Spiritual Interests Advance in Greece
BY “AWAKE!” CORRESPONDENT IN GREECE
OVER 19 centuries ago, the apostle Paul spent time teaching in Athens. When speaking to an audience near the Acropolis, he made it clear that God is not “like gold or silver or stone, like something sculptured by the art and contrivance of man.” Then, encouraging his audience to act on the evidence presented, he declared: “True, God has overlooked the times of such ignorance, yet now he is telling mankind that they should all everywhere repent. Because he has set a day in which he purposes to judge the inhabited earth in righteousness.” (Acts 17:29-31) At that time, some of the Athenians did repent, including Dionysius, a judge of the court of the Areopagus.—Acts 17:32-34.
The day of judgment or reckoning for all the people of the earth is yet future. Therefore, Jehovah’s Witnesses here in Greece, as in other parts of the earth, realize that it is vital to continue declaring a message that encourages repentance. It is their earnest desire to aid as many people as possible to make the changes that are needed to come into harmony with the “good news” set forth in the Bible.
Nevertheless, the efforts of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Greece to provide spiritual help to their neighbors have not always been appreciated. For example, back in 1947, when fewer than 2,000 of them were imitating the example of the apostle Paul in encouraging their fellow countrymen to repent, they encountered fierce clergy-inspired opposition.
Witnesses experienced beatings, torture and even violent death at the hands of their persecutors. In one village, armed gendarmes tried to force a Witness to kiss idols, to make the sign of the cross and to renounce his faith. When torture methods failed to achieve the desired results, they simply shot him. In another village, 11 Witnesses, nine women and two men, were mercilessly beaten. One of the men was taken into the woods and executed. Later, the captain in charge of the gendarmes explained to one of the women: “I am not to blame. You have many enemies, especially the priest, who induced me to act against you.”
These difficult experiences did not destroy the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Impelled by the spirit of God, they kept right on proclaiming the “good news” to others.
Amazingly, from 1947 to 1948, they saw the number of those sharing in this activity increase by 23 percent.
Today there are more than 18,000 Witnesses, and they very much appreciate the religious liberty that the Greek Constitution guarantees. Even in recent times, the religious leaders have resorted to unlawful means to interfere with the conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Happily, the governmental authority has not yielded to such pressure but has commendably upheld the Constitution, with its provision for freedom of assembly.
On account of the fine conduct of Jehovah’s Witnesses at their gatherings, many honest-hearted persons have come to appreciate them as a people who seek to live by the Bible. Take the case of one policeman who had earlier opposed his sister’s studying the Scriptures with the Witnesses. His superiors assigned him to be on duty where Jehovah’s Witnesses were holding an assembly. Impressed by what he saw and heard, this man declared: “Not only will I no more prevent my sister from associating with the Witnesses but I will recommend to my wife and my other relatives that they contact the Witnesses and attend their Christian meetings.”
Because many others have responded favorably to the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses in recent years, it has been necessary to erect a new branch office of the Watch Tower Society here in Athens. The attractive four-story central structure and its two-story wing can accommodate up to 52 persons and are equipped with a printery, a paper and literature storage area, offices, and a spacious hall for holding meetings. To care for the personal needs of the workers, there are also a kitchen, a dining room and laundry and food-storage areas. The terrace of the structure affords visitors a splendid view of Mount Penteli, from which the ancient Greeks mined the white marble that was used in constructing the famous Parthenon.
It was indeed a joyous occasion for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Greece when the new branch office was dedicated on January 16, 1979. We sincerely hope that this new facility will contribute toward advancing the important activity that was started in Athens when the apostle Paul visited here nearly 2,000 years ago.