Good News from Greece
OUT of war-torn and clergy-ridden Greece come both good and bad reports about Jehovah’s witnesses. The bad news tells about the terrible suffering that continues to be inflicted upon these humble Christians. The good news, on the other hand, relates how Almighty God is not only upholding and sustaining his witnesses in their affliction, but also how he is giving them marvelous opportunities in which to tell others about both Jehovah’s loving-kindness and tender mercy toward the meek of the earth, and his fierce and terrible anger shortly to be unleashed upon all of mankind’s wicked oppressors. This thrilling news report will cheer and comfort the hearts of all persons of all nations who love and fight for freedom and truth.
Last year on April 12, in Athens, nine of Jehovah’s witnesses were cruelly arrested while celebrating a most solemn feast, the Memorial supper instituted by Christ the night in which he was betrayed. These brethren of Christ were sentenced to many months in prison. This year, notwithstanding the fact that there was neither martial law nor emergency measures in force as a pretense for such wicked action, God’s enemies again swooped down on Jehovah’s witnesses. This time the incident occurred at Serres in Macedonia, where 35 of the Lord’s people and 4 interested persons of good will were assembled for the Memorial in obedience to Christ’s command. All were arrested, tried by a prejudiced court, and sentenced to jail terms ranging from 3 to 7 months in prison, and fines from 100,000 to 300,000 drachmas, and one year police paroles to follow.
You will be interested to know upon what the judges in that tyrannical country based their decision. A translation of that portion of the infamous sentence, No. 233, reads:
“ . . . that is to say, these, belonging to the heresy of Jehovah’s witnesses, put in operation a prayer-meeting home, having used for the purpose a room in the house of John Duzulikopulos, located at 33 Megalou Alexandrou street, which was properly arranged for the occasion by placing seats, benches, one suitably laid table, whereon they had placed unleavened bread and other vessels of their mass and various books of the heresy of Jehovah’s witnesses, such as The Watchtower and the like, seized by the authorities, and intended for their celebrating Christ’s Memorial (Passover). . . . ”
There is, however, another and a brighter side to this black inquisitional cloud of persecution. The trial lasted a whole day and was attended by about 500 persons who heard a tremendous witness about the work and faith of Jehovah’s people. Even the court had to deliberate for 2 1/2 hours in order to reach a decision. Comments on the trial were published by the newspapers at Serres, Salonica and Athens. So in the end, everything proved to the glory of Jehovah’s name. As for the judgment handed down, an appeal was taken to a higher court at Salonica.
GOSPEL-PREACHING IN GREEK PRISONS
The assistant company servant in the Athens group of Jehovah’s witnesses recently completed a 120-day sentence in prison, not because he had done wrong, but because he serves God. In a letter he recounts the wonderful experiences that were his during his imprisonment, and from this letter the remainder of this article is taken.
“At first I was put in a provisional prison together with 27 to 30 other prisoners, all of which were put in one cell intended for only 5 or 6 persons. But it was a relatively tolerable room in point of cleanness and type of prisoners. Most of the others were merchants, military officers, lawyers, physicians, professors, gendarmes and other professionals.
“I was kept there 14 days and during that time 84 different prisoners passed through the room. By the Lord’s grace it was possible to hold two-hour public meetings every evening at which time talks were given about Jehovah’s kingdom by Christ and about God’s blessings of the future. All heard the witness that was given. Even the chief of department, his assistant, and all the jailers and gendarmes also heard. Thereafter, two of them manifested exceptional interest in the truth and today I started a home Bible study with one of them.
“Afterwards, I was taken to another prison in Athens, and because I did not want to disown Jehovah the God whom I worship, as demanded by the chief guardian, I was locked up with about 73 dangerous evil-doers and hashish-smokers. [Hashish is an intoxicating narcotic with the stupefying power of opium.] These people, in spite of their degenerate condition, were well aware of the Bible truth, having learned considerably from others of Jehovah’s witnesses who in times past had also been caged there.
“By the way, I deem it my duty to tell you that so far as I have been able to ascertain, the conduct of Jehovah’s witnesses who have served sentences in this and other prisons, and in the Makronesus and Yura prison islands, has contributed to a great advertising of the Lord’s name. This it seems is because of the Christian conduct of the brethren, and their prudence and Theocratic tactfulness during their various discussions. Thus the ground was suitably prepared by the time I arrived, and hence my ‘public speeches’ were greatly appreciated.
“Several among this group, however, heard for the first time about the Bible, about a loving God and his Kingdom, about the coming battle of Armageddon, and the imperative need for them to take their stand now at the right hand of Christ the King. These supposedly ‘evildoers and dope fiends’ listened with enthusiasm and requested that no day or evening pass without the giving of a Bible talk and discussion from God’s Word. As time went on, several of them, full of joy, were heard crying out to the jailers that from now on they are Jehovah’s witnesses! Indeed, they would try to cease their smoking, and two of them actually succeeded. They started to study the Bible, and before I left they took note of my home address so that upon their release from prison they can have a regular home Bible study started in their own home.
“My presence amidst these unfortunate people gave them a further opportunity to hear the good news of the Kingdom, and not only to hear but also to strengthen their hope for life under Jehovah’s kingdom rule by Christ.
“At the end of those 17 days, I was called before the prison’s director, who very civilly and politely recommended that I speak no more and make no more ‘propaganda’, as it was reported to him by his secret agents who are usually found in each of the prison rooms. As part of the bargain, and an inducement for me to comply with his request, the director promised to transfer me to another wing in the prison, thus affording me more freedom and ease.
“In replying to this offer, the director allowed me to explain that the mere discussion of my faith is not ‘propaganda’, and since speech itself, the mere use of the tongue, is not prohibited, it is most pleasant for me to talk about the coming blessings of the Creator and his Kingdom, instead of gossiping and discussing other subjects and things. I added that Jehovah’s witnesses do not meddle in matters and affairs of politics and business; that they are exclusively interested in knowing their Creator. So I availed myself of this opportunity to explain to him in brief our faith and God’s will as stated in the Bible.
“‘But why do you call God Jehovah?’ he asked. In reply I said: ‘The answer may be given to you by the religious inspector of the prisons himself, who is here present.’ With that I turned to this gentleman, who replied without hesitating: ‘God’s name is Jehovah, whether we like it or not.’ Well, my joy was very great, because the director heard from the mouth of an Orthodox clergyman that Jehovah is the name of God!
A MODERN “PAUL” AMONG PAGANS
“After learning that Jehovah is God, the director of the prison, who at first was so severe, ordered me to be taken to a better wing, to a room called Colonaki (meaning the ‘aristocratic quarter’), perhaps because he reasoned that those in there would give no heed to the message, owing to their social station in life and because many of them were scientists and educated atheists. However, developments were altogether different.
“In my immediate cell a broad witness was given to the 12 inmates in the form of lectures and discussions. They recognized that Jehovah’s witnesses are consistent in their practice with what they believe according to the Bible. They knew that orthodox religions have become the instruments of politics, that they are human institutions based on traditions, and that their teachings conflict with the Bible.
“This cell I was in was quite different from all the others I had been in until then, for not only did I have more ease and comfort, but I was also allowed free communication with the crowd of prisoners throughout the whole wing from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. So the Lord permitted me to become acquainted with this multitude of about 600 persons, some of whom proved to be ‘sheep’.
“One of these sheeplike persons was such a fanatical religionist prior to learning the truth that he had bought all the publications written by a professor in the Athens University against the witnesses. These he had donated to the prison’s library in the hope that the other prisoners would not be deluded by what he called the ‘heretic witnesses of Jehovah’. But because this man was honest of heart, like the Pharisee Saul who later became the apostle Paul, so now this person is a zealous witness for Jehovah.
“I must relate still another very interesting experience. A well-known professor in the Athens University published a sort of letter of criticism against Jehovah’s witnesses in the Athens paper Estia, which contained this statement: ‘They [Jehovah’s witnesses] distort the Bible and explain the Revelation, which is a sealed and closed book for all and forever.’ This publication caused quite a stir in our prison cell, and a fellow prisoner, who was a lawyer, after reading the professor’s statement, asked whether I had any different opinion. I told him: ‘First I shall hear your own opinion, but before you speak, read Revelation 22:10.’ So from a copy of the New Testament published by the Orthodox Brotherhood he read the Scripture: ‘Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book.’ Thereupon he exclaimed: ‘It is very obvious that the professor is not right, and I am amazed at his boldness to publicly insult Jehovah’s witnesses and distort the truth so bombastically.’
“The other listeners in the cell also hastened to read the paper’s publication and the verse referred to in Revelation, and they too showed surprise at the professor’s false statement. Giving them more information I said: ‘If you now read Revelation 1:1 where it is written, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants,” you will readily understand that this book is sealed and closed for the professor because he is not a servant of Christ, but the book is not closed to the servants of God and Christ, Jehovah’s witnesses. The very name of the book, Revelation, shows it would not be closed forever.’
“Now how many of those prisoners, who showed interest in this message of truth, will go ahead and progress in their knowledge of the Bible, only the Lord knows. Jehovah God knows His own, and will not permit any of His sheep to be lost. I thank the Lord with all my heart for the blessed experiences granted me during my detention. Out of season for me, but in season for those prisoners, I tried to avail myself of every opportunity to preach the Word. It is most evident from these experiences that all these hardships, persecutions and imprisonments heaped upon Jehovah’s witnesses here in Greece only go to prove the glory and majesty and greatness of our God, whose name alone is Jehovah!”