Highlights of the Past Year
DESPITE distressing world conditions, Jehovah’s Witnesses have enjoyed another productive year in their sacred service. With God’s blessing, the truth of the good news “is bearing fruit and increasing in all the world.” (Col. 1:5, 6) We are sure that you will find this year’s report both encouraging and faith-strengthening.
NEW ARRANGEMENT FOR AUXILIARY PIONEERING
There was great excitement when auxiliary pioneers were given the option of working toward a 30-hour or a 50-hour requirement for the month of April. Many who could not ordinarily share in this feature of service eagerly embraced the opportunity to do so. Thousands of publishers joined the ranks of the auxiliary pioneers for the first time, and many who had pioneered in the past were delighted to do so again. Additionally, many publishers who were not able to auxiliary pioneer made an effort to increase their preaching activity. What was the result?
Most branches reported increases that far exceeded previous peaks. Worldwide, 2,657,377 publishers shared in the auxiliary pioneer work—about five times more than the peak for the preceding year! Eighty percent of the worldwide Bethel family—16,292 out of 20,290 brothers and sisters—shared in this privilege of service. Is it not thrilling to know that Jehovah’s servants did more in the preaching work in April than they had done in any other month in history?
Just over a year after the devastating earthquake that claimed the lives of some 300,000 persons, Haiti reported new all-time peaks in the preaching activity in April. Of the 17,009 publishers there, 6,185 served as auxiliary pioneers. A special campaign to distribute the brochure When Someone You Love Dies, recently released in Haitian Creole, provided the grieving population with much-needed comfort and hope.
Our brothers and sisters in Nigeria faced a unique challenge during April. On four days set aside for an election (three of which were Saturdays), the government restricted people from moving about between 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. except for electoral purposes. However, the pioneer spirit was not dampened. “We are writing you with great joy and hearts filled with appreciation for the wonderful time we have had this month,” wrote one congregation. In another congregation, 92 out of 127 baptized publishers enrolled as auxiliary pioneers, including all the elders and ministerial servants. At Bethel, 555 out of the family of 688 enrolled as auxiliary pioneers.
They Met the Challenge. Jeannette, who lives in the mountains of rural Burundi, has always had the desire to pioneer, but she suffers from a chronic heart condition that prevents her from walking far or climbing steep hills. Jeannette rejoiced when she heard that the hour requirement for auxiliary pioneers in April was reduced. To help her carry out her desire to pioneer, the elders arranged for her to preach in territory close to her house. In addition, pioneers and publishers brought their Bible students to her home for their Bible studies. By the end of the month, Jeannette was delighted to have started four Bible studies. “I would love to pioneer again,” she says, “and I am confident that Jehovah will help me.”
On the island of Grenada, a young deaf sister pioneered despite having a disability that makes it difficult for her to walk. “It was a real challenge to walk long distances to get to the bus to go in field service,” she said. In addition, this sister was unemployed, and she prayed fervently for Jehovah’s help. In harmony with her prayers, she supported herself financially by selling crocheted articles and handmade jewelry. “I had a full share in the preaching work,” she said afterward, “and I felt the support and encouragement of the brothers. That made me truly happy!”
Toshi, a 101-year-old sister in Japan, eagerly enrolled as an auxiliary pioneer in April. Being unable to leave the facility where she lives, she preaches by writing letters and by witnessing to helpers who come to her room. “Because I am hard of hearing,” explains Toshi, “I talk in a very loud voice. As a result, other people in the vicinity can also hear me.”
Felix, a quadriplegic in Costa Rica, decided to auxiliary pioneer. How, though, could he do so? A literature table was set up outside his home so that he could witness to passersby. By the end of the month, Felix was physically tired, but he felt spiritually refreshed and elated to have started four Bible studies.
Many young publishers were also eager to be included in the special activity in April. For example, in Spain, 11-year-old Sandra and her 7-year-old brother, Alejandro, wanted to increase their preaching activity. Motivated by the zealous spirit of their congregation and their parents’ enthusiastic example, Sandra and Alejandro wished that they could serve as auxiliary pioneers. How could they do so, though, when they were not baptized? Both children drew up a schedule to spend as much time in field service as their parents and then prepared for the ministry by rehearsing presentations on their Family Worship evening. Their parents thought that as the month progressed, the children might tire out. But the two young publishers never wavered for a moment. By April 30, all in the family had reached their personal goal of 30 hours except for young Alejandro, who still needed three hours. So on the last day, out he went with his father in order to reach his goal for the month. How happy they were to have had a busy and satisfying time as a united family!
“I prayed daily,” relates Jean, “that my husband, Philip, and I would be able to preach for 30 hours.” However, Philip, who had served as a district overseer until he was incapacitated by a cerebral aneurysm, lay immobile in a hospital bed in Spain, unable even to speak. His only means of communication was with his eyes, blinking once for yes and twice for no.
“When I told him about the auxiliary pioneering,” continues Jean, “he indicated that he too would like to auxiliary pioneer.” But how could he accomplish his goal?
During the previous months, Jean and Philip had preached to patients, visiting family members, and hospital personnel. “In April we planned to preach right there in our hospital ward for about one hour a day while Philip was awake and could share in the discussion by blinking.”
In March, though, Philip was transferred to an isolation ward. Nevertheless, he and Jean were still able to keep to their schedule, conversing with hospital staff members for several minutes at various times during the day. One of the nurses who accepted the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? looked Philip in the eye and promised to come the next day to read scriptures. When the nurse returned, Jean invited her to read John 17:3 and asked her to explain what she thought it meant. As they continued, using this method, Philip would indicate by blinking his eyes whether the nurse was correct or not. Even when the nurse was not on duty in Philip’s ward, she came to assure him that she was asking Jehovah to help her draw close to Him.
Jehovah’s servants view this increased activity as a way to demonstrate their love for their neighbor, their gratitude for Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, and their devotion to their heavenly Father. They eagerly look forward to March 2012, when they will again have the option of working toward a 30-hour or a 50-hour requirement for the month.
SCHOOLS THAT TEACH JEHOVAH’S WAYS
Jehovah’s organization has taken very seriously the prophecy recorded at Isaiah 2:3: “Let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will instruct us about his ways.” For example, while World War II was still raging, the faithful and discreet slave class realized that people from all nations still needed to be taught by Jehovah before the end of Satan’s system of things. Hence, arrangements were made to organize such schools as the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead and the Theocratic Ministry School. More recently, the Governing Body has made further adjustments to the various schools that provide specialized training.
In October 2010, the Ministerial Training School was renamed the Bible School for Single Brothers. Single brothers who serve as elders or ministerial servants will continue to be enrolled in this two-month school. Thus far, 37,445 have benefited from this curriculum worldwide, with many serving as pioneers, traveling overseers, missionaries, and Bethelites.
The new two-month Bible School for Christian Couples began in July 2011 and is initially being held at Patterson, New York. English-speaking couples are eligible to enroll if they are between the ages of 25 and 50, in good health, married for at least two years, and in full-time service for at least the last two consecutive years and if the husband is serving as either an elder or a ministerial servant for two consecutive years. Starting in 2012, classes of the Bible School for Christian Couples will be conducted at locations currently used for the Bible School for Single Brothers.
The Bible School for Christian Couples is designed to give specialized training to married couples so that they may be used more fully by Jehovah and his organization. Most graduates will serve as regular pioneers where the need is greater in their home country. However, a number will be assigned as temporary special pioneers and some will even be trained for the circuit work. A few may receive an assignment in another country if they are qualified and available.
Those who apply for this school should be spiritually mature individuals who have a self-sacrificing spirit. The same instructors who teach the Bible School for Single Brothers will teach this new school, basically following the same curriculum. A few units will be conducted with the brothers only while their wives go in field service. Further details and requirements for those interested in applying will be provided at meetings to be held at district conventions.
The Governing Body has outlined adjustments to the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. Starting with the 132nd class, which began on October 24, 2011, training will be given only to couples who are already in special full-time service, such as field missionaries who have not yet attended Gilead, special pioneers, traveling overseers, and Bethelites. If a couple speak and write English fluently, their Branch Committee may recommend that they attend.
Gilead graduates will be given assignments that will strengthen and stabilize the field and branch organization, whether as field missionaries, traveling overseers, or Bethelites. Those assigned to serve in the field will be used in densely populated areas where they can have the most profound effect on the preaching activity and on congregation activities. Branch Committees may continue requesting Gilead graduates if there is a particular need in their territory. They may also recommend well-qualified special full-time servants from their own branch territory to attend Gilead School. In some cases, Branch Committees may request that the graduates return to that country after they graduate.
The School for Branch Committee Members and Their Wives will be held twice a year in English at Patterson. In a few instances, Country Committee members will also be invited. Branch Committee members who have attended the school in the past will be invited to attend for a second time and will be enrolled with brothers who are attending the school for the first time. Wives of Branch Committee members will attend most of the classes with their husbands. Certain units of an organizational nature, however, will be conducted with the brothers only, while their wives care for various Bethel assignments.
In addition, two classes of the School for Traveling Overseers and Their Wives will be held at Patterson each year. Classes held in the United States now include brothers who have previously attended; they make up about half of each class. Traveling overseers’ wives will be invited to attend most of the class sessions.
Are God’s people not delighted to take advantage of the education that Jehovah provides? Jesus himself said: “It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by Jehovah.’” (John 6:45; Isa. 54:13) We are confident that these adjustments will add greater impetus to the urgent work of preaching the good news in all the inhabited earth before the end comes.
A GREAT EARTHQUAKE IN JAPAN
News reports from around the world have chronicled a rash of natural disasters, including earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, fires, and volcanic eruptions. While space does not permit a report on all recent disasters, the fortitude with which Jehovah’s Witnesses cope with such hardships is well-epitomized by that of our fellow worshippers in Japan.
On Friday, March 11, 2011, at 2:46 p.m., a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck Japan. The resulting tsunamis devastated many towns and villages along the Pacific coastline. Some 20,000 people either have been confirmed dead or have never been found. In the affected area, four Kingdom Halls were destroyed and four others became unusable. As many as 235 houses of our brothers and sisters were washed away or badly damaged, and more than a thousand houses needed repair.
The quake and tsunamis damaged a nuclear power plant so seriously that radioactive particles were released. The government issued an evacuation order to residents in the vicinity, and overnight, many places became ghost towns. Brothers and sisters in the area were also forced to leave, and two congregations “disappeared.”
Among the over 14,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in the most affected areas, 12 lost their lives, and 5 were seriously injured; 2 are still missing. Many who survived this traumatic experience lost their homes, possessions and, in many cases, their loved ones.
“I managed to get my mother, who is disabled, into the car and started driving to the designated shelter,” explains Kiyoko of Ofunato. “Then I smelled smoke. I got out of the car and saw a huge wall of water swallow up our house. The water was coming at us! I helped my mother clamber up a railway track embankment. Our car was washed away right before our eyes.”
After the quake, a young brother named Koichi tried to reach his parents’ home, three miles [5 km] from the sea, in Ishinomaki. As he neared, however, he saw that the whole area was underwater. “Without a boat, I couldn’t go any farther.” Three weeks after the quake, he found his father at a morgue, and three weeks later, his mother.
As soon as the earthquake stopped, Masaaki in Shichigahama decided to park his car at the Kingdom Hall, half a mile [1 km] away from the sea. Masaaki recalls: “I found a sister who had also evacuated there. I thought tsunamis would never come this far. Soon, however, black water covered the ground! Our cars started floating. I opened the window, climbed out of my car and stood on the roof, but the sister’s car was washed away and disappeared! I prayed to Jehovah to help her.
“It was snowing, and I was soaked through and shivering. The snow stopped, but the air was frigid. Soon the sun set and darkness descended. The stars were bright and beautiful. I stood on the roof of my car, an island in the ice-cold water. There were others like me, stranded on piles of debris or on the roofs of buildings. I wondered if I would survive until morning. To cheer myself up, I decided to give from memory a public talk that I had given just two weeks earlier. It was an appropriate subject: ‘Where Can You Get Help in Times of Distress?’ After that, I sang the only song I knew by heart: ‘My Father, My God and Friend.’ I sang it again and again. As I sang, I looked back on my service to Jehovah, and my tears flowed.
“Then someone from the house across the street shouted to me, ‘Are you all right? I’ll come to help you!’” The man who called out had made a raft out of floating timbers and was rescuing people in the vicinity. With his help, Masaaki was able to enter someone’s house through the second-floor window. Later, he was relieved to learn that the sister in the other car had also been rescued.
There was joyful anticipation for the wedding of Kohei and Yuko, to be held at the Kingdom Hall in Rikuzentakata on Saturday, March 12. After they had legally registered their marriage at the city hall on Friday, the earthquake struck. Kohei heard a tsunami warning broadcast by the city and rushed to higher ground. “I saw the whole city in a haze,” he recalls. “There was nothing remaining except a few large buildings. Until then, I had been worrying about our arrangements for later that day, but soon I realized that something enormous had occurred.”
Kohei and Yuko spent Saturday helping the brothers and sisters in the congregation. “We received relief supplies from neighboring congregations,” he said. “I was happy to hear my wife say how glad she was to spend our time and energy for our brothers. I thanked Jehovah for this wonderful mate. The tsunami washed away our new home, our car, and all our possessions. But I am so thankful for the brotherly love shown to us.”
Physical, Spiritual, and Emotional Relief Efforts. The Japan branch quickly organized three Disaster Relief Committees and repeatedly sent branch representatives to the affected area. When zone overseers Geoffrey Jackson and Izak Marais from world headquarters came to Japan in May, they too met with the brothers and sisters in one of the most devastated areas. A special meeting for the affected congregations was arranged, so that by telephone hookup, some 2,800 brothers at 21 Kingdom Halls were reassured of the love and concern of the worldwide brotherhood.
The Disaster Relief Committees and other volunteers have busily provided relief supplies. The immediate needs were food, water, and fuel. The relief committees also arranged to send clothing in a wide variety of sizes to the affected congregations. Clothes racks and mirrors were set up at meeting places to convert them into temporary “boutiques.”
How thankful the beleaguered brothers and sisters were to see how Jehovah filled their physical and emotional needs! They were especially fortified at Christian meetings. “I gain peace of mind from the meetings,” wrote a sister in the disaster-stricken area. “To me, they are a spiritual lifeline.”
A Message of Hope. The Japanese brothers were quick to share comfort from God’s Word with their distraught neighbors. A group of publishers in a city not affected by the disaster decided to do street work with a large signboard, “Why the Tragedy? The answer is in the Bible.” Many people showed interest, and the brothers placed 177 Bible Teach books in just one and a half days.
In the disaster-stricken areas, the Witnesses first called on Bible students and return visits and then on neighbors to comfort them. “When I read Matthew 6:34 to a householder,” says Akiko, “she started to cry. It appeared that she had many anxieties. When I explained how the Bible helps us maintain peace of mind, she readily agreed and thanked me. This has renewed my appreciation for the power of the Scriptures to move people’s hearts.”
“There are many religions,” said one man, “but you are the only people who come to us, even in this abnormal time.” Another man remarked with respect, “It is amazing that you continue your activity as usual during this crisis.” One elder commented: “Many welcomed our visits. They said, ‘You are the first ones to come to our home since the disaster. Please come again.’”
NEW WORLD TRANSLATION IN 106 LANGUAGES!
Friday, July 15, 2011, was a memorable day in Latvia and Lithuania and was a milestone in the history of God’s people there. In a talk that was tied in to both countries, Stephen Lett of the Governing Body released the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures in Latvian and Lithuanian, which marked the 99th and 100th languages in which this translation is available. For the past seven years, the Governing Body has given high priority to Bible translation. As a result, the New World Translation is now published in twice as many languages as in 2004, and translators around the world continue working hard to translate the Bible into even more languages.
As you can imagine, the brothers receive the Bible in their own language with great enthusiasm. “Possessing a Bible is one thing,” said a brother from the Central African Republic, “but understanding it in your mother tongue is one of the best things in the world. The New World Translation in Sango speaks right to the heart. When I read the Gospels, I can now see the images of Bible characters and understand their feelings.” A young Ethiopian sister summed up the sentiments of many when she said: “The words ‘thank you’ can hardly express what I feel in my heart. I always used to pray to Jehovah to give us the New World Translation in our language. Today, he has given it to me!”
DISPATCHES NEWS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
A Bully Silenced in Russia. An elderly sister named Vera had problems for several years from one of her neighbors who did not like Jehovah’s Witnesses. The man threatened her and used foul language in the presence of her grandchildren, who visited her frequently. Keeping in mind the words of Romans 12:18, Vera always reacted calmly and did not argue with him. In January 2011, the neighbor became especially aggressive. Fearing for her life, Vera contacted the local policeman, who, interestingly, had visited her home with a town official in March of 2010. They had come to see if she and the other Witnesses who met in her home were engaged in some form of extremist activity. This time, though, the policeman saw where the real problem was. He scolded the neighbor and fined him 3,000 rubles (about $100 U.S.) for his threats. After that, she had no further problems with the neighbor. As a token of her appreciation, Vera wrote a letter of thanks to the police department. To her surprise, she received a reply from the police chief. He thanked her for her kind words about the officer who had helped her. He also wrote: “Your warm words, expressed against the backdrop of the prevailing negative view of the police in general today, demonstrate a trust on your part.” Vera says that the local policeman now checks in on her regularly to make sure that everything is all right.
The “Garbageman” in Turkey. Two people who had recently begun to study the Bible attended the district convention. They wrote: “It was like a fairy tale for us. Everyone was smiling and was so friendly and polite. During the noon break, we walked around and did not feel that we were outsiders. Then the brother who had started the Bible study with us approached. He had a garbage bag in his hand. We tried to avoid him because we thought his occupation was collecting garbage, and we did not want to be recognized as friends of a lowly garbageman. So we turned away and tried to disappear among the crowd. We thought, ‘Why are we studying the Bible with a garbageman instead of with someone who gives talks on the platform?’
“However, as our study progressed, we learned that the ‘garbageman’ who conducted our study was a member of the Branch Committee and served at the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses. We continued to make progress and dedicated our lives to Jehovah, coming to understand that our brother was humbly conducting himself as ‘a lesser one.’ (Luke 9:48) How much we appreciate the valuable lesson that we learned at the first large meeting we attended!”
Lies in Armenia. A widespread slander campaign against Jehovah’s Witnesses started in the media after a young man who murdered his parents in the city of Sevan was falsely said to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A statement refuting the claim was immediately distributed to the media. Nevertheless, the slander continued, and a special report was aired on television insisting that the young man was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Offensive and demeaning language was used when speaking of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and a caption during the program read “Jehovah’s Cruel and Weak-Willed Executioners.” It even encouraged viewers to use physical force against the Witnesses when they visited. As a result, there was a noticeable increase in animosity toward Jehovah’s Witnesses in the country. A claim was filed against the television station, demanding a retraction of the misinformation, an apology, and compensation for defaming our good name and reputation. By the time that the 2012 Yearbook went to print, the television station had not yet made a retraction, though negotiations were under way to achieve a friendly settlement.
The Future Engineers of Venezuela. A group of children on their way to kindergarten would pass by a Kingdom Hall construction site every morning in the town of San José de Guaribe. They would always stop and watch for a while, fascinated by all that was going on. One day in class, their teacher asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. To her surprise, not one, but several, answered that they wanted to be “engineers like Jehovah’s Witnesses”! Curious, she and another teacher decided to take the whole class on an outing to the construction site. When they arrived, the construction crew gave their visitors a tour of the site. The children enjoyed it immensely, especially because they were allowed to wear the colorful hard hats. The teachers had many questions, and a good witness was given.
Canada Steps Up Magazine Production. In order to make the best use of dedicated resources, the Governing Body asked the Canada branch to supply The Watchtower and Awake! to all congregations in Bermuda, Guyana, Canada, the United States, and most of the islands of the Caribbean. Therefore, at the start of the 2011 service year, the Canada branch took on a twelvefold increase in magazine production. Canada now prints magazines in 30 languages, amounting to nearly a quarter of all the magazines produced worldwide.
Open House in Finland. With the permission of the Governing Body, a special campaign was organized, focusing on Jehovah’s Witnesses and the message they have proclaimed in Finland for a century. The brothers zealously distributed the Awake! magazine of August 2010 featuring the cover series “Jehovah’s Witnesses—Who Are They?” This resulted in many fine conversations about our work. Then, at the end of August, the brothers organized an open house at the branch office. The entire Bethel family participated in explaining the work done there. Exhibits were set up to inform visitors about our work. Some Bethelites also donned historical dress and demonstrated how sandwich-signs were used to advertise public talks given in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Several departments had prepared small souvenirs for the visitors. About 1,500 visitors attended the open house. Subsequently, newspapers, radio, and TV reported favorably on our activities.
Unrest in Côte d’Ivoire. The 2011 service year began with optimism and promise of further growth, as evidenced by the 23,019 Bible studies being conducted by the 8,656 publishers. However, by late November 2010, election disputes plunged the country into chaos and civil unrest. The ensuing battle reached the commercial capital of Abidjan by March and extended into April 2011, causing a mass exodus of civilians from the city and even from the country. Among them were many of our brothers, who fled on foot and left behind home and possessions.
Throughout this difficult period, our brothers’ neutral stand often served as a protection. On one occasion, soldiers entered a grade school where teachers and counselors were holding a seminar. All were ordered to lie down on the floor and to hand over their valuables. When a brother handed them his service bag full of our publications, the soldiers immediately identified him as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They returned the bag along with his money and his cell phone, stating: “You are no threat to us.”
BRANCH DEDICATIONS BRING GLORY TO GOD
On December 18, 2006, construction began on the Chile branch to expand it to include a new two-story office building, a new three-story residence, and a sizable addition to warehouse space. On October 16, 2010, there were 5,501 present at the dedication program, in which David Splane of the Governing Body gave the discourse in Spanish.
On February 19, 2011, there were 210 present at the dedication of the expanded country office in Burkina Faso. The dedication discourse was delivered by John Kikot, from world headquarters. The preaching work here was supervised by the Côte d’Ivoire branch until May 2011 when Burkina Faso came under the oversight of the Benin branch. The fine conduct on the construction site brought much praise to Jehovah’s name. “There was no yelling,” remarked an employee of a large supply company. “We have never worked on a construction project with people as calm and happy as on this one.”
There was much rejoicing when the new facilities of the Hong Kong branch were dedicated on August 27, 2011. The new offices are on the 19th floor of a 37-story building overlooking Victoria Harbor. (See arrow below.) Stephen Lett of the Governing Body gave the dedication talk to an enthusiastic crowd of 290 seated in the dining room, offices, and shipping area. The new office space provides welcome relief for the Translation, Service, Audio/Video, Purchasing, Shipping, and Accounting departments.
The faithful prophet Jeremiah had good reason to trust that Almighty God would never abandon him. “They will certainly fight against you,” Jehovah said, “but they will not prevail over you. For I am with you, to save you and to deliver you.” (Jer. 15:20) As the following reports show, Jehovah’s modern-day servants have likewise experienced his backing and support as they carry out their preaching commission even in the face of opposition.—Matt. 24:9; 28:19, 20.
Armenia Vahan Bayatyan, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison because of his conscientious objection to military service. After he lost his lawsuits and appeals before Armenian courts, his case was heard by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). On October 27, 2009, seven judges of the ECHR passed judgment against Brother Bayatyan and in favor of Armenia. However, a dissenting judge found the Court’s decision “incompatible with current European standards on the question of conscientious objection.” In view of the significance of this issue, the ECHR therefore agreed to refer the case to its Grand Chamber, consisting of 17 judges.
On July 7, 2011, the 17-judge panel, by a majority of 16 votes to one, decided that Armenia had violated Brother Bayatyan’s right of freedom of conscience. The Court noted that it “has no reason to doubt that the applicant’s objection to military service was motivated by his religious beliefs, which were genuinely held and were in serious and insurmountable conflict with his obligation to perform military service.” This landmark judgment will hopefully lead to the eventual release of 69 brothers imprisoned in Armenia, as well as brothers facing the same issue in Azerbaijan and Turkey.*
Bulgaria On April 17, 2011, more than 100 people, including women, children, and elderly ones, were peacefully observing the Memorial of Christ’s death at a Kingdom Hall in Burgas. Outside, an angry mob of about 60 men gathered and started throwing large stones at the Witnesses who were standing at the entrance. The mob then stormed the Kingdom Hall, but the brothers prevented them from getting in. The police were called immediately, but they were slow to respond. A number of Witnesses were injured in the attack, and five had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital. In spite of the assault, the congregation proceeded with the Memorial observance. The attack was uncharacteristic of the respectful way that Jehovah’s Witnesses are generally treated in Bulgaria and has actually resulted in positive publicity. The Governing Body arranged for 13 branches to bring the attack to the attention of the Bulgarian embassies in their respective countries. Since then, the Bulgarian government has condemned the attack, and the local prosecutor has brought charges against eight of the perpetrators.
South Korea More than 800 of Jehovah’s Witnesses are still imprisoned in South Korea for their conscientious refusal of military service, based on religious grounds. Since 1950, more than 16,000 of Jehovah’s Witnesses have been sentenced to over 31,000 years in prison for refusing to perform military service. Why have so many young men taken such an uncompromising stand?
Each young man who refuses to do military service makes a personal conscientious decision. For instance, Kim Ji-Gwan explained at his trial: “I was deeply moved by such Bible teachings as ‘people will learn war no more’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ I also learned that principled love can motivate us to love our enemies. Based on these and other scriptures and as a result of my firm personal convictions, I made the decision to refuse military service.”—Isa. 2:4; Matt. 5:43, 44; 22:36-39.
Presently, young men in South Korea are given no option to perform alternative civilian service. In an effort to resolve this issue, ten cases were appealed to Korea’s Constitutional Court. On November 11, 2010, the court heard oral arguments, including whether Korea’s failure to implement an alternative arrangement for conscientious objectors is a violation of the rights of Korea’s citizens.
In the meantime, on March 24, 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) ruled that South Korea violated internationally recognized standards of human rights when it imprisoned 100 conscientious objectors who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. (These 100 brothers had appealed to the UNHRC for having been imprisoned.) In addition, the favorable judgment in Brother Bayatyan’s case by the Grand Chamber of the ECHR (see the Armenia report on pages 34-35) was submitted to Korea’s Constitutional Court for consideration in the pending decision on the consolidated ten cases. Even so, on August 30, 2011, the Constitutional Court, in total disregard of the decisions by the UNHRC, upheld the Military Service Law and the continued imprisonment of conscientious objectors. Observing that there is a conflict between the Military Service Law and the constitution’s recognition of freedom of conscience, two of the nine justices dissented and called for a system of alternative civilian service.
Turkey On July 31, 2007, our brothers here rejoiced to receive legal recognition as a religious association. Although there are still challenges concerning the neutrality issue and the use of our Kingdom Halls, theocratic interests continue to advance in this land. On April 26, 2011, the Ministry of National Education for the Turkish Republic sent out an official directive stating that ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses can be exempted from mandatory religion classes in school.’ The Ministry reasoned that “although Jehovah’s Witnesses do not accept some common beliefs of Christianity—Jehovah’s Witnesses are a Christian religion.” This decision is welcome news to our young brothers and sisters who have received failing grades in school over the years for refusing to participate in religion classes.
United States In May 2011, the Kansas Court of Appeals rendered a favorable decision in the case of Mary D. Stinemetz v. Kansas Health Policy Authority. The court ruled that the state’s refusal to authorize Sister Stinemetz’s out-of-state bloodless surgery violated her federal and state constitutional rights. Since the type of bloodless surgery the sister required was not available in Kansas, the court ordered the state to authorize our sister’s out-of-state surgery. This is a victory not only for Sister Stinemetz but also for other publishers in the United States who receive government-funded health care.
On August 10, 2011, the Supreme Court of Kansas upheld a favorable decision granting Monica McGlory, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, custody of her son. The child’s father had sought custody, claiming that Sister McGlory should not have custody of their son because (1) she would refuse to consent to a blood transfusion, (2) she took the child with her in the door-to-door ministry, and (3) she allegedly alienated him from his father and his community by teaching their son about Armageddon.
The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed constitutional principles already set out in 1957, when it stated: “Religious freedom, as guaranteed by our constitution, should be faithfully upheld, and religious teachings to children should not and must not be considered as basis for making child custody orders.” With regard to the blood transfusion issue, the court stated: “We cannot decide [custody] cases based on some hypothetical future accident or illness which might necessitate [a blood transfusion].”
France There was much rejoicing on June 30, 2011, when the ECHR issued a decision in favor of the Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses of France. This was the culmination of a 16-year legal struggle arising from an exorbitant and controversial 60 percent tax that had been imposed on donations to the branch. The Witnesses are the only major religious organization that has been taxed in this manner. In total, the government of France sought to obligate Jehovah’s Witnesses to pay 58 million euros (over $82,000,000 U.S.), a sum that far exceeds the assets of the Association. After courts in France at every level affirmed the tax, the matter was appealed to the ECHR in February 2005.
On June 30, 2011, the seven justices of the ECHR unanimously stated that if upheld, France’s actions would directly prevent Jehovah’s Witnesses from freely practicing their religion. The Court confirmed that the protections afforded by the European Convention on Human Rights apply to Jehovah’s Witnesses. This far-reaching precedent will be a valuable tool in the pursuit of freedom of worship in other lands under the jurisdiction of the ECHR, such as Armenia, Bulgaria, Georgia, and Russia. Also significant is the fact that for the first time, the government of France has been found guilty of violating the European Convention’s freedom of religion clause. The French government did not appeal the decision.
Russia On June 10, 2010, Jehovah’s Witnesses were granted a historic legal victory against the Russian government by the ECHR in the case Jehovah’s Witnesses of Moscow v. Russia. Although the Russian government requested a referral to the 17-judge Grand Chamber of the Court, on December 13, 2010, the panel of the Grand Chamber rejected the government’s request, thus making the June 10 judgment final. That judgment stated that the Russian government “has a legal obligation . . . to put an end to the violation found by the Court and to redress so far as possible the effects.” To date, however, the government has failed to implement this ruling. Instead, it has found new ways to harass and obstruct the Witnesses’ free exercise of their religion.
For example, in the early morning of August 25, 2011, police raided 19 of our brothers’ homes in the city of Taganrog and confiscated religious literature, computers, and congregation records. Those raids seem to be connected to an earlier ruling by the Russian Federation Supreme Court that the local religious organization in Taganrog be liquidated and that 34 of our publications be declared extremist. Based on decisions in Russian courts, the government has placed 63 of our publications on the Federal List of Extremist Materials.
In addition, our brothers and sisters have been the victims of at least 950 raids, assaults, arrests, and police detentions. The Russian authorities have opened 11 criminal cases against our brothers, and many Kingdom Halls have been vandalized. The authorities even installed surveillance cameras in the home of at least one family and tapped telephone lines and monitored e-mail accounts of many others in an effort to trump up criminal charges under the antiextremism law.
One of the cases of trumped-up charges involves 35-year-old Aleksandr Kalistratov, in the city of Gorno-Altaysk, who was accused of “inciting religious hatred or enmity” under an antiextremism law that has been widely criticized by human rights defenders. During the court proceedings, which lasted from October 7, 2010, through March 18, 2011, none of the 71 court witnesses who were cross-examined could establish any criminal action—or even intent—on the part of Aleksandr. The court thoroughly studied the literature and teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and on April 14, 2011, the judge issued a verdict of not guilty. The prosecutor, however, appealed this decision, and on May 26, 2011, the Supreme Court of the Altay Republic decided to send the case back to the lower court for a rehearing with a new judge. Thus Brother Kalistratov, after having been completely exonerated, faces an entirely new round of court hearings that could still lead to his being wrongfully declared an extremist.
Naturally, such a case involving supposed dangerous activity has drawn significant public attention to our work in the small city of Gorno-Altaysk. How have the local Witnesses, who are also at risk of prosecution, fared under these circumstances?
“During this challenging time, the Bible has become more precious,” says a sister named Inna. “My brothers and sisters are more like family, and I feel closer to Jehovah than ever before!” Although some of our publications have been banned, many studies have been started using only the Bible. The number of publishers in the Altay Republic has grown by 24 percent. The Witnesses have spent 33 percent more hours in the field ministry. Attendance at the Memorial was 16 percent higher than last year and amounted to twice the number of publishers in the entire republic!
In the meantime, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia have filed 13 new applications with the ECHR against the Russian government. One of the applications contests the Supreme Court decision of December 8, 2009, and another contests the decision of the Supreme Court of the Altay Republic that declared 18 of our publications to be extremist.
Of the 49 cases considered by the ECHR since 1965 involving Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Court returned a positive outcome in all but 2 cases. This recent victory involving Brother Bayatyan reverses one of those two losses.
[Blurb on page 14]
“It is written in the prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by Jehovah’”
[Blurb on page 25]
“The words ‘thank you’ can hardly express what I feel in my heart”
[Box on page 12]
What They Said About Auxiliary Pioneering:
• “For the first time in my life, I was able to auxiliary pioneer. I have no words to express my gratitude for this opportunity!”
• “Thank you so much for this new arrangement. It has given us so much joy.”
• “This was a highlight in the history of our congregation.”
• “Having so many auxiliary pioneers has contributed to a spirit of peace and unity in the congregation.”
• “Yes, Armageddon must be coming soon!”—A non-Witness who noticed our increased activity in April.
[Box on page 43]
“CRY OUT JOYFULLY”
THIS world under Satan’s angry control is experiencing increasing woe. (Rev. 12:12) In stark contrast, Jehovah’s servants “cry out joyfully because of the good condition of the heart.” (Isa. 65:13, 14) Without letup, they continue to invite as many as possible to worship the true God, knowing that “all those taking refuge in [Jehovah] will rejoice; to time indefinite they will cry out joyfully.”—Ps. 5:11.
[Chart/Graphs on page 26]
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AVAILABLE IN 106 LANGUAGES
Complete New World Christian Greek
Translation: 62 Scriptures: 44
Afrikaans American Sign Language
Armenian Azerbaijani (Cyrillic)
Bulgarian Brazilian Sign Language
Chinese (Simplified) Colombian Sign Language
Chinese (Traditional) Estonian
Danish Haitian Creole
English Hiri Motu
Finnish Italian Sign Language
Japanese Mexican Sign Language
Korean Papiamento (Curaçao)
Macedonian Russian Sign Language
Portuguese Tok Pisin
◀ 76% ◁ 24%
By 2011, at least 76 percent of the world’s population had the “New World Translation” (in whole or in part) in their mother tongue
1950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010
[Graph on page 8]
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Worldwide, 2,657,377 publishers shared in the auxiliary pioneer work
2008 2009 2010 2011
[Map on page 35]
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[Picture on page 6]
Above: Pioneers and publishers brought their Bible students to Jeannette’s home to conduct their Bible studies. (See pages 8-9)
[Picture on page 7]
A group of regular and auxiliary pioneers leaving for the ministry in Madrid, Spain
[Picture on page 10]
Toshi witnessing to a helper in a nursing home
[Picture on page 11]
Alejandro and his father in Sant Celoni, Barcelona, Spain, on the last day of the month
[Picture on page 13]
Watchtower Educational Center at Patterson, New York, U.S.A.
[Picture on page 18]
Kingdom Hall in Rikuzentakata, Japan
[Picture on page 22]
Top: Volunteers carrying rubble out of a brother’s home in Shibata, Miyagi
[Picture on page 22]
Left: Branch Committee member giving a talk at a brother’s home in Rikuzentakata
[Picture on page 22]
Bottom: Volunteers making lunch for those attending a special assembly day in the disaster area
[Picture on page 24]
Lithuanian and Latvian translations
[Pictures on page 31]
Historical marker by Yankee Stadium, New York, U.S.A.
[Picture on page 32]
Construction workers at the Burkina Faso office
[Picture on page 32]
Burkina Faso office
[Picture on page 32]
[Pictures on page 33]
New branch facilities in Hong Kong
[Picture on page 34]
European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg, France
[Pictures on page 38]
Students holding their school report cards. They are happy because of being exempted from religion class
[Picture on page 41]
Witnesses preaching in Gorno-Altaysk, Republic of Altay