A Historic Step Forward in Spain
By “Awake!” correspondent in Spain
THE Christian witnesses of Jehovah operated in Spain without legal recognition for many years. But then in July 1970 the Spanish government legalized their existence under the new law of religious liberty. With that, the Witnesses began to think about opening a branch office of the Watch Tower Society in Spain.
In March 1971 a six-story structure was purchased in Barcelona. In April the Witnesses began to remodel it. Since the Society’s president, N. H. Knorr, was planning to visit Spain, the Witnesses requested him to speak at the dedication of the new building on June 2, 1972. The special program dealt with the history of Jehovah’s work in Spain, as well as experiences about the remodeling work, and there was the dedication talk by the Society’s president.
One part of the history was enlivened by the presence of an eighty-one-year-old Witness who learned God’s truth in 1927. She is blind and of diminutive stature, yet what a bundle of energy she was when speaking! She recalled that during the year 1934 she figured as the Director of the magazine Luz y Verdad (Light and Truth, Spanish equivalent of the present Awake!), since there were no native Spaniards working in the office at that time, and the English-born overseer could not sign the galley proofs that needed government approval.
Among the experiences recounted by another speaker with regard to the remodeling of the building was this one: A truck turned up with a load of sand one day and deposited it outside the building. A message stated that it was for the Witnesses. To this day it is not known who donated that truckload of sand. Another experience concerns two men who, before studying the Bible, had hated each other and had even come to blows. Imagine their surprise when, years later, they suddenly met, working together as volunteers at the Society’s branch.
In his talk, the Society’s president pointed out that Jehovah not only maneuvers his people but is a great maneuverer of nations. He maneuvered things so that his work would not die out in Spain. The work grows because Jehovah is interested in people, and that is why there are now 16,839 Witnesses preaching throughout Spanish territory. Listening to this dedication program at the Branch building were 452 persons.
The next day, Saturday, an even larger meeting was scheduled. It was an inauguration assembly at the Plaza de Toros, a bullring with its typical Moorish-style windows and minarets. The Civil Governor sent a busload of police as protection in case there should be any trouble from outsiders. One of these policemen was heard to say: “It would be impossible to have a row with these people.” The contrast between a bullfight crowd and the Witnesses could not have been greater.
In the bullring is a barricaded area where the bulls usually die. But on this occasion there was no spilling of blood, but, rather, an upbuilding Bible talk by N. H. Knorr on the theme “A House for Spiritual Instruction.” A crowd of 13,356 listened as he developed the theme that the home is also a place of worship for the true Christian, the basic place of worship for the family. He showed that the Christian must be different and keep his mind and heart constantly on those things that are upbuilding.
In closing, the Society’s president said “Hasta la vista” (Until we meet again) and thousands of white handkerchiefs suddenly were waved in farewell. This was a gesture typical of a Spanish bullring, where it signifies the concession of the maximum prize to the torero. In this case it was to express the love and appreciation of the Spanish Witnesses toward the governing body of the Christian association of Jehovah’s witnesses and those working at the Society’s Brooklyn headquarters.
No doubt about it, the dedication program and the inauguration assembly represented a historic step forward for the increased praising of Jehovah’s name in Spain.