Report on “The New World Society in Action” in Asia and Africa
WHAT is the value of 1,997 feet of moving-picture film? Is its value just its purchase price? or the cost of taking the pictures that are on it? or the amount of money it will draw in commercial movie houses? The value of the hour-and-twenty-minute moving picture “The New World Society in Action” that Jehovah’s witnesses are showing free of charge around the world is determined by a far more important factor. Its value must be determined by the tremendous effect that it has upon the lives of a vast number of its viewers. Previously we reported on excellent experiences had with this moving-picture film in both large cities and small towns in Europe and the Americas. But what about its use in such parts of the world as Asia and Africa, where there still are many people who have never even seen a moving picture, and who have no real knowledge of the earth-wide activity Jehovah’s witnesses are carrying on in the proclamation of the Kingdom good news?
Regarding the value of this film in his land, the Watch Tower’s Nigerian branch servant reports: “The film has made a tremendous impact here in Nigeria, not only on the brothers and people of good will, but also on total strangers.” Due to lack of suitable buildings in which to show the picture, especially out in the “bush,” most of the showings in that West African land have been out-of-doors. There never is any difficulty in getting a good attendance, and the effect that the picture has had is excellent. Thus it was reported from Nigeria that, having long believed us to be a small local religion, the people are “amazed to see the evidence that we are a large organization on a worldwide basis.” The local brothers now find many doors opening to them and many listening ears. Following one circuit assembly at which the film was shown, it was reported: “So many interested people are coming along that they almost outnumber the brothers at the meetings.”
During the first four months that “The New World Society in Action” was available in Nigeria, it was shown twenty-eight times to audiences totaling 45,979, and its value is certainly being seen in that land.
The new handbills advertising the film were used in Monrovia, Liberia, where five hundred people came to see this account of New World action that was presented at the largest hall in the city. This showing stimulated both the brothers and the good-will persons. As one brother put it after seeing the film: “It’s time for us now to get busy!” When the picture was shown for the brothers and persons of good will at the Firestone Rubber Plantation, a huge throng of over 2,000 noisy rubber tappers attended. Many expressed their surprise at the extent of the good work the organization is doing. Certainly this meeting played its part in the 25 per cent increase that the local congregation has experienced.
For some time the people of Greenville, Liberia, had known that the picture would be shown there, but many thought it would be like most religious films. However, the 400 who came on a Thursday evening to see it were so impressed that some of them begged the brothers to show it again. Owning no projector, the missionaries made no further arrangements to show the picture. On Friday and Saturday as they contacted the people the question kept coming up: “Aren’t you going to show the film tonight?” On Saturday evening, after the missionaries had concluded their day’s activity and settled down to their private study, a knock sounded at the door. “You must come and show the film, the people are all there waiting. We’ve arranged everything. Please come!” Arriving, the missionaries found the place crowded with 517 persons—more than a hundred more people than had been present at the first showing. The audience’s appreciation grew. “These people don’t play, they work!” was repeated many times. At least one family took it very seriously. They are now attending the congregation meetings, the man has started to publish, and he desires to be baptized.
In Northern Rhodesia hall managers where the film has been shown have been favorably impressed by the marked difference in conduct between those attending “The New World Society in Action” and their regular crowds. The picture has been punctuated again and again with loud applause and every showing has been followed by intense interest. It took seven showings to accommodate the attendance in Kitwe alone. Though there has been difficulty in obtaining halls in some places in Northern Rhodesia, there has been excellent co-operation from the authorities in Kitwe, who well remember the impressive assembly that was held there some time ago, which is shown in the film.
The pictures of the Watch Tower’s Brooklyn Bethel home and factory, and how the brothers work in unity and willingness, have greatly impressed the Northern Rhodesian crowds. One letter said: “People of good will expected to see a capitao [foreman], one to just point and tell others what to do, but the film showed all working willingly together to the honor of Jehovah God.”
PAKISTAN AND INDONESIA
In non-Christian lands like Pakistan, Watch Tower missionaries are often regarded as just another sect of Christendom. Of course, the more discerning individuals very soon realize that there is a difference, that these Watch Tower missionaries do not act the way the others do, nor say the same things, and consequently there is a higher regard for them. But still, even to those who become more acquainted with their message, they are for some time regarded as just another sect, and perhaps an insignificant one too.
However, the showing of the film “The New World Society in Action” has changed all this. All who saw it in Pakistan were surprised; many were amazed. They were impressed with the vast number of persons participating in the work, the phenomenal growth of the Society, the large and efficient publishing plant, the universal nature and appeal of the message, the rapid expansion that has been enjoyed, the absence of national and color barriers, the number of persons being immersed, and, above all of these, the totally different spirit that prevails everywhere within the New World society. Hardly a person who has seen the film in Pakistan has failed to express himself favorably along these lines.
Many of the less educated people, who had never even seen a moving picture, or at best only a poorly produced local effort, were transferred into a wonderland of new places, peoples, customs, and a totally new outlook. Hearing the running comments in their native Urdu, and actually seeing the New World activity pictured, they have had an impression made upon them that would take months to accomplish through any other method.
One person of good will expressed his amazement this way: “Do you mean that the same spirit that prevailed here at our Lahore assembly can also permeate the thousands of people we saw there?” Assured that the same spirit that prevails at smaller local assemblies can and does permeate the huge throngs at mighty international gatherings, and that the spirit of Jehovah’s people is the same throughout the whole earth, this person abandoned his previous course of indecision and has gotten down to serious study.
The account of New World society activity has brought divided families to agreement. In one case, only the wife was showing merely casual interest in the message, but, since the assembly at Quetta and the showing of the film, she has become a regular supporter of all the congregation meetings and is a prospective publisher, while her husband and children now join in the studies both at home and at the Kingdom Hall. In another case a Muslim husband and his nominally Christian wife were having studies. Out of deference to his religious views no prayer was being said. Since seeing the film, however, she has become active in Jehovah’s service and now he, too, bows his head in prayers offered in the name of Jesus Christ.
In Indonesia the operator at the film’s premier showing was so favorably impressed that he requested literature and asked for a Bible study to be conducted with him. Within a few months he dedicated his life to Jehovah and was baptized.
Imagine this complex situation: In Sumatra arrangements were made by a Protestant army chaplain, using a projector and operator provided by a Chinese newspaperman, who is the chairman of the Catholic Youth Movement, to show the film in a Protestant church located in a strong Islamic community. By special messengers the chaplain succeeded in bringing the attendance up to 160. The secretary of the church sent a letter of appreciation to the Society for the showing of the film and requested literature and further information. Also, use of a hall in the private Khalsa English school in Medan, Sumatra, was graciously granted by the Indian schoolmaster. Probably a dozen different religious groups were here represented, Theosophic, Christian and Islamic. The schoolmaster said he felt honored to have such a fine educational film shown there.
Distorted pictures that have been framed by those who were ignorant of the truth, or who were prejudiced against it, will not erase from “seeing eyes” and “hearing ears” the information conveyed by this film. The people have seen, have heard and have experienced a change of feeling as a result of seeing and hearing that there are people who really are living for Jehovah’s new world. With further assistance many will certainly act upon the message.
JAPAN, TAIWAN AND OKINAWA
Japan appreciates color, and it certainly has responded to this colorful movie that has now been shown at least twice in most of the Japanese congregations Naturally the people here are thrilled to see Japan represented in the Yankee Stadium scenes, and when the Japanese-language Watchtower shows up there is always a hearty applause. In 1954 the Japanese brothers would have been very happy to maintain their April peak of 407 publishers, a forty-two per cent increase over the previous year. However, as the movie showings got under way they had repeated new peaks, reaching 410 publishers in July, 452 in October and 457 in November.
On the island of Taiwan, or Formosa, the movie was shown seven times to a total of 2,864 persons. For eighteen years a series of bans under first the Japanese government, then the Chinese Nationalist government, had prevented Jehovah’s witnesses from holding any kind of assembly at all. How thrilling it was for them to gain official approval for the showing of the film, and even to have the police assist in obtaining halls! Though forbidden to gather in groups of even three persons for Bible study, they were permitted to assemble to view the film.a Indeed, government officials who were granted a preview stated that it was one of the finest educational films they had seen.
To Jehovah’s witnesses in Taiwan, seeing this film was the greatest experience yet in their Kingdom activity. Most of the time one could have heard a pin drop whenever the commentator paused. This commentary was in a hitherto unwritten language, that of the Ami tribe of southeastern Taiwan. But the organization of these movie showings would outstrip anything that civilization could offer. Cooperation among the servants and the audience was nothing short of marvelous. For an hour and a half these humble people from the backwoods walked right into New World society action world-wide. Their retentive minds will long treasure what they saw as they keep patterning their lives according to New World standards.
On Okinawa the movie was used in connection with that island’s first circuit assembly, January 14-16. Before the assembly began there were ten publishers there. During the assembly eight more started in the service, and two more pioneers enrolled. This small group gathered 290 persons to the Saturday evening Japanese-language viewing, and 80 to the Sunday evening English-language viewing, thus making a total attendance of! 370—an amazing figure considering the number of publishers there. Among those attending was a former deputy governor who came the first night and then returned the second night to see the picture over again.
The first thirty-nine showings of the film in Japan, Taiwan and Okinawa served a total of nearly 5,000 people, holding the organization and the activity of Jehovah’s witnesses prominently before the attention of publishers and good-will persons alike. The Japanese branch servant expressed the view of all of Jehovah’s witnesses who have seen “The New World Society in Action” when he wrote: “We thank Jehovah from the bottom of our hearts for this wonderful means of bearing testimony to his name.”
This moving-picture film in no way replaces the activity of the Kingdom publisher, but it is a help, an instrument, he can use for his own strengthening and as a further aid for those with whom he has discussed the message of the New World. A study of the Bible shows doctrinally that the New World society has the truth, while this film shows the world-wide activity of this Christian congregation and the good effect that the message has upon the lives of those who hear and accept it. This is an outstanding accomplishment to be made by just under two thousand feet of well-edited moving-picture film!
a This ban has now been lifted. See page 510 of The Watchtower, August 15, 1955.