Gold Coast Stoops to Religious Discrimination
TO CHARGE Africa’s Gold Coast with religious discrimination is fantastic! Is it? Then why was Mr. N. H. Knorr, president of the Watch Tower Society, recently denied entry into the Gold Coast if it was not because of his religion? Why was Mr. M. G. Henschel, a director of the Society, not permitted entry? Was it not his religion that kept him out? Were these Watch Tower Society representatives denied visas because they are Americans? Or Jehovah’s witnesses?
Jehovah’s witnesses are Christian ministers and Bible educators. Is not the government interested in Christianity? In Bible education? Or is it objecting to the good work and progress made by Jehovah’s witnesses? Does it expect to impede the progress of Christian education by denying entry to representatives of a Bible Society? Has it closed its doors to all Bible societies? To all missionaries and ministers? To tourists? Or is this just a direct attack against the religion of Jehovah’s witnesses? The people in both America and the Gold Coast deserve to know the answer. Jehovah’s witnesses would like to acquaint you with their position and activity in the Gold Coast.
Accra is the capital and center of activity for the Gold Coast. It is here the Watch Tower Society has its branch headquarters that cares for the 101 congregations scattered over the 91,843 square miles of territory. Here in Africa Jehovah’s witnesses offer the message of God’s kingdom, as they do in other lands.—Prov. 1:20; Acts 20:20.
During August, 1952, there were 4,446 publishers of the good news ministering to the people, and 136 were full-time ministers. Besides sponsoring 2,733 public lectures in one year alone, these thousands of Bible educators called back 188,708 times on interested persons and conducted Bible studies in 2,572 homes each month. Many of those aided were pagans, or were persons who had grown disgusted with their churches and hence would not have come to advertised meetings. One of Jehovah’s witnesses, a schoolteacher, tells how through his efforts a fetish priest burned his idols after coming to a knowledge of the truth, and also became a witness.
By talking this wonderful message of the Kingdom to others, showing the people what grand things will be done for them by Jehovah in the new world, Jehovah’s witnesses prove themselves to be Christ’s disciples. Jehovah’s witnesses are not against any government on earth. They are for God’s kingdom. They pray for it and preach it. Many “Christian” governments of earth have done the same when repeating the Lord’s prayer: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will come to pass, as in heaven, also upon earth.” By so doing they advocate a change to God’s rule, as do Jehovah’s witnesses.
Jehovah’s witnesses are not troublemakers. In the Gold Coast, as everywhere, they preach the good news peacefully, calmly and in the spirit of Jehovah. The results over the past ten years demonstrate its need and effectiveness, and God’s blessing.
REVIEWING PAST YEARS’ ACTIVITY
The first sizable assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses held in the Gold Coast came in 1942. There were some 350 persons present. In December of that year the small village of Nkwatia, situated in the picturesque Kwahu mountains, was the home of another assembly. Here some 300 persons were eager listeners. The following year a new peak of 495 Kingdom publishers was reported in October. To better train these in their ministerial activities, the Watch Tower Society put in operation a specially planned course of training in the theocratic ministry school. To further aid them in their ministry, in 1946 the Watch Tower Society in America furnished Accra with 20,000 copies of the book Children, which was used extensively as a Bible study aid.
With the dawn of 1947 a turning point in the history of pure worship in the Gold Coast took place. June 17 of that year saw the first two graduate missionaries from the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead arrive. A missionary home in Accra was established. Organizationally the work improved. Early reports showed that as many as 43 Bible studies were being conducted monthly by the two missionaries. The efficient working together of publishers and missionaries increased the number of regular ministers to 575.
Toward the close of 1947 it was announced that Mr. Knorr and Mr. Henschel would be present in Accra at the first national assembly. Delegates from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria were also to serve on the program; when the opening day came 950 filled the Palladium theater. On Sunday morning 171 were immersed. The climax of the assembly was the discourse that Mr. Knorr delivered before a packed audience of 1,383. His subject, “Permanent Governor of All Nations.” The assembly proved invigorating, stimulating and encouraging, as was evidenced by increased activity.
Beginning January 1, 1948, a new mountain of peaks in Kingdom publishers started off: January, 641; February, 722; March, 846, and by the close of the year over 100 per cent increase was recorded! Blessings upon blessings crowned 1948. The branch office was opened in Accra, a national assembly was held in Kumasi, two Gilead missionaries toured into the Northern Territories bringing the Kingdom message to heathens for the first time, and the importation of the book “Let God Be True”, along with other publications, was allowed.
Again in 1949 further Gilead missionaries landed to aid in the ever-expanding preaching work. The past seven years heaped up a mountain of testimony to the praise of Jehovah God. In one year alone over 868,282 hours were spent in the work, an average of almost sixteen hours per person a month.
WORK AND ASSEMBLY IN 1952
And what of 1952? Accra, instead of having one company as in 1947, had four units, with a total of 371 publishers. This represents a 364 per cent increase over the past five years! The year 1952 saw an increase of 27 per cent over the preceding year in the number of ministers. The annual celebration of the Lord’s evening meal was attended by 6,456, while 17,709 were present at 88 public meetings during the week end of April 12 and 13.
Over the past years many are the ones that have received spiritual comfort from our preaching work. Leper settlements have been visited, and public talks delivered before those eaten away by leprosy. Illiterates have been encouraged to attend special reading classes conducted by local companies of Jehovah’s witnesses. Of great help has been the magazine The Watchtower, published monthly in the local Twi language since August, 1950. The Watch Tower Society has made many provisions to help these people know the truth.
They have arranged assemblies that have contributed much toward the expansion of pure worship in this land. So with eagerness Jehovah’s witnesses looked ahead to their national assembly to be held in Accra, November 21-23, 1952. This promised to be a great event, for the president of the Watch Tower Society was scheduled to pay another visit to the Gold Coast to give helpful service instruction and deliver the public address, “It Is Time to Consider God’s Way.” As the time approached for the assembly, the needed machinery for finding a suitable location and operating an assembly was thrown into motion. To our surprise we were permitted to use the Old Polo Ground, British Crown Land, a spacious seaside plot just opposite the Supreme Court and King George V Memorial Hall. No finer spot in all the Gold Coast could there be!
From twenty-eight miles away nearly 2,000 pieces of bamboo were cut and hauled to the site of great activity. Structures began to take form. A mammoth-size kitchen with twenty cookstoves was the first completed frame. Grass mats set off departments and walled in offices. The speaker’s platform was beautifully decorated. From an overhead “shelf”, which was to serve as shade for the speakers, hung the letters spelling out the theme of the assembly: “Press On to Maturity.” Also a crowning feature indeed was the Ga State Umbrella loaned to us by the chief, a double umbrella that actually signifies “the King of kings”. Only on very special ceremonies is such a symbol released by the chief, but it was considered there is no greater King than Jehovah.
In co-operation with the electrical department the British army supplied the lighting. A contractor donated pipe to the water company to assist in bringing in the water supply, and Jehovah’s witnesses provided the labor in digging ditches and putting up poles and fixtures.
Storage and kitchen area had just been finished when food supplies began rolling in. There were three 5-ton truckloads of yams and one of plantain from 185 miles north, along with ever so many other provisions to keep the 150 cafeteria volunteers busy. Add to this the work of finding rooming accommodations for the thousands of delegates, plus an extensive advertising program, and you will realize the great work undertaken. In the advertising field 300 posters were put up over town. Additionally, in forty buses besides taxis and private cars this attractive poster appeared, while two cinemas carried slides advertising the public talk. Large billboards were placed at prominent intersections, and fronting the mammoth booth was a large wooden title sign, twenty-eight feet long and eight feet high, of yellow letters mounted on red-painted plywood. White wooden letters two feet high ran out either side of the title sign asking the public to hear this talk at 5 p.m. Sunday, November 23. Suspended beneath were letters giving the speaker’s name and other information. Yes, for 128 feet across the front of the booth were displayed full particulars of the public talk to be delivered by Mr. Knorr. This made a beautiful exhibit when floodlit at night.
FIRST DAY OF ASSEMBLY
Friday, the first day of the assembly, the little “Polo Ground Town” was humming with activity. Close to 6,000 were in attendance for the opening sessions, growing in the evening to 6,500. The next day the attendance increased to over 7,000 and on Sunday it reached the peak of 7,800. Adding to the joy of the assembly was the resounding applause that rang out when 690 stood up for immersion. New releases were made on Saturday and Sunday of Can You Live Forever in Happiness on Earth? in the Ga language, while “Let God Be True” in Twi was released.
But what of Mr. Knorr’s visit? After reflecting upon the good his visit had brought in 1947, it was a great shock to be informed only twelve days before the assembly that the visas originally granted had been canceled, and the Society’s president and his secretary would not be allowed to visit in the Gold Coast. Much difficulty was experienced because of the canceling of their visas. Substitutions had to be made on the program, and Mr. A. G. Baker, branch manager for the Watch Tower Society in the Gold Coast, gave the public address Mr. Knorr was to give. More than 15,000 heard it.
Even though the assembly went off smoothly to a completion, still many voiced concern over official action prohibiting the Society’s representatives from entering the country. Why, many inquired, were their visas first granted and then denied? Who was responsible for this action? Were not Jehovah’s witnesses being discriminated against by this official action? Are not Jehovah’s witnesses in the Gold Coast entitled to a visit from the president of their society? What has he done that he should not be permitted to enter? Even though up to the time of this report no official reason has been given for this disgraceful act, yet many felt that it was for no other reason than their religion.
Or is the Gold Coast closing its doors to all religions? Or to all Americans? Is the Gold Coast government no longer interested in Christianity? In Bible education? Why should it object to the wonderful progress made by Jehovah’s witnesses in this land? It certainly does not expect to impede the progress of the onward march of Christian education by denying entry to representatives of a Bible society, does it? Or has the government closed its doors to all Bible societies? To all ministers, missionaries and tourists? Or is it centering its attack against Jehovah’s witnesses and their activity? On this latter point it is of interest to note that one of the Accra daily newspapers reported in its issues of January 3 and 14, 1953, of the arrival of representatives of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Egypt and the Seventh-Day Adventist Mission. It has also been officially announced that three nonsectarian ministers were due to arrive in Accra on January 23, 1953. They were to preach at religious assemblies in three principal towns of the Gold Coast. Whatever the case may be, the people the world over are interested. Americans are interested because Mr. Knorr and Mr. Henschel are American citizens. Christians are interested because they are one body, and attacks on one are felt by all.
This discrimination may have begun in a subtle and small way, but soon people throughout the world will hear and know about it. Accra’s newspapers have had several favorable reports about the assembly and information about the refused entry. Other newspapers and magazines will carry the news. As Accra’s population protested to the government over this discrimination, so will people throughout the Christian world. At the present time, many letters of protest have been written requesting steps to be taken to stop such discrimination, and these are being addressed to His Excellency, The Governor and the Prime Minister, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, and other government officials. These letters echo the voice of all who believe in freedom of religion and assembly. May their voice be heard and religious freedom minus discrimination return to the Gold Coast.