Pursuing Peace With All People
AS A boy growing up in Denmark, I had always taken a keen interest in the sea. Since Denmark is almost surrounded by water, it is natural for some in that land to make seafaring a career. That is what I had in mind to do as my life’s work.
In my youth I often thought about the seafaring Vikings of many centuries ago. Perhaps included among them were some of my own ancestors. Later, when I pursued my maritime career, I often traveled over the sea-lanes supposedly used by the Vikings.
Religion’s Unpeaceful Role
But Vikings believed in war and conquest. Their ferocity moved Alcuin, an English scholar of the eighth century, to lament: “Never before has such terror appeared in Britain.” In the following 250 years many people in Europe prayed: “From the fury of the Northmen deliver us, O Lord!”
Religion had much to do with the warlike nature of the Vikings. They believed that only if they died in battle could they gain entrance to Valhalla, the supposed paradise of the Vikings. It was said to be located in the home of their gods, prominent among whom was Odin, their god of battle and death. Thus the Viking religion encouraged a warlike nature. One source called it a “blood-reeking religion.”
It disturbed me that religion could be such a promoter of violence. As a result, I often wondered if it would ever be possible for people of all different nationalities and religions to live in peace. Did history have to keep repeating itself so often in outbursts of hatred, war, and violent death, much of which was encouraged, supported, or at least condoned by religion?
However, the main thing in my life was my career at sea, which I pursued as a teenager. Over the years I went to sea on various ships and also attended navigation schools to qualify for different positions.
I Found a Treasure
But in 1960, at the age of 25, in the port of Copenhagen, I walked down the gangway of my ship for the last time. It had been my final voyage. Why? What caused me to bring my career at sea to an abrupt end?
Well, let me explain by going back to the year 1941. In the summer of that year, when I was a child, our family attended a convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city of Odense, Denmark. Great care had to be exercised at the convention, as the Germans were occupying the country, having invaded it the year before.
What I especially remembered about that convention was the printed program. On its back cover, there was an illustration of a woman sitting upon a ferocious-looking wild beast that had seven heads and ten horns. At the time, I did not know what the woman and the unusual beast represented. I was to find out years later.
Fourteen years passed before I attended another convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses—this time in Stockholm, in 1955. The ship I was on was not scheduled to get near Stockholm until after the convention. But in Hamburg, Germany, the shipping company kindly intervened and put me on a ship that got there earlier. This enabled me to attend the entire convention.
After the convention, I returned to Denmark, eager to learn more about the wonderful things I had heard. When one of the Witnesses offered to study the Bible with me, I gladly accepted. I learned that the Bible had long ago foretold the very period of time we are living in, when peace has been taken away from the earth. Great wars, along with other evils, have plagued mankind since 1914, dwarfing anything the Vikings did. What these awful conditions of our time mean is that we are in “the last days” foretold in the Bible, near the end of this present system of things.—2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13; Matthew 24:3-14; Revelation 6:3-8.
But I was also delighted to learn that Jehovah God would establish lasting peace on earth in our time, after this system’s end. In a new system, the Bible shows, people will be able to live forever amid Paradise conditions, without sickness, sorrow, or tears. (Psalm 37:29; 46:8, 9; Luke 23:43; Revelation 21:3, 4) What a treasure I had found in these heartwarming Bible promises!
The Woman Identified
What about the woman sitting on the unusual wild beast that I remembered from the program 14 years before? Well, Revelation 17:18 states: “The woman whom you saw means the great city that has a kingdom over the kings of the earth.” And in that “city,” Revelation 18:24 explains, “was found the blood . . . of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.”
Who was that woman? The startling answer was that she represented the world empire of false religion! But how could world religion, generally believed to be a force for good, be responsible for such ghastly misdeeds? I decided to do some research on my own. Ironically, it was statements made by religious leaders that removed all doubt from my mind. Not only had the ancient Vikings been led astray by false religion but so had the nations of our 20th century!
For example, during World War I the archbishop of Cologne, Germany, said to German soldiers: “We command you in the name of God, to fight to the last drop of your blood for the honor and glory of the country.” On the opposite side, the bishop of London, England, urged: “Kill Germans—do kill them . . . As I have said a thousand times, I look upon it as a war for purity, I look upon everyone who died in it as a martyr.”
So during wartime, Catholics killed Catholics and Protestants killed Protestants, showing that they were not genuine Christians, for Jesus Christ told his followers: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) The love I saw among Jehovah’s Witnesses at the convention in Stockholm and that they had for one another all over the world regardless of nationality identified them as true disciples of Jesus. Never would they go to war and take the lives of fellow Christians or anyone else. The Bible clearly shows that God’s children do not slaughter one another.—1 John 3:10-12.
Thus I learned that this world’s religions could never be a force for international peace. They support a divided, warring world that God has ‘weighed in the balances and found deficient,’ a world that will soon be crushed out of existence, along with its religious supporters. (Daniel 2:44; 5:27) On the other hand, Jehovah’s Witnesses not only believe but actually practice what Jesus taught. They are indeed a true international brotherhood in which genuine peace and unity exist. Yes, religion can be a force for peace—but not this world’s religions.
I began to attend meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Copenhagen. Soon I was sharing with my neighbors the good things I was learning. The next year, 1956, I was baptized at a convention where the public lecture was entitled “New World Peace in Our Time—Why?” I was thrilled to be in that peaceful audience and to be part of Jehovah’s unified international organization. I had found a priceless treasure indeed!—Compare Matthew 13:44.
A Time for Decisions
On October 15, 1960, I made that final walk down the gangway. It had not been an easy decision, for I liked the sea. Also, I felt that I was too young to settle down. But I was aware that I could have a fuller share in doing what was pleasing to God by not always being on the move.
Then in 1965 I attended some of the many international conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses that were being held in Europe. After listening to information about the full-time preaching activity, I realized that an important decision was still ahead of me. The next year I made the decision to enroll as a full-time minister of the good news. (Matthew 24:14) So I embarked on a new career to help others learn about God’s purpose to establish permanent peace on earth in our time.
During the next few years, I contemplated making yet another big decision. At the 1969 “Peace on Earth” International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Copenhagen, several talks discussed the possibilities of increasing one’s ministry by going to other areas of the world. That information helped me to make up my mind. I applied for training as a missionary at the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead in New York.
The next year I attended the 50th class of Gilead. After five months of intensive, enjoyable study, I was assigned to Guatemala in Central America. Our diplomas of graduation stated that we were “specially qualified to engage in educational work, promoting goodwill and working in behalf of permanent peace and the law of perfect order and righteousness, among all peoples.”
That is what I have worked at in Guatemala since my arrival in 1971. It has been a privilege to help many humble people in this country learn about Jehovah’s message of peace and to see them respond to it. By lining up their lives with God’s laws and principles, they have found peace even in this troubled world. And they also have the sure hope of lasting peace in God’s new system. How true the words of Jesus: “Happy are the peaceable.” That happiness will be even greater in the near future, for Jesus also said: “Happy are the mild-tempered ones, since they will inherit the earth.”—Matthew 5:5, 9.
God’s Spirit—A Force for Peace
God’s powerful active force enables his people to acquire and maintain true peace and unity, although they may have been from very different backgrounds. There are literally millions of examples that show the profound effect pursuing peace is having on people’s lives.
One such is that of Michael Molina. Michael had been a machine gunner on aircraft in Vietnam and had been awarded 29 medals. But when he learned about God’s purposes, he made his decision to do God’s will and pursue peace with all people. After a few years, Michael went to Gilead School and was assigned to Guatemala as a missionary. Today Michael and I serve in the branch in Guatemala City and also as overseers in the same congregation.
“Nation Will Not Lift Up Sword Against Nation”
Nearly 25 years have passed since I gave my first public talk in Denmark. It was entitled “‘Swords Into Plowshares’—In Our Time.” Little did I realize that I would be talking about that peace for a quarter of a century in many places, including lands where there is little peace now.
I recall one Central American country I visited where, after I gave a Bible lecture, I passed dead bodies on the roadside. This was the result of the political violence in that land. It made me think how very much we need to see fulfilled the Bible’s promise about life in God’s new system, where “the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”—Psalm 37:11.
My career of pursuing peace among all people has been far more satisfying to me than my career at sea. While I still find ships and the sea interesting, I have no regrets at changing my life’s work. And pursuing peace in God’s way means that I will not be among the figurative ‘ship captains’ that are mentioned in the Bible book of Revelation who ‘weep and mourn’ when they see the destruction of the ‘woman’ I first saw depicted on that convention program in 1941. (Revelation 18:17-19) No, I will not weep and mourn at seeing false religion destroyed at God’s hand. Why not? Because Revelation 18:20 says: “Be glad . . . because God has judicially exacted punishment for you from her!”
The removal of all false religion, as well as this world’s conflicting political and economic systems, will finally bring total peace to this earth. Bible prophecy declares: “He [Jehovah] will certainly render judgment among the nations and set matters straight respecting many peoples. And they will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.” Today, millions of people who worship Jehovah are already fulfilling that prophecy!—Isaiah 2:4.
Do you, too, want to live on a paradise earth where there will be true peace? Then you will want to be numbered among those who are pursuing it right now!—As told by Frede E. Bruun.
[Blurb on page 24]
Vikings believed that only if they died in battle could they enter Valhalla
[Blurb on page 25]
Not only were the Vikings misled by false religion but the nations of our 20th century are as well
[Picture on page 26]
Frede E. Bruun with young Witness friends in Guatemala