America. Some Quechua publishers in Peru wrote: “When we conclude our presentation, we tell the householder that we have publications in Quechua. Some have been so moved to have literature in their own language that they have cried and kissed the publications.” The branch office in Peru wrote: “Some brothers who live where Quechua is spoken have made great efforts to express their appreciation. After reading What Does the Bible Really Teach? in Quechua, one brother said that he finally understands the meaning and value of Christ’s ransom. Readers have sent the branch potatoes, pies, cases of fruit, and other items to express their appreciation.”

The organization is also making a concerted effort to translate literature into languages spoken on remote islands of the Pacific. “I thank Jehovah that he has remembered us,” said one sister to a missionary on the Micronesian island of Pohnpei. “Before this we would receive The Watchtower in Ponapean some months after the English.” Good-naturedly, she added: “We thought that maybe Armageddon would also come late for us. But now we study the magazine at the same time as the rest of the world, and it looks just as beautiful as the English magazine. We are very thankful that the Governing Body is caring for us.”

The brothers and sisters on the Marshall Islands in the northern Pacific were delighted with the new public edition of The Watchtower in Marshallese. These brothers love reading life stories, but previous editions of The Watchtower did not have space for life stories, so someone had to translate such accounts from the English magazine. How happy they were, therefore, when the first life story appeared in the local-language public edition. A 16-year-old reader said: “For years I would look through the English magazine and see the pictures in the life stories and wish that I could read the article. Now, I can.”

Having even one publication in a language can change people’s lives. In a Central Asian land where our work is restricted, the brochure What Does God Require of Us? has been given wide distribution. A young man obtained this brochure, read it on his own, and was so moved that he went to a nearby river and “baptized” himself. When he learned that he needed to have a Bible study, he readily complied and was soon baptized properly. He now spends much of his time sharing the good news with others.

PROGRESS IN BIBLE TRANSLATION

Jehovah’s Witnesses treasure God’s Word, the Bible, and highly value an accurate, clear translation. For this reason, God’s people now rejoice to have the New World Translation, in whole or in part, in over 70 languages. While the initial release of the Bible is thrilling, the use of it daily in personal study, at congregation meetings, and in the field ministry is what truly moves people’s hearts and shapes their thinking.

The branch office in Russia has been receiving many letters of appreciation for the complete Russian edition of the New World Translation. “Although I have read the Bible many times,” wrote one woman, “reading this translation is like reading the Bible for the first time! Sometimes my eyes fill with tears and a shiver of excitement runs down my spine as the Bible’s message touches my heart.”

The clarity of the translation caused another reader to say: “After reading Genesis chapter 18 today, I am moved to write you this letter. Abraham’s conversation with Jehovah, recorded in verses 23-32, touched me deeply. Although I am reading the Bible for the fifth time, this was the first time I had really thought about this conversation. I felt for Abraham and “listened” carefully to Jehovah and him. Jehovah’s attentiveness brought tears to my eyes. This translation made the situation come alive. I not only saw Jehovah’s qualities but also felt them personally.”

“Thank you for the complete New World Translation!” wrote Svetlana from Moscow. “At last we are no longer confused and lost in the ‘Old Testament’ because of having an old and incomprehensible translation! It is so simple!”

Another reader wrote: “At work I was speaking to my employee, Irina, about the truth. At first, I was just quoting scriptures. But when I opened my Bible to show her Jesus’ model prayer, she asked, ‘Is this the Our Father prayer?’ Upon reading Jesus’ words, her eyes sparkled with joy as she exclaimed: ‘How wonderful! It is stated so plainly! I have often heard this prayer but have never understood it. Here it is so clear and simple! I want a Bible like this. Get me one! Find me a Bible like this!’ I said, ‘We give a Bible only to people who have a genuine desire to read it.’ She responded seriously: ‘I never wanted to read the Bible before. Although I have had several Bibles in the past, I gave them all away, but now I genuinely want to read it!’”

A brother wrote about the Ukrainian New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures: “I wanted to express my gratitude for this wonderful gift from Jehovah and his organization. I am enjoying every page, and I carry this Bible with me everywhere. The language is simple and understandable. The words reach my heart and I can easily grasp the depth of the Bible teachings.”

The Serbian and Croatian editions have likewise been well received. “It is very easy to read,” wrote a Croatian sister, “and far easier to understand than the Bible we have been using for years. Scriptural counsel reaches my heart more easily, and I feel that I am getting to know Jehovah more than ever before.”

On November 2, 2007, Brother Geoffrey Jackson of the Governing Body released the Samoan edition of The New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures. Copies of the traditional Samoan Bible are rare and expensive, so brothers are very happy that Bibles are now readily available. After using the Bible for some months, one publisher stated, “The old Bible seems to bury thoughts, whereas the new Bible uncovers thoughts, making them clearer.”

One sister tells of a Bible study in which James 4:8 was cited in the study publication. “I suggested to the householder that although we know this scripture,” relates the conductor, “we should read it in the New World Translation. At first we thought we were reading the wrong scripture until we checked that we had the correct verse. The sister who accompanied me on the study said in a shocked voice, ‘The verse has changed.’ We could now clearly understand that ‘drawing close’ means we need to have a close relationship with Jehovah, a point that was not expressed in the traditional Bible. It really touched our hearts and made us want to build a close relationship with Jehovah.”

Some time after the release of the Chinese New World Translation, missionaries serving in Taiwan wrote: “We were able to present the New World Translation to a lawyer who likes reading our magazines regularly. He wanted to know why there was a need for a new translation. After we showed him just a few texts, he was very impressed and mentioned that this new translation is much easier to grasp than the Union Version Bible, which he had been reading.” They also presented the Bible to a member of Parliament, who left it in her office. A radio anchor who had been critical of Jehovah’s Witnesses saw the translation in her office, picked it up, and read a portion of it. He was so impressed that he telephoned the missionaries to request a copy of this translation for himself.

A Kirghiz sister who struggles with reading because of eye problems used to think Bible reading was a chore. However, having the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures in Kirghiz changed her mind. She now gets great satisfaction from her Bible reading because of the uncomplicated, clear translation.

“It is an excellent translation!” said another sister. “I do not stumble when I read it aloud. I want to read it over and over. It feels like I am learning the truth again.”

“I love the Gospel of Matthew in American Sign Language (ASL),” wrote a hearing-impaired sister to the Governing Body. “The Bible is alive and touches my heart now. I can see Jesus’ personality, facial expressions, kindness, and deep love for people. I love my ASL Matthew. But . . . can you speed up making the other ASL Bible books?”

Without a doubt, a properly translated Bible can lift the veil that obscures the meaning of God’s Word, letting the light of the true message shine through onto the heart of the reader. For this reason, those who yearn to draw close to their heavenly Father rejoice when the New World Translation becomes available in their mother tongue—the language that speaks to their heart.

MORE WORKERS SENT INTO THE HARVEST

As a result of the simplification of branch operations, a number of United States Bethel family members have been invited to serve in other assignments. While some have been sent to foreign branches, several hundred have been assigned as special and regular pioneers throughout the country. How did they feel when they were reassigned? How have they coped with the challenges of a new assignment? How have the congregations benefited?

“For many years,” remember Todd and Leslie, “we had begged ‘the Master of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.’ We just didn’t realize that we would be part of the answer! Now we can see that Jehovah’s hand is directing matters, and we feel it is a privilege that Christ has ‘considered us faithful by assigning us to a ministry.’”—Matt. 9:37, 38; 1 Tim. 1:12.

Looking back at the first few months he and his wife spent in their new assignment, Franco recalls: “Little did my wife and I imagine how much of a need still existed in the United States. When we got to our assignment, we found a seemingly endless demand for Bible studies.” Expressing what many of these pioneers feel, Curtis and Karolynne said: “We are more than happy to take our places in the field! It is our opportunity to show Jehovah that we really meant it when we disowned ourselves and gave our lives to him by making our dedication.”

TRUSTING “THE MASTER OF THE HARVEST”

Naturally, being assigned to the field after years in Bethel created some concern. “Will we find affordable housing?” asked one couple, “and how will we make the transition from being a publisher to spending 120 or 130 hours a month in field service and be encouraging to the congregation?” How did they and others cope with their new circumstances?

Some found affordable housing on the last day they could search for accommodations in their new assignment. For example, a single sister, Jessica, visited her assignment and spent two futile weeks looking for housing. The day before she was to return to Bethel to pack her things, she was overjoyed when a local elder offered her a small house that she could rent for a modest amount.

Jeff and Cynthia mentioned to an apartment leasing manager that they were Jehovah’s Witnesses. “I know Jehovah’s Witnesses,” the manager exclaimed, “and I know I don’t have to worry about you. Jehovah guarantees your rent!”

“Experiences like ours remind us of the need always to rely on Jehovah,” said Eric and Melonie. “We see evidence of Jehovah’s working in our behalf every day. This has truly strengthened our faith.”

SUPPORTIVE CONGREGATIONS

The loving response of the congregations has greatly helped these pioneers to adjust to their new assignments. A circuit overseer reports that many congregations speak affectionately about “our special pioneers.” He adds, “The circuit as a whole opened their arms and hearts to them.” One local brother wrote appreciatively: “I would like to say, ‘Thank you,’ to the branch. What a blessing these pioneers are to us all!”

One congregation in Kansas had 100 territories that had not been worked for many months. Now, with the help of a special pioneer couple, most of the territory is being worked regularly. “We simply could never have imagined,” wrote the elders, “how beneficial this arrangement would be.”

While the congregations have been “a strengthening aid” to the pioneers, the local publishers themselves have benefited. (Col. 4:11) One circuit overseer reports, “The zeal and enthusiasm of the pioneers has really encouraged and stirred up our brothers and sisters.” Another traveling overseer wrote, “What is most noticeable about the special pioneers is their love and joy, which has rubbed off on others.”

One couple enjoyed helping ten inactive publishers to be reactivated. Also, the brothers who serve as elders are having a positive impact. “It is a relief to have such a balanced and trained brother in the congregation,” wrote an elder. “It is just what the congregation and the body of elders needed.”

“GOD’S FELLOW WORKERS”

Jehovah has blessed Kingdom preachers with many joyful experiences. Steve and Gaye, for example, went out in door-to-door activity one cold, wintry day. At their first door, they started a Bible study with a depressed elderly man. Within two weeks he attended a meeting at the Kingdom Hall, where they happened to mention how kind he had been to invite them in on their first visit. “I did not invite you in because I was nice,” he replied. “I invited you in because I knew you were coming. I had been praying for help for three days.” He is now attending the meetings regularly and is progressing toward baptism.

When Ray and Jill were driving along one morning, they saw a man walking on the other side of the road and decided to talk to him. They presented literature and offered the man a Bible study. He took magazines and explained that he used to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. He had recently moved into the area and gladly accepted their offer to resume his Bible study.

All who continue to make sacrifices in Jehovah’s service know that ‘God is not unrighteous so as to forget their work and the love they showed for his name.’ (Heb. 6:10) Just as the human body has many parts that each supply what is needed, every member of the congregation can contribute something to its spiritual growth and beauty. “God has set the members in the [congregation], each one of them, just as he pleased,” and the cooperative effort of each member makes “all the other members rejoice.” (1 Cor. 12:18, 26) This harmonious cooperation among “God’s fellow workers” brings glory to Jehovah, who has “kept making it grow.”—1 Cor. 3:6, 9.

LEGALLY ESTABLISHING THE GOOD NEWS

Jesus told his apostles: “You will be objects of hatred by all people on account of my name.” (Matt. 10:22) True disciples could expect opposers ‘lyingly to say every sort of wicked thing against them for his sake.’ (Matt. 5:11) How have Christ’s modern-day disciples worked to ‘legally establish the good news’?—Phil. 1:7.

Armenia

Between April 2007 and April 2008, customs officials in Armenia would not release the more than seven tons of Bibles and Bible literature being held unless exorbitant taxes were paid. Eventually, in April 2008, the first shipment of literature was released to the brothers after the taxes were paid under protest, while other shipments continue to be held. The brothers are taking legal steps to resolve this issue.

Kazakhstan

Two visiting brothers from the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who had come to provide spiritual refreshment to fellow worshippers in Kazakhstan, were arrested following a special meeting in Almaty. They were detained at the police station, interrogated, and then brought before an administrative court judge, who found them guilty of “missionary activity.” Although they were later released, efforts are under way to overturn the two brothers’ convictions. More recently, authorities have been raiding our brothers’ homes to disrupt gatherings for prayer and Bible study. Courts have suspended the religious activities of three legally registered congregations, and law-enforcement agencies have repeatedly disrupted theocratic activities in a region north of the Caspian Sea.

Tajikistan

The Religious Community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Tajikistan was legally registered in 1994, allowing them to meet together for worship. However, on October 11, 2007, the ministry of culture issued a decision banning the worship of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The brothers are making an effort to prove to the authorities that Jehovah’s Witnesses are peace-loving people who pose no threat to public order.

Uzbekistan

The situation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Uzbekistan continues to deteriorate. Early in 2008, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses was sentenced to four years in a labor colony for practicing his faith. Others have been arrested, detained, convicted, and fined for violating legislation on religious organizations and regulations on teaching religious beliefs. Meetings have been raided, private homes searched, literature confiscated, and publishers detained. Many of our brothers and sisters have been abused verbally and physically by police officers.

A number of officials from this region have revealed that the local clergy are responsible for fomenting these dastardly acts. We continue to pray that the authorities will soon see how inappropriate their actions are and will allow our brothers and sisters to “go on leading a calm and quiet life with full godly devotion and seriousness.”—1 Tim. 2:1, 2.

Greece

Two favorable high-court decisions were rendered in Greece in connection with the right of individuals to be recognized as conscientious objectors based on their religious convictions. Konstantinos Kotidis had served in the armed forces of the Soviet Union some years before moving to Greece and becoming one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. When the authorities called Brother Kotidis up for military service, they refused to allow him to perform alternative civilian service. They asserted that because he had already served in the military, he had no basis to claim he was a conscientious objector. The Council of State, however, ruled that an individual who had performed military service and whose religious conscience later changed could thereafter be acknowledged as a conscientious objector and could be permitted to perform alternative civilian service.

In another case, Stylianos Ioannidis was denied employment in a public institution because he had been imprisoned as a conscientious objector and therefore had not completed his military obligations. The Council of State, though, ruled that when conscientious objectors have served their prison sentence, they have grounds for exemption from military service. The court also stated that their military status will also have been permanently settled and therefore be no hindrance to appointment in public service. This is the first time that the Council of State ruled on exactly the same grounds of freedom of religion as the European Court of Human Rights did in another case where one of Jehovah’s Witnesses was denied employment because he had been convicted as a conscientious objector.

Eritrea

Our brothers and sisters in Eritrea continue to face harsh and unjust treatment. The authorities are holding a number of Jehovah’s Witnesses in prison camps, some under extremely bad conditions. In July 2008, there were six new arrests of brothers, including some elders responsible for taking the lead in this country. Despite much effort and international appeals for relief, the government remains determined to oppose the worship of the true God, Jehovah.

South Korea

Progress is being made in South Korea, where the government has refused to recognize the basic human right of conscientious objection to military service. More than 13,000 of our brothers have served prison sentences over the past 50 years, and approximately 500 are currently incarcerated. Their resolve and Christian conduct have given an excellent witness to prison and government authorities, pleasing our God Jehovah. (1 Pet. 2:20) To date, 488 applications have been filed with the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations, which ruled favorably on two applications in 2006. In the meantime, our brothers hope that the government will follow through with its intention to enact a law that provides for acceptable alternative civilian service.

Rwanda

All teachers in Rwanda were required to attend a seminar in April 2008, including many who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. No exceptions were made for any who did not want to participate in activities that violated their Bible-trained conscience. As a result, some 215 Witnesses who refused to attend were discharged from their employment, and two sisters were imprisoned for several weeks. The seminar included political and military matters, and those who attended were ordered to participate in political activities and nationalistic ceremonies. Any who attempted to leave the seminar were prevented from doing so by the military. Since then, 90 children of Jehovah’s Witnesses have been expelled from school for refusing to sing the national anthem or salute the flag. We are confident that Jehovah will strengthen our brothers and sisters and their children to keep their integrity in the face of this recent wave of persecution.

Spain

The government in Spain approved a royal decree involving Jehovah’s Witnesses who are in special full-time service, such as members of the Bethel family and traveling overseers. The official notification recognized special full-time servants as “ordained ministers . . . who dedicate themselves exclusively to missionary or pastoral activity, to religious education or, additionally, to other necessary activities that serve to support the objectives of the religious confession.” This decree comes at a time when authorities in some lands question whether special full-time servants of Jehovah’s Witnesses are truly ministers entitled to benefits granted to ministers of other religious groups.

EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS

Jehovah’s Witnesses in Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, France, Georgia, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine have a total of 24 applications pending before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, France. The applications relate to basic human rights of citizens living under the jurisdiction of the European Convention on Human Rights, such as the right to refuse military service because of personal conscientious objection. Other applications involve persecution and discrimination on the basis of religion, deregistration or banning of a legal entity used by Jehovah’s Witnesses to organize the work, governmental interference in the right to assemble peacefully to worship, and a Witness parent’s right to raise her child as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Austria

A positive judgment was rendered by the ECHR on July 31, 2008, in the matter of Jehovah’s Witnesses v. Austria. The court held that Austria’s religious law violates Jehovah’s Witnesses’ right to freedom of worship by adhering to a two-tier system, creating a class of inferior religions and, consequently, a class of inferior citizens. This ruling comes after 30 years of effort by our brothers to obtain the status of a recognized religious society in Austria. The court ruled: “[A lengthy waiting period] hardly appears justified in respect of religious groups with a long-standing existence internationally that are also long established in the country and therefore familiar to the competent authorities, as is the case with the Jehovah’s Witnesses.” The Austrian government is now required to adjust the present legal situation, which could allow our brothers to enjoy the same rights as major religious groups in Austria.

Azerbaijan

In November 2007 an application was filed with the ECHR alleging violation by the police of our right to freedom of worship. Even though Jehovah’s Witnesses are legally registered in Azerbaijan, there has been a disturbing increase in arrests and mistreatment of our brothers. Large groups of armed policemen have raided peaceful meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, confiscating literature and private property, arresting and detaining those in attendance, and verbally abusing and physically assaulting brothers and sisters. Because the police raids have continued, the court has acknowledged the urgency of the situation and has expedited its review of the matter. We are hopeful that our brothers will soon be allowed to gather peacefully without fear of police interference.

France

In February 2005 an application was filed with the ECHR regarding the French government’s unjust and illegal taxation against the Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses in France. We are still waiting to see whether the court will agree to consider the case. In the meantime, opposers have fomented such mischaracterization of our beliefs that some 70 incidents of vandalism to Kingdom Halls have occurred during the past year. Nevertheless, the brothers in France remain hopeful that the court will soon decide that the government has acted in a discriminatory manner, thus providing relief for Jehovah’s Witnesses in this country.

Russia

In December 2001, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia filed an application with the ECHR complaining of repeated criminal and civil prosecutions against the religious community of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In June 2004, the Moscow City Court upheld the decision of a lower court to ban the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow and to liquidate their legal entity. For the most part, the brothers in Moscow are still able to gather together for worship and share in preaching the good news of the Kingdom. However, in Moscow and elsewhere in Russia, there have been numerous incidents of official interference with meetings and assemblies, as well as other acts of mistreatment against our brothers and sisters. For example, in July, in the town of Chekhov, some 40 miles [60 km] south of Moscow, arsonists destroyed a Kingdom Hall. Although the fire station was called immediately, eyewitnesses report that firefighters did little to control the fire, and police have thus far refused to begin an investigation. Despite the hardships and opposition, our brothers and sisters in Russia remain faithful and look to Jehovah for support.

Jehovah promises that no weapon formed against his servants will succeed. (Isa. 54:17) Even the most adverse circumstances can result in “the advancement of the good news.” God’s servants are resolved, therefore, to continue “standing firm in one spirit, with one soul striving side by side for the faith of the good news, and in no respect being frightened by [their] opponents.” (Phil. 1:12, 16, 18, 27, 28) Please “carry on prayer” for our brothers and sisters throughout the earth as they put their trust in Jehovah, their “stronghold and the Provider of escape.”—2 Thess. 3:1; Ps. 18:2.

BRANCH DEDICATIONS

There was much rejoicing at the South Africa branch on Saturday, November 10, 2007, when about 4,000 brothers and sisters assembled for the dedication of an enlarged printery, dining room, and residence.

Visitors to the extended printery were thrilled to see the MAN Roland Lithoman printing press turning out Bibles and pieces of Bible literature by the tens of thousands. The new bookbindery has already produced over a million copies of the New World Translation in 16 African languages. Guests were shown the enlarged shipping facilities, where the branch stores Bible literature used by almost 8,000 congregations in ten countries in southern Africa.

On June 7, 2008, an extension of the branch facilities in Nigeria was dedicated in Lagos, 220 miles [360 km] southwest of the Bethel complex in Igieduma. The Lagos office consists of a 24-room residence, a warehouse, and an office building. Many branch matters are handled in Lagos, the country’s economic capital. The new facilities provide accommodations for Bethelites who collect consignments at the port and purchase supplies for the branch, as well as for others arriving and departing from the airport. The Lagos office also serves as a temporary location for the Ministerial Training School until construction on the branch expansion at Igieduma is completed. Truly, Jehovah’s blessing is evident on the preaching work in Africa, as it is earth wide.

EQUIPPED TO DO GOD’S WILL

How thankful we are to Jehovah that he has equipped us “with every good thing to do his will, performing in us through Jesus Christ that which is well-pleasing in his sight.” (Heb. 13:21) Because Jehovah has proved that he is the one who can “do more than superabundantly beyond all the things we ask or conceive,” we wholeheartedly proclaim: “To him be the glory by means of the congregation and by means of Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.”—Eph. 3:20, 21.

[Box on page 25]

Registering a Religion—Why and How?

  The registration of a religion varies from country to country. Some countries, such as Armenia and Azerbaijan, have specific laws that allow a religious association to apply for legal registration and recognition. If the application is granted, the religious association will be recognized as an official religion in that country. In other countries, there are two classes of registration. The first class is reserved for mainstream religions. This classification brings many advantages, including tax exemptions. The second class is usually reserved for smaller, newer, and nontraditional religious groups.

  Other countries, such as Georgia and the United States of America, have no specific legislation for the registration of religions. In such cases, the constitution provides freedom of religion for all. While there is no formal recognition of individual religious groups, a group can apply to register a legal entity. If successful, the group can then use that legal entity to carry out their activities, which may include printing and publishing as well as owning property.

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AUSTRIA

FRANCE

SPAIN

GREECE

ERITREA

RWANDA

ARMENIA

AZERBAIJAN

RUSSIA

KAZAKHSTAN

UZBEKISTAN

TAJIKISTAN

SOUTH KOREA

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The Luo-speaking Siaya Congregation

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In whole or in part, the “New World Translation” is available in over 70 languages

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Konstantinos Kotidis

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Stylianos Ioannidis

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New residence in Lagos, Nigeria

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Printery, South Africa branch