A Record of Faithfulness
CUBA is not the only country where Jehovah’s Witnesses are persecuted. They have been banned in the Soviet Union, China and other Communist lands. They have also been persecuted in Argentina in recent years. In Malawi, several horrible waves of persecution raged against them for a number of years. During World War II, efforts were made to exterminate them in Nazi Germany, and many Witnesses died in concentration camps.
However, the persecution against Jehovah’s Witnesses is not something recent. The accusations of sedition or of being antisocial are not new either. Other faithful servants of God, the Bible informs us, suffered the same persecution and were also accused falsely.—John 19:12; Acts 16:19-21.
What some nations have not been able to understand is that Jehovah’s Witnesses are neutral in political affairs. They never interfere with or harm the political system of the country where they live. Some nations, misunderstanding this, think that the Witnesses are subversive because they do not go to war or because they do not perform what the Witnesses regard as acts of worship toward patriotic symbols.
But it is impossible for them to be subversive. Such a thing would be contrary to their high Bible principles. In fact, if those who have doubts about this would investigate carefully and impartially, they would find that Jehovah’s Witnesses have never attempted a revolt against any government. They have never plotted against one, or incited others to do so. Instead, they would strongly censure any of their members who would break the law of the land where they live regarding moral behavior, the paying of taxes and other civic responsibilities. That is why they are found to be among the most law-abiding citizens of every nation.
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that wars will solve the problems of mankind. They do not believe this because the Bible, God’s Word, says that wars are not going to solve earth’s problems. Instead, God’s promise is for a time when “nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.” (Isa. 2:4) Even now, Jehovah’s Witnesses obey the underlying principle of that prophecy. They live in agreement with the apostle Paul’s counsel at Romans 12:18: “As far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men.”
This is nothing new. For example, the book History of Christianity, by Edward Gibbon, says of the first-century Christians: “They refused to take any active part in the civil administration or the military defence of the empire. . . . it was impossible that the Christians, without renouncing a more sacred duty, could assume the character of soldiers, or magistrates, or of princes.”
However, unlike many other lands, Cuba has no arrangement for exempting those who conscientiously object to military service. Therefore, young Christians in Cuba have suffered much for maintaining faithfulness to the principles of God’s Word. The many thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses still in Cuba continue to suffer for their faithfulness to God’s laws.
Yet governments such as Cuba should ask themselves, What would really happen if all people faithfully abstained from war, as do Jehovah’s Witnesses? The obvious answer is that war would forever disappear, as it already has disappeared among millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses on an international scale, and as it will disappear completely from the entire earth in God’s new order of righteousness.—John 13:34, 35; 2 Pet. 3:13.
Winning Respect in Prison
The imprisonment of Jehovah’s Witnesses has called on them to show their integrity to God. They have done this, and at the same time they have shared their hope with other prisoners.
For example, Samuel Izquierdo tells what happened when he was imprisoned for not participating in military service: “I told them that my conscience did not allow me to submit to their political dictates and that I could not accept military training. The official handling my case angrily shouted orders that I should be locked in a cell.
“The cell was constructed of wood and measured 1.2 meters square by 1.5 meters in height [4 feet square by 5 feet in height]. This made it impossible for me to be able to stand up straight. Also, they had put human excrement all over the surface of the cell floor, and they locked me up there, naked and barefooted. The stench was horrible.”
But this Witness tells how he was able to maintain his integrity under these conditions: “I was able to keep with me all the time a small Bible, the Greek Scripture portion. Although they found it when they searched me, they never paid any attention to the little book, as they called it. From the very first day I was among the other prisoners I started to tell them about the hope of God’s new order that the Bible holds out. More than 10 prisoners gathered with me. I would read the Bible to them and give them, as they said, spiritual comfort. This helped to keep me spiritually strong. And the prisoners respected me as a religious minister. At that prison, the soldiers finally considered me inoffensive and stopped punishing me.”
The Bible commands that Christians ‘not forsake the gathering of themselves together.’ (Heb. 10:24, 25) While Cuban law forbids Jehovah’s Witnesses to meet openly, it cannot stop them from doing so in other ways. Even in the prisons they find ways to meet together.
Eduardo Aboud states: “There was much joy in being able to gather together secretly in some place in the camp to have Bible discussions. Each day one of us contributed a text of Scripture to comment on. We would also tell one another of our experiences and of the various tests of our faith that we all had to confront and overcome. Then we studied how to endure the difficulties that were likely to emerge the next day.
“Too, all of us had the opportunity to talk about God’s purpose to other prisoners who were not Witnesses. There was a Witness in each one of the barracks in the camp; so each took his barracks as his personal ‘territory’ in which to preach. In this way, I was able to conduct two weekly Scripture studies using the things I had learned previously, since in that prison we lacked any written material, including the Bible. Nevertheless, each month we showed excellent activity in speaking Bible truths to others.”
Outside the prisons, the formal meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned. Kingdom Halls were even attacked by groups or mobs. Men, women and children were beaten. It was useless to have interviews with provincial authorities or representatives of the Ministry of the Interior. The response was always the same: “We follow orders from Havana.”
Public Activity Forbidden
In addition to closing the Kingdom Halls, an effort was made to prevent Jehovah’s Witnesses from performing their public ministry in the homes of others. Thousands of Witnesses were arrested every week when they went out in the public ministry. They were fined or spent time in jail.
Yet Jehovah’s Witnesses in Cuba today obey God’s command to tell others the good things they have learned from his Word. (Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20; Acts 20:20) They perform this ministry in a variety of ways. And they answer today just as did the first-century Christians who were ordered “nowhere to make any utterance or to teach upon the basis of the name of Jesus.” Those early Christians declared, when before the authorities: “Whether it is righteous in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, judge for yourselves. But as for us, we cannot stop speaking about the things we have seen and heard.” They also stated: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 4:18-20; 5:29.
By the faithful course of action on the part of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the name and purpose of Jehovah God has become widely known throughout Cuba, as the refugees report. This has been of great benefit to many persons who want to hear the truth. In the prisons a great witness to God’s purpose has been given.
Note what refugee Luis Garcia says: “In the prisons of Cuba neither the work nor the name of Jehovah’s Witnesses was formerly known until those Witnesses who were sent to the prisons began to arrive. In time, more and more Witnesses had to go to prison. As a result, the witnessing was amazing both outside and inside the prisons. To say the words ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ in any prison in Cuba was taken to mean courage, bravery, firmness, faithfulness and integrity in every respect.”
Many prisoners have benefited by the message, and behavior, of the Witnesses. A great number of such prisoners have learned about God and his purpose and have changed their lives so as to become servants of God. An example is a man who was in prison for robbery before he learned about the Bible. He wrote this to the one who had taught him in prison:
“My dear brother: My deepest wishes are that when you read these lines you will be well physically and spiritually in union with your dear family. I can tell you that I feel all right. Spiritually I feel strong and optimistic, since every day my faith grows more and more. As the days go by, I understand things better. I see with great pleasure that God’s holy spirit operates in me. Despite being alone in this environment, I have been able to put the name of the Almighty God in the highest position, since I am trying to apply all his teachings in my life.
“In the short time that we were together, I learned to get attached to you very much despite my age and despite the fact that I was very much part of this world. I have never been treated the way I was treated by you, because since all my associations previously had been with worldly people, sooner or later they would show their true nature. However, in you I always found love, sincerity and kindness.
“You have been for me a spiritual father, and you have helped me a great deal. Another thing that is helping me and that will be of use to me in the future is your example as a servant of God. Not only did you teach me what is written in the Bible as doctrine, but in your dealings you taught me by your example the right way to follow.
“I am not spiritually mature yet. I still lack much knowledge. But even with that disadvantage I am ready to defend the truth, because the truth cannot be hidden. Sometimes I say less than what I would like to express, but even with few words I can defend the truth.
“While I felt sad after you were released, I became very active in talking truth to others. That filled the emptiness.
“I am very glad to know God’s ways and to know his purpose. I have made my dedication to serve him every moment and in any place where I may be found, even at the possible cost of my life. (Luke 9:62; Acts 20:24) Although distant from you, I have not forgotten your teachings. (Signed) Your brother and son in the faith.”
Certainly, any government that sincerely observes God’s servants can see the many benefits that they bring. Those who become Jehovah’s Witnesses become the best citizens. They take better care of their families, their children and their own and other people’s properties. Jehovah’s Witnesses put a high priority on honesty and morality.
What They Would Like
Of course, in every country where the Witnesses live, they would like to find understanding on the part of the government. They would like to carry out their religious worship in a free and happy way. And in most countries, they can do this.
However, they do not have this freedom in Cuba. Yet this desire was expressed to the Castro government in an appeal sent on December 16, 1978. At the end of the document, it was stated: “We pray for you and for the other officials of the Revolutionary Government so that you may reasonably understand our position, and if it is the will of God and his resolution, to be able to receive an urgent answer. In the Bible we are exhorted to do this in 1 Timothy 2:1, 2, which says: ‘I therefore exhort, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, offerings of thanks, be made concerning all sorts of men, concerning kings and all those who are in high station; in order that we may go on leading a calm and quiet life with full godly devotion and seriousness.”’
However, even if such a petition continues to go unfulfilled, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Cuba will continue to serve Almighty God faithfully, no matter who opposes. “If God is for us, who will be against us?” says the Bible. (Rom. 8:31) They trust that Jehovah will resolve their situation in his due time and way.
[Blurb on page 9]
Jehovah’s Witnesses have never plotted against any government, or incited others to do so. Instead, they would strongly censure any of their members who would break the law of the land
[Blurb on page 10]
“All of us had the opportunity to talk about God’s purpose to other prisoners”
[Blurb on page 11]
“To say the words ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ in any prison in Cuba was taken to mean courage, bravery, firmness, faithfulness and integrity”