Witnesses Persevere Behind the Iron Curtain
IN SPITE of the relentless efforts of the Communist rulers to stamp out the work of Jehovah’s witnesses, this good news of the Kingdom is being preached behind the Iron Curtain. The following article, entitled “Cloud of Witnesses,” published in the Washington Post, March 21, 1959, gives evidence of the fact that Jehovah’s witnesses in Russia hold the same faith as their Christian brothers in other lands and that they are immovable in their devotion to Jehovah God and his new world of righteousness. It says:
“It is interesting to learn, by way of an extended denunciation in Pravda, that the sect of Jehovah’s witnesses has become almost as much of a headache to the rulers of Communist Russia as it was to the rulers of Nazi Germany. It seems that the Witnesses have been making converts all over the Soviet Union, even in such distant places as Siberia and Kurgan, and that they now constitute a formidable movement of underground resistance to the regime.
“The editors of Pravda affect to believe that the whole movement is being subsidized by ‘the most reactionary elements of American capitalism’ and that its purpose is to infect the Soviet masses with a spirit of meekness and resignation that will frustrate or delay the world-wide triumph of the revolutionary proletariat. The organizers of the movement are described as ‘former war criminals, Fascist collaborators and Gestapo informers’ who were indoctrinated and trained for the work in German concentration camps.
“The assertion that they were indoctrinated in concentration camps may not be without an element of truth. Nearly all survivors of these camps have testified to the courage and obduracy of the Witness prisoners and to their ability to withstand intimidation and even torture. It would not be surprising, then, if many Russian prisoners, who had hardly less reason than the German Witnesses to identify the state with the reign of antichrist and no less reason to accept an apocalyptic view of history, were much impressed by this example.
“At any rate the chiliastic doctrine of the Witnesses—who believe that the second coming of Jesus Christ has long since been an historical fact, that His invisible reign will soon be transformed into His visible kingdom on earth, and that all existing forms of the state are therefore satanic and doomed to perish in the approaching Battle of Armageddon—has had an immense appeal to people who live under the more totalitarian and tyrannous forms of government. Thus one can readily accept the estimate of the Witnesses themselves that the number of their converts beyond the Iron Curtain is more than 100,000. One can also believe the complaint of Pravda that in the collective farms and factories of the Soviet Union the Witnesses are resisting the coercive influences of communism and its propaganda with quite as much stubbornness as their brethren in the United States have shown in refusing military service and perfunctory homage to the flag.”
Another report, published in the April 1, 1959, issue of The Current Digest of the Soviet Press, while denouncing Jehovah’s witnesses and their activity, has the following to say:
“Do you know about the great calamity that is in store for all of us—the terrible and devastating war that may burst out upon the earth any day?
“It will be a war between God and Satan. Yes, yes—don’t laugh. The day will come when God finally tires of beholding the misdeeds of the Evil One and descends from heaven to engage him in a decisive and deadly battle. Oh, this will be a terrible day for mankind! In the holocaust of Armageddon will perish not only Satan but all those who are in league with him—in the first place, of course, the unbelievers, which means you and me, reader! But it will not stop at us. The majority of believers, since their faith is not the true one, are also doomed to mass destruction. The only ones who will be saved, and who will live in felicity on earth forever, will be the members of the religious sect of Jehovah, also known as ‘Witnesses of the Lord Jehovah,’ also known as ‘Students of the Holy Scripture.’ So that is what Armageddon means. Prepare yourselves, and tremble!
“Ivanna K., an eighth-grade pupil in a Lvov school, told me all about this with the most earnest face and with inspired conviction. If you imagine Jehovah’s witnesses as being ancient elders or emaciated, hysterical women with a feverish gleam in their eyes, you will probably find it difficult to imagine in this role an attractive, rosy-cheeked girl, an exemplary student, a model of modesty and an excellent singer.
“Ivanna and her little sister Yaroslava, a fifth-grade pupil in the same school, are growing up and studying like everyone else, and outwardly they are hardly to be distinguished from their classmates. It is true that, for some reason or other, no one had ever seen them wearing Young Pioneer kerchiefs, or met them at school evenings or the movies, but nobody imagined that there was anything hidden behind this. Such was the case, however. The schoolteachers and Young Pioneer leaders only thought that they were indoctrinating and educating Ivanna and Yaroslava; actually, the studies, reading habits and behavior of the K. sisters were being guided by quite different teachers and mentors. These it was who taught the sisters the friendly and quiet modesty that appears so commendable at school. These it was who inculcated in Ivanna and Yaroslava the constant fear of ‘God’s punishment’ and the unchildlike contempt for ‘everything that is of this world,’ as well as the ability to conceal their thoughts and to ‘keep lips buttoned up.’ . . . She doesn’t know any Witnesses. Every man is responsible before God for himself alone.”
Although the report continues with statements that are designed to turn others against Jehovah’s people, it does make it very evident that Jehovah’s witnesses in Russia are preaching and the people are hearing the truth. The constant pressure of the State to destroy their faith has not caused them to forsake their worship or fearfully refrain from telling others about God’s kingdom. With Jehovah’s spirit backing them up, they continue to “call out the year of good will on the part of Jehovah and the day of vengeance on the part of our God; to comfort all the mourning ones.”—Isa. 61:2.
How evident it is that they have taken to heart the inspired counsel of the apostle Paul, who said: “Only behave in a manner worthy of the good news about the Christ, in order that, whether I come and see you or be absent, I may hear about the things which concern you, that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one soul fighting side by side for the faith of the good news, and in no respect being frightened by your opponents. This very thing is a proof of destruction for them, but of salvation for you; and this indication is from God, because to you the privilege was given in behalf of Christ, not only to put your faith in him, but also to suffer in his behalf.”—Phil. 1:27-29.