Peace in the Far East—When?
“PEACE ON EARTH” ASSEMBLIES GIVE ANSWER
IN MANY lands of the Far East there is considerable social ferment. Modern ideas and ancient traditions jostle one another. The hand of materialism and its way of life beckon millions from the simple farm life to huge cities. The centuries-old tranquillity of the Orient seems to be vanishing.
Added to the social upheaval are political tensions that produce fear and anxiety. Most lands have their domestic troubles. Some have tribal feuds that break out bloodily from time to time. There is, over all, the growing threat of China’s nuclear potential.
Can peace and the peace-loving attitude ever win out in this part of the world? Is it possible for national and tribal groups to find some common hope sufficiently strong to override all the issues that now divide them? Can they meet together and find reason to trust and help one another along a pathway to peace?
In the closing part of the year 1969 many people of the Far East began to have reason to hope that the answer to those questions is Yes. How did that come about? It was the impact of the “Peace on Earth” International Assemblies of Jehovah’s Witnesses on large urban centers of the East. From city after city came reports telling of interest, yes, amazement shown by multitudes who have thus far treated the Witnesses quite lightly. To get the feel of these developments it is helpful to consider what took place at the assembly cities.
South Korea Learns About Lasting Peace
The assembly in Seoul, South Korea’s capital, is a case in point. At the first afternoon’s sessions, over 14,500 listened to the talk “Loyal Advocates of the Word of God.” Joyfully they accepted the new book Is the Bible Really the Word of God? in Korean, released by the speaker at the close of his talk.
As emphasized by both the talk and the book, “not Christianity based on the Bible, but Christendom with its divided churches must bear the guilt for prejudicing millions of persons against the Bible,” so preventing those multitudes from gaining peace with God. Without that peace there can be no real peace among men and nations.
Here, as at all of these assemblies in the Pacific area, the appearance of one or more of the officers of the Watch Tower Society’s Brooklyn headquarters on the program heightened the interest of those assembled.
Many were the interesting experiences heard among the delegates. For example, one Witness told how he had been a soldier of the South Korean army undergoing missile training in the United States when he was first contacted with the Bible’s message of peace. Now, instead of pointing deadly missiles at large urban populations, he is an advocate of peace among peoples of all nations and races.
On Monday afternoon, a highlight speech was the one entitled “Peace with God amid the ‘Great Tribulation.’” Ah, yes, peace with God is the vital need in a peaceless world! An attentive audience learned that now of all times is the opportune time to acquaint ourselves with the ever-living God who bears the name Jehovah. That acquaintanceship is the key, not to a superficial worldly peace, but to a stable lasting peace among men.
The number baptized at this assembly as disciples of the “Prince of peace” was 1,511—15 percent of the total number of Witnesses in Korea! Onlookers from the hillside above the baptismal pool could see, beyond this peaceful scene, a parade ground where soldiers were drilling. What a contrast!
In Korea, where there were only eight Witnesses in 1949, there are now more than 10,000. These have found peace with God. Despite aggressions, infiltrations, shootings and killings along the country’s north border, conditions that keep most South Koreans in a state of fear, here was an assembly that featured faith in God’s Word and pointed Go the source of peace that it advocates.
Ambassadors of Peace in Japan
Before the conclusion of the Seoul assembly another happy gathering had begun at the Korakuen Cycling Stadium in Tokyo. The same program was featured at all of these “Peace on Earth” Assemblies. When one considers that Japan has a total of 7,843 Witnesses, it is remarkable that most of the sessions at Tokyo were attended by 10,000 to 12,000 persons. Still more remarkable is the fact that 1,200 of these Japanese Witnesses, having put secular occupations in secondary place, are spending a minimum of one hundred hours each month in the work of spreading the Bible’s message of peace throughout Japan.
It was a joyful event when 798 persons presented themselves as candidates for baptism—among them a ten-year-old boy and an assistant professor at one of Japan’s universities. The boy, the only member of his family interested in Bible study, explained that he had the permission of his parents and schoolteacher to come to the Tokyo assembly.
One young Witness, persecuted by unbelieving parents so that she left home and went to another city to find employment, was here at this assembly. The mother, hearing of the Tokyo gathering, decided to attend with the object of tracking down her daughter. Well, she was so favorably impressed by what she heard and saw that she brought her husband along to the stadium on the next day. Now they have found their daughter, and they too want to study the Bible and find peace with God.
At the closing session the audience was delighted to learn that soon work on publication of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures in Japanese would begin. Why such delight? Because now people in Japan would be able to read for themselves in clear, understandable language the Word of God, and so learn the way to peace with its great Author. Enthusiastic applause also greeted the announcement that the Society’s branch office in Tokyo had already become too small, and that plans were under way for enlarged premises outside the city.
It was a remarkably peaceful assembly—all the more so when contrasted with the riotous conditions that engulfed Tokyo just two days later, when public transport was paralyzed, sixty persons were injured and 1,500 rioters were arrested. To many it was comforting to learn that a thousand-year reign of peace is the promise held out by the God of the Bible, whose promises never fail.
Taiwan Hears Good Tidings of Peace
The scene now changes to the assembly hall in The National Taiwan Arts Center in Taipei. This island stronghold of the Nationalist Chinese was next to hear about “peace on earth” through the international assembly scheduled in its capital city for October 18 through 21.
Since the Witnesses are not so well known here as in other parts of the East, the international aspect of the assembly did much to give local people a broader view of the Witness organization. Delegates came from eight other nations, besides representatives of Taiwan’s three major ethnic groups—the Chinese, the Taiwanese and the Amis. Southeast Asia was well represented also—Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
A new book in Chinese, a paperback edition of “Your Word Is a Lamp to My Foot,” was released at this convention. Its theme: God’s inspired Word sets the pattern according to which the organization practicing true worship must organize and work. This is the way to peaceful, united accomplishment. This publication had been printed in Taiwan and delivered to the assembly site just forty-eight hours before its release to a grateful throng.
Then came the Bible drama entitled “Fortify Yourself so as to Maintain Integrity.’’ This was vividly enacted on the platform. It showed how each part of the spiritual armor described in the Bible book of Ephesians, chapter six, is essential for those who would remain loyal to the God of peace and so receive his goodwill. How grateful all were that, in a land wracked by serious political differences, Jehovah had provided a peaceful and upbuilding assembly as a foretaste of what is to come—a time when all the earth, including Taiwan, will be at peace!
Good News Announced in Hong Kong
On October 17 conventioners began to arrive in the British crown colony of Hong Kong, with its high-rise buildings and teeming population, perched precariously on the coastland of Communist China. Local Witnesses began to sense the international tone of the assembly when thirty-five delegates from Singapore and Malaysia arrived at the Kai Tak Airport. They were met and taken directly to accommodations arranged in the homes of their spiritual brothers and sisters in Hong Kong.
The public lecture came on the second day. The largest attendance up to this point was 303. To the joy of all those present, the figure climbed to 678 as the public address “The Approaching Peace of a Thousand Years” was presented. That meant that one and a half times more than the total number of local Witnesses were interested in learning about God’s provision for “peace on earth”!
On Monday, release of the English edition of Is the Bible Really the Word of God? brought much pleasure to the conventioners. Was it not wonderful to have something that comes to grips with objections raised by scientists, historians and religious critics? Convincing evidence that the Bible is of divine origin makes it all the more imperative that its wholesome principles be put into practice with a view to attaining peace and unity.
One tour conducted for the benefit of Western delegates took them to within sight of the Communist territory—the Bamboo Curtain. They saw, as a barrier, a wire fence and a narrow river. Would the Bible’s peaceful message ever penetrate there? It would, if that is Jehovah’s will, for it is all God’s good earth to which he will in his own way soon bring everlasting peace and righteousness.
Hong Kong truly shared in the eye-opening publicity that attended the “Peace on Earth” Assemblies. No doubt many humble people were impressed by the unity and peace so evident among Jehovah’s worshipers, and so lacking among the population at large.
Hope Extended to Filipinos
The Philippine Republic has its own internal troubles, as do almost all lands. Elections are almost always accompanied by violence and killings. Indeed, the Constabulary headquarters in Manila reported that in the eight-week period leading up to November’s elections fifty-nine persons had been slain and sixty wounded.
Was it not appropriate, then, that a “Peace on Earth” Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses should be scheduled for Manila, October 22 to 26? But no single stadium would be adequate for the large crowd expected. Why, the number of Witnesses in the country had increased in the last ten years from 30,077 to 49,257! So a contract was made for use of the Rizal Memorial Athletic Complex, comprising a football stadium with a capacity of 30,000 and a baseball stadium that would hold 20,000. This worked out well, for the smaller stadium could be used for sessions in the Tagalog language, while a double platform in the football stadium would serve the other two major language groups—Iloko and Cebuano. Meetings were also provided for those speaking Hiligaynon, Pangasinan, Bicol and Samar-Leyte.
On Saturday morning, after a talk emphasizing the need to dedicate one’s life unreservedly to Jehovah God as the first step toward being at peace with him, 1,835 persons submitted to baptism before a crowd of witnesses. This is in addition to 6,381 who had taken this step in the Philippines during the year ending August 31, 1969.
Over 40,000 attended the Sunday-morning sessions. Then, as the afternoon drew on, the stadiums began to fill. When every seat was taken, those on the street kept pouring in and sitting on the grass before the platform. As the speaker was introduced, it was marvelous to see this huge crowd intently waiting. They were evidently eager to learn about the thousand-year reign of peace that God’s kingdom by Christ will bring to worthy ones of humankind. It turned out that 64,715 were present—far exceeding all expectations!
Favorable comments on this assembly could be heard from all sides. One writer in the Evening News (Manila) of October 24 commented: “We have yet to see a convention in this country as orderly and impressive as the one currently being held by members of Jehovah’s witnesses . . . . In contrast to familiar political conventions, the delegates are well-behaved, orderly and attentive to their speakers who are exhorting [them] to remain in the faith amidst world upheavals.”
Truly this assembly brought much praise to Jehovah’s name. It was like running a large city for five days—a city free of rivalries, disorders and quarrels. People of Manila were treated to a foreview of the real “peace on earth” that is promised to become a reality soon during the thousand-year reign of Christ.
Peaceful Penetration of Papua
Right in a bush area, some fourteen miles from Port Moresby, an entire town had to be built to provide adequate facilities for another assembly. Papuan natives, using bush materials ready at hand, soon converted the plans into reality.
Using open fires, meals were prepared for the delegates—6,500 meals all together during the four-day gathering on this island. To outsiders it was amazing to observe how peoples of sixty-four different language groups ate, lived and worshiped together in peace. Those conventioners really enjoyed a peace and happiness unmatched by any other group. Not long ago, in fact, Papua put on a Games Week for the South Pacific area, constructing special buildings to house visitors from New Guinea and other places. However, because of the fear and distrust among the various tribal groups, these buildings were hardly used at all.
Sessions of the program were presented in English, Melanesian-Pidgin and Motu. The local news media gave excellent coverage. Attendances ranged around 1,000 each day. Papuans and islanders from far and near showed keen interest in the Bible-based hope of “peace on earth” and how it would come with relief from their fears and troubles.
It is difficult to realize that as late as 1952 there was but one Witness in all the territory served by the Papua branch of the Watch Tower Society. This past year a peak number of 1,481 active Witnesses was reached. This assembly provided an excellent springboard from which to spread even more widely throughout the South Pacific the grand hope of an everlasting peace by God’s kingdom.
Message of Hope “Down Under”
October 26 was a unique day in connection with the “Peace on Earth” Assemblies in the Pacific area. It was the final day of the Manila assembly, the next-to-last day of the Port Moresby assembly, and the opening day of a six-day assembly in the Showgrounds of the city of Melbourne, Australia. From all across the country the conventioners came, some of them traveling 2,500 to 3,000 miles one way to get there. Too, there were several hundred overseas delegates.
So international was the assembly that meetings had to be arranged for those understanding Finnish, Greek, German, Italian, Polish and Croatian. Language barriers did not divide them or in any way prevent people of all those nations from enjoying unity and peace now. Two special sessions, using talks, experiences and photographic slides, were put on for the benefit of Western visitors—these depicting the progress of the Kingdom work in Australia from its inception.
Keen interest was shown in the tremendous distances through sparsely setled territory that must be covered in order to reach people with the good news of peace. One full-time Witness had covered some 100,000 miles with his utility truck in the past three and a half years. His territory comprises some 300,000 square miles. In this field he reaches many of the aborigines. To overcome to some extent the problem of illiteracy, he carries with him slides and colored pictures explaining to these honest-hearted natives how they too can enjoy peace with the Almighty Creator.
An audience of well over 25,000 heard the final talk of the Melbourne assembly. On this occasion the speaker noted that peace had prevailed at this and all other international assemblies held by the Witnesses this year. Without doubt it was because of the unifying force of God’s Word taken into honest hearts. It was also due to the conviction that God’s promise of an earth-wide peace will soon be fully realized. The thought uppermost in the minds of the conventioners as they started what was to be for many a long trek home: They would seek and maintain peace with one another and with all men, and, above all, with Jehovah their God.
News of Peace for New Zealand
Auckland’s Alexandra Park Raceway is normally filled with impatient crowds—people intent on winning a bet, people who think nothing of throwing trash all over the grounds. But on November 4 this trotting stadium saw a crowd of a different kind. There was no jostling, no shouting, no smoking. It was the “Peace on Earth” International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The major portion of New Zealand’s population have a European background, while considerably less than 10 percent are Maoris, who are Polynesian by race. But regardless of racial origin, many New Zealanders are gladly accepting God’s Word as the basis for their faith, and are rejoicing in the hope of the Kingdom of everlasting peace. Opening day at the Raceway brought delegates by carloads and busloads, so that by afternoon the attendance had reached 7,115—already 1,000 over the peak attendance at the last international assembly here in 1963.
The beautiful platform design included the Maori words of welcome, HAERE MAI in floral outline. Many years ago most Maoris became nominally Christian, though in many instances still holding to traditional pagan ideas such as taboo. But now many of them have become eager students of the Bible and participate regularly in spreading the message of peace as Jehovah’s witnesses. One of them, interviewed on the platform, told that out of 200 of his fleshly relatives who are Witnesses, 193 were present right there.
“Seeking the Goodwill of God” was the subject of a discourse on Friday morning. It pointed the way for those desirous of being at peace with God—the way of dedication. Indeed, many more New Zealanders and others had dedicated their lives to God, for right after this talk 421 candidates for baptism were taken in buses to the large, heated Mount Eden Pool and there immersed in water.
The paradisaic beauty of these islands brought to mind that time in history when the first human pair enjoyed peace with God in the paradise of Eden. How fitting, then, the title of the widely advertised public lecture at this assembly—“The Road Back to Peace in Paradise”! How thrilled the audience of 8,400 was as text after text from the Bible was explained to show how and when that paradise condition will be restored!
The peaceful setting, the upbuilding program, the practical organization of all the assembly arrangements, did much to draw the conventioners into closer unity with one another and with God’s worldwide congregation—especially through personally meeting with and hearing experiences of fellow Witnesses from so many other lands. All had the deepened conviction that Jehovah is truly prospering his people with peace and spiritual plenty. They are encouraged and refreshed to go on extending the good news of peace to other sincere ones who long for God’s kingdom to establish global peace.
The Isles Can Rejoice
“Let the many islands rejoice,” is a Biblical invitation that can be repeated with even greater force today. (Ps. 97:1) The distant islands of the Pacific could certainly respond to that invitation during the period November 9 to 12, 1969, when assemblies were being held simultaneously at Suva, Fiji, and Papeete, Tahiti. English was the language mainly used at the first, while French and Tahitian were used at the other.
Though all of those islands should be scenes of happy contentment, this is by no means the case. In Fiji particularly there is an undercurrent of racial feeling. Indian immigrants and the native population are distrustful one of the other. Those, on the other hand, who have made peace with God and who are united as his witnesses happily work together to preach the good news of peace to others. The atmosphere at these gatherings reflected this.
An attentive audience of 1,621 at Suva heard the public address and rejoiced to learn that God’s purpose to establish peace earth wide would soon be carried out. There was also about forty minutes of delightful singing by three separate choral groups, each in its traditional style—one from Fiji, one from Samoa and one from Tonga. How grand it was to hear this native talent for blending voices used to sound out the praises of the One who alone is worthy—Jehovah, the God of peace!
One native Fijian expressed what was doubtless the effect of this assembly on those who shared its many blessings: “My note pads are full and my mind is about to burst with everything I‘ve heard and seen at this assembly! I’ll explode if I don’t start soon telling others about these things!”
The “Peace on Earth” Assembly at Papeete, Tahiti, was a grand event, too, not only for the local Witnesses, but for the islanders in general. It was the first international assembly held here by Jehovah’s witnesses, and it was the first assembly requiring greater facilities than could be offered by a Kingdom Hall. The auditorium known as Salle de Basket at the Fautaua Stadium was the place contracted for. There were actually many more delegates from other lands than there are Witnesses in Tahiti. The local press took note of the fact that representatives had arrived from twelve other countries around the world, and then went on to explain: “For Jehovah’s Witnesses, the main thing is to show that the Bible is applicable to the everyday life of an individual, for young ones as well as for parents. . . . According to Bible chronology, this millennium of peace [the theme of the public address]—between men themselves and also between men and animals—is not far away, but in just a few years more. Who does not want to believe in peace?”
Tahitians really enjoyed the Bible dramas presented on the platform, for it was at one of these, entitled “Fortify Yourself so as to Maintain Integrity,” that the audience reached a peak of 610. Colored lighting effects made the action more realistic. Onlookers learned how vital it is to use all the provisions for Christian association and Bible study that are available so as to have the spiritual strength to stay at peace with God amidst a lawless world.
One airport employee, though used to seeing every day the hospitality and the flowery welcome ordinarily given to visitors, was deeply impressed by what he witnessed on this occasion. Said he: “I am really touched to see how a faith can keep people who don’t even know one another so united. We should all be Jehovah’s witnesses, because by your love you are different from the rest of us.”
Hawaii Welcomes Peace Delegates
The modern city of Honolulu in its beautiful island setting was next to receive delegates to a “Peace on Earth” Assembly. On the very first day, November 11, Honolulu’s International Center was packed out with a crowd of 9,061. Overflow arrangements were provided in the adjoining Exhibition Hall, and they were really needed, for 15,443 persons came to hear the public lecture.
The speaker told of God’s express purpose to have the whole earth transformed into a Paradise. But there was more. The question also arose, Who will find the way back to that peaceful relationship with God once enjoyed by Adam and Eve? Each one who hoped to do so would have to take the steps outlined in God’s Word, the Holy Bible. And there were some at the assembly who had determined to do just that, for 314 persons offered themselves for baptism in token of their dedication of themselves to God. It was truly a memorable sight as they were immersed in the blue waters of the Pacific.
Saturday morning a special session, with talks, experiences and reminiscences, gave some history of the Kingdom work in Hawaii. Ellis W. Fox, now in his eighties, told how he had come to Honolulu in 1915 and had sowed some of the first seeds. As he spoke to an audience of 9,671, how delighted he was to see a realization of the words written by Bible writer James: “The fruit of righteousness has its seed sown under peaceful conditions for those who are making peace”!—Jas. 3:18.
Appropriately, the assembly came to a close amid the colorful hues of a typical Hawaiian sunset, soft trade winds gently swaying the palms. Deeply impressed on the departing delegates’ minds was the conviction that the long-promised era of peace is now near; Jehovah’s grand purpose with respect to worthy ones of humankind will soon be realized to their everlasting joy. Then everything wherein there is breath will be doing what it was designed to do—praising the God who grants peace!
A Peaceful Future Certain
Yes, those “Peace on Earth” Assemblies answered the question on many people’s minds: When will peace, freedom from fear and anxiety, come to the many nations and tribes of the Far East?
The unity and loving cooperation of Jehovah’s witnesses from many racial, national and tribal backgrounds, as they lived and worshiped together in peace during these many assemblies, offered powerful testimony to the ability of God’s spirit to unite humans right now as nothing else can. Observers could see that it was possible for Bible principles to be followed, and that the following of them produces fine results even amid a godless world. How true the words of the psalmist: “Abundant peace belongs to those loving [Jehovah’s] law, and for them there is no stumbling block” !—Ps. 119:165.
But then, too, there was the message of the entire assembly program. God will, unfailingly, clean out all peace disturbers and establish on earth a thousand-year reign of peace, and that in the very near future. (Rev. 20:6) Men and nations will be unable to prevent it. (Dan. 2:44) It will be for the blessing of those who genuinely long for peace and righteousness. Such ones must, without exception, be in peaceful relationship with God, knowing his will and doing their very best to put it into practice in their lives. Now, while still surrounded by selfish men and evil conditions, is the time when each one can prove his love for God and his faith in the lasting peace that he will bring to all the earth.
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At Seoul, South Korea, conventioners enjoy closing remarks by Watch Tower Society president N.H. Knorr
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Japanese Witnesses play Kingdom songs of praise to Jehovah on the koto, a harplike instrument
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Witnesses of the Amis tribe in Taiwan sing Kingdom songs, to delight of overseas visitors
Full-time preachers at Hong Kong assembly delighted to receive new book in Chinese, “Life Everlasting—in Freedom of the Sons of God”
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Some of the 64,715 at the public address, Manila, Philippines
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View of platform at Auckland assembly showing words of welcome in Maori language
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Honolulu refreshment stand—Hawaii style