An International Assembly of World Conquerors
ON June 20, 1973, The “Divine Victory” International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses opened in Detroit, Michigan. It was the first in a series of conventions to be held in major cities around the globe. Some forty such meetings have been planned to run through August in the continental United States, Canada, Europe and Asia. From September through January, the Middle and South Americas, islands of the Pacific, Australia and Africa will host another thirty gatherings.
The internationality of the assembly was well illustrated by the sessions in New York City’s Yankee Stadium, July 6-10. People of all ages and backgrounds from most continents attended. (Hundreds of the foreign delegates stopped only briefly at New York on their way to other American assemblies.) Between June 19 and 29 thirty-three charter flights of 179 passengers each came from all over Europe to John F. Kennedy International Airport. There were also other, smaller groups from as far as India, Ethiopia, Turkey and Brazil. All together, the peak New York attendance of 79,256 included delegates from over sixty countries.
Around the world, lip service is paid to peace and brotherhood. But the traveling delegates to these assemblies showed that it can be and is a reality. Though from many different lands, they are not wedged apart by divisive forces, but are united in Christian brotherhood. With God’s help they are world conquerors, winners over these strong worldly pressures.
Victorious over Nationalistic Pressures
For instance, one of the strongest divisive factors working in the world today is nationalism. As more and more nations assume self-rule, this problem intensifies. Jesus, who said of himself, “I have conquered the world,” also said in prayer that his followers are “no part of the world.” (John 16:33; 17:14) Jehovah’s witnesses, regardless of their native homeland, take these words to heart.
Consider Northern Ireland. Hundreds of persons have been killed in warfare between Catholics and Protestants. But Jehovah’s witnesses take no part in that struggle. “People respect Jehovah’s witnesses in Northern Ireland because we are neutral,” observed one special representative from Belfast. “We are really known to be different.” He also pointed out that the conditions in Northern Ireland have awakened many honest-hearted persons there to the lack of security in the world. Now they listen somewhat more readily to the message of the Bible brought to them by Jehovah’s witnesses.
Nationalism has also been overcome by the Witnesses who visited the New York assembly from various parts of Africa. On that continent some who have been in line to be tribal chiefs have forsaken this opportunity and the privileges and prestige that go along with it.
Some delegates have been resisting nationalism for scores of years. One from near London, England, recalls the struggles that God’s people have had through two world wars. Members of his own family lost employment and were imprisoned because of maintaining a neutral stand. During World War II he and his wife comforted with Bible truths those living in bombed-out regions of their country. The many trials and difficulties over the years have not weakened this couple. Rather, they say: “Opposition really strengthens one.” Obviously their over one hundred years of combined Christian service prove that the world has not overcome them.
But forces other than nationalism have worked to destroy the unity and faith of God’s modern people.
When the apostle John wrote Christians who had “conquered the wicked one,” he advised: “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world.” This includes its materialism. Modern Christians have been resisting materialism’s pressure.—1 John 2:14-17.
An Englishman who, with his family, came to the New York assembly was once an executive in a large food company. His work was challenging, but also time-consuming. He often rationalized that he was working hard making money “for the sake of my family.” But, he says, one day it struck him that the best the world could offer his family is only second best. Giving in to materialism would not give his family eternal life and happiness. He asked himself: “How could I preach that the end of the system is near while still strongly relying on the system myself?” So he quit the job and sold his house and furniture. Now he and his family serve in another area where they have a greater share in helping others to learn God’s will.
Materialism also exists in the nations that have not been extensively industrialized. A missionary delegate from Papua says that, since that nation started growing coffee on a large scale ten or fifteen years ago, it has prospered materially. Are the people really better off now? Certainly not those who use the added money to buy alcohol. The facts show that drunkenness, crime and other social problems are increasing.
But what are true Christians doing in such nations? This missionary reports that most are not affected by materialistic thinking. These people do improve themselves without becoming slaves to materialism. How? By learning to use their resources in a way consistent with Christian principles. Now, instead of spending all their money for drink, it goes to assisting their family.
Ultimately, of course, it is up to God to remove the whole materialistic system world wide. Says a couple from South America: “The brothers are doing their best with what material goods they do have and are waiting patiently for Jehovah’s ‘victory’ over this world.”
Not Conquered by Immorality
Christians have also been warned since the first century that they must not be overpowered by uncleanness and sexual immorality. (Rev. 2:20-26) Delegates at the New York assembly included those who have successfully resisted the world’s immoral and unclean ways.
One group of three delegates from Beirut, Lebanon, was once part of a five-man orchestra. They learned the truth about the Bible from Jehovah’s witnesses and saw that their way of life must be changed. But altering their habits was not easy. One of the delegates recalls: “I was aided by Jehovah to overcome habits I thought I could never quit—like using hashish, smoking tobacco and living an immoral life.” Yes, with divine help, he was aided to triumph over the world’s uncleanness.
These delegates and the tens of thousands gathered with them have not buckled under nationalistic, materialistic, and immoral pressures; they have “conquered the world.” The assembly program was of great aid in strengthening them to maintain their faith. How was this?
Program Emphasizes Divine Victory
Delegates were reminded in lectures, demonstrations and Bible dramas of the truthfulness of the apostle John’s words: “The victory that defeats the world is our faith, for who is victor over the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4, New English Bible) One speaker noted: “The question for a disciple is, Will the world defeat him, or will he defeat it?”
At the New York assembly, foreign-language visitors were given a special program on three mornings of their visit. There were brief talks from older members of the Watchtower Society’s headquarters staff.
Tours, Rooming Arrangements
Thousands of the visitors also went to see the Watchtower Society’s headquarters firsthand. They saw Bibles, books and magazines produced that they themselves might later use. “Bethel,” the home for the 1,300 volunteer ministers who operate the factory and offices and do related work in Brooklyn, was visited too. Over one hundred busloads of tours were specially booked by the Assembly’s Information Department to see Watchtower Farm. There vegetables, fruits, meat and dairy products, used to feed the Bethel headquarters staff are produced. Some printing of the Watchtower magazine is also done there in a newly erected factory.
But how were all these visitors taken care of while they were in New York? Special arrangements were made months in advance by the Assembly’s Rooming and Information Departments. A large section of Pan Am Airlines’ new terminal at Kennedy Airport was reserved to receive the incoming special delegates. Buses met the delegates at the airport to transport them to a central distributing center. There a ‘car pool’ of over 500 volunteer drivers took the visitors to their accommodations. Some 90 percent of the foreigners were housed with Americans who are Jehovah’s witnesses or persons interested in their work. Where possible, visitors who spoke German were housed with German-speaking Americans, French with French-speaking Americans, and so forth. In some cases, however, the delegates and hosts had to communicate with gestures and sign language or with the few words of the other language that each understood. Yet, the ties of genuine brotherhood united them.
The “Divine Victory” International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses is one more evidence that the Witnesses have proved themselves victorious over the divisive influences of the world. God’s people await the time, soon to come, when the Lord Jesus Christ ‘completes his conquest’ over all his enemies. Major hindrances to peace will then be completely gone and a vast crowd of survivors will jubilantly exclaim: “Victory to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”—Rev. 6:2; 7:9, 10, New English Bible.
[Picture on page 13]
No national or racial divisions mar the enjoyment of true Christian brotherhood among Jehovah’s witnesses
[Picture on page 14]
Delegates were warmly welcomed at the airport by local Witnesses
[Picture on page 14]
Witnesses from abroad are welcomed as guests in homes of fellow Witnesses at assembly time
[Picture on page 15]
A visit to the Watchtower Society’s printing plant was a highlight of their visit to New York
[Picture on page 16]
Spanish Witnesses here enjoy experiences of those who have maintained Christian neutrality for many years