European “Peace on Earth” Assemblies Build Faith
THIS is an age when the faith in God of many persons in Christendom is diminishing. Even the clergy now criticize God and the Bible. But this is just as Bible prophecy foretold for our time.—Matt. 24:12; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; 4:3, 4.
However, Bible prophecy also foretold that while false religion would crumble, true worship would expand rapidly before this system of things came to its end. (Isa. 2:2-4; Matt. 24:14) Such building of true faith was certainly in evidence at the “Peace on Earth” International Assemblies of Jehovah’s Witnesses held in Europe in late July and August.
Comments in the press showed the astonishment of Europeans at seeing hundreds of thousands of persons gathering to build up their faith in God and in his Word, the Bible. At five assembly cities, 348,262 persons attended the public lecture entitled “The Approaching Peace of a Thousand Years.” The huge turnouts followed the pattern set by the eight assemblies held in North America during July.
LONDON SEES HUGE ASSEMBLY
The first assembly in Europe was held at Wembley Stadium in London from July 29 to August 3. Delegates came from 63 different countries. The main lecture Sunday afternoon was heard by 82,416 persons. The stadium was packed out. The cinder track of the stadium was filled with extra seats, overflow facilities at Empire Pool, next door, were filled. People were also grouped around loudspeakers at tents outside the stadium.
During the entire assembly at Wembley, as at all the other assemblies, the program centered around increasing faith in God and his Word, the Bible. The depth of this faith was noted by a journalist who was impressed by the baptism of 2,215 new ministers. He stated: “No one shouting out ‘Hallelujah, praise the Lord!’ No one with glassy eyes or rolling on the ground—but everyone is so SURE and knows just what he is doing.”
God’s Word says that “faith, if it does not have works, is dead.” (Jas. 2:17) So right conduct must accompany true faith in God. In this regard, the Wembley News reported: “How did the townspeople react to the Witnesses? Some were impressed by the good behaviour. One went so far as to suggest ‘that if, through this belief, the conduct of so many thousands can be so creditable, then perhaps their belief is worth a little more thought, and that futurely Jehovah’s witnesses should be accepted with greater appreciation than in the past by those unassociated with their activities.’”
DENMARK IMPRESSED BY COPENHAGEN ASSEMBLY
Denmark was impressed by the assembly held in Copenhagen, in the district of Østerbro, from August 5 to 10. The attendance was 42,073, with 1,407 being baptized. The Danish newspaper Øbrobladet carried this headline: “INTEREST IN WORLD PEACE ATTRACTS THE LARGEST CROWD OF TOURISTS EVER TO ØSTERBRO.”
Also, a leading national newspaper, Berlingske Tidende, said: “Mass rallies are rare in Denmark . . . and particularly are mammoth religious arrangements nearly unknown. For that reason the international congress carried out by Jehovah’s witnesses in Copenhagen has quite naturally aroused a certain attention. One is operating with impressive figures at this assembly—an estimated forty to fifty thousand participants, of which between ten and twenty thousand have settled around the city as campers. . . . It causes many to open their eyes widely in surprise, . . . One might wish that the church would work just half as zealously to spread information on what Christianity is as the Witnesses.”
Delegates poured in from nearby Finland, Norway and Sweden. In all, thirty countries were represented. The program was presented simultaneously in Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish at four different sections. When speakers from the United States gave talks in English, they were translated immediately into the four languages. Parts of the program were also held in the English and Icelandic languages.
The penetrating talks, whether on Bible prophecy or Christian conduct, and the impressive Bible dramas portrayed on the four stages, made a lasting impression on all attending. It built up their faith in God and his purposes. Especially were the delegates thrilled to receive the new 192-page book Is the Bible Really the Word of God? in Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish. It had already been released in English and Spanish at the assemblies in North America and England. Those attending deeply appreciated it, knowing that it is designed to build solid faith in God and in his Word.
Faith in God expresses itself in obedience to His laws, including those of honesty. One of many experiences at the Copenhagen assembly shows how this honesty works, and also demonstrates how rare such genuine honesty is considered by people of this world. One of Jehovah’s witnesses went to a local store to buy an item for her baby. As she left, she noticed that the shopkeeper had given her ten crowns too much in change. She went back to the store and informed the shopkeeper. The shopkeeper was so astounded at this display of honesty that she gave the Witness two blouses for her two-year-old daughter! This was a value of 17 crowns—for returning 10 crowns!
When people obey God’s laws, it brings true peace, order and unity, even when there are large numbers of Christians working closely. A Copenhagen taxi driver remarked: “I have been to many different large affairs, including royal receptions, but I have never seen anything compared to this as regards organization. Everything works so smoothly.” Another observer said: “It has been an enriching experience and very encouraging to see that there is a place on earth where people can be at unity and get along in peace. You usually see disunity everywhere, especially in connection with religion. But not here.”
PARIS ASSEMBLY GETS UNPRECEDENTED COVERAGE
At the same time that the assembly was in progress in Copenhagen, another was being held in Paris. Delegates came from 78 lands. The 47,480 who attended the public talk quickly filled the 25,000 seats available at the Colombes Stadium. Thousands more were seated in the bleachers and, by special permission, on the new Olympic running track. Many others listened by means of loudspeakers installed at a nearby campsite and also outside the stadium.
The tremendous impact of the assembly was seen in the unprecedented attention given by the press, radio and television. Reports of the assembly appeared on the first pages of the most widely read French newspapers. This coverage was not limited to special editions sold around the stadium, but was in the national editions sold all over France. The popular Paris Sunday paper Le Journal du Dimanche said of others who noted the assembly: “Some will be tempted to shrug their shoulders. However, the greater number will be set thinking. The public discovered with astonishment that there are 30,000 ‘Witnesses’ in France, a million [1,322,001] in the world and that during the past twenty years they have grown to an extraordinary extent: some 700 percent. . . . this phenomenon merits our attention.”
In addition to French the program was held in other languages. At the Portuguese meeting 2,731 heard the public talk. This was more than triple the attendance when they gathered at Toulouse in 1968. At the Polish meeting 600 attended. There were also special sessions for English-speaking delegates.
The number baptized at Paris was an amazing 3,619. When three entire sections of the stadium arose to answer the two questions put to baptism candidates, and when these thousands of candidates replied with a resounding “Oui!” the entire audience broke into hearty applause. Many a tear flowed down appreciative cheeks. It was an unforgettable sight.
The Catholic daily L’Aurore said of the baptism: “This has never happened before in any swimming pool in the Paris region, not even on the hottest of days . . . at 10 o’clock [3,619] persons were waiting under a burning sun in order to get into the Olympic Swimming Pool. . . . To have such patience the motive must be more powerful than the simple desire to plunge into the water. . . . However, one should not think that just anybody can get baptized in this way, . . . Before the baptism his knowledge of the Bible is checked by an examination where 80 questions are put to him. Obviously, a new-born child could not meet this requirement.”
At the assembly, the delegates enthusiastically greeted the release of the new book Is the Bible Really the Word of God? in both French and Portuguese. The book is very much needed in Europe. For instance, although 80 percent of the French people are called Catholic, many are so in name only. Such ones have for the most part abandoned their religion. Since the Catholic Church has not instilled in them the need to study the Bible as God’s Word, these have no spiritual life. Thus, the great need of the French people is to get an assurance that the Bible is really God’s inspired guide for mankind.
A NEW “CITY” BUILT AT NUREMBERG
A city built to accommodate at least 120,000 persons—just for eight days—which would then be torn down! That describes the mammoth metropolis that was put up by Jehovah’s witnesses for the gigantic assembly at Nuremberg, Western Germany, from August 10 to 17. It saw 150,645 persons from 78 countries in attendance to hear the lecture “The Approaching Peace of a Thousand Years.”
When the residents of this new metropolis moved in, they found everything ready for them—housing, feeding, sanitation. Within fourteen hours the great majority of the incomers here accommodated! There were 119,713 “residents” within her “walls” on the first day!
What were the requirements for building such a city? First, there would have to be an enormous area on which to build. Then there would also have to be huge parking grounds for about 20,000 cars and 250 buses. There would also have to be a train station nearby that could handle a special train with 1,200 passengers every 21 minutes—40 such trains in all.
These requirements were all met by the vast parade grounds on the edge of Nuremberg. The spacious fields would be ideal for trailer camps, tenting grounds, cafeteria and other departmental facilities. A huge landing strip for helicopters, not in use at the time, would solve the problem of parking vehicles—it proved to be an enormous parking lot! And at the rear of the speaker’s platform which overlooked the huge parade field there was a railway station equipped to handle 40 special trains a day!
Truly, this was an ideal location that would be difficult to duplicate elsewhere. Hitler had these grounds especially constructed for his Nazi parades. The Nazis had severely persecuted Jehovah’s witnesses, throwing thousands into concentration camps, killing many. Now, Jehovah’s witnesses, many times stronger than in Hitler’s day, would use the grounds.
The “city within a city” arose quickly. Tents were erected for the 26 departments taking care of the administration of this “city.” There were washing facilities and toilets—1,200 of them—installed on the camping grounds. Seven refrigerator cars used to store perishable food made up a small train. The cafeteria tents could feed 65,000 people an hour. The electrical installations alone required 13,000 meters (8 miles) of cable. And 148,000 seats were made ready on the parade grounds so the delegates could listen to the program.
Under the caption “A New City Sprang Up on the Edge of the City,” the Nuremberger Nachrichten reported a day before the assembly: “They will all find a place to live and it will be governed perfectly, right down to the minutest detail. Volunteer [workers] of the [Watch Tower] Society have done their job well.” And the Fraenkische Tagespost wrote that the assembly was “an organizational accomplishment of the first degree that commands the undivided amazement of the scoffer and the outsider.”
Arrangements were also made for sessions of the program to be held in languages other than German: in Croatian, Dutch, Greek, Slovenian and Turkish. The enthusiasm of these foreign delegates was tremendous, since many of them cannot meet freely at such assemblies in their own countries. One delegate from Turkey exclaimed: “I don’t know whether this is a dream or reality. It is the greatest event in my life. Oh, if these wonderful days would just never end!” The attendance at the special language sessions other than German reached peaks as follows: Croatian, 1,791; Dutch, 20,545; Greek, 5,093; Slovenian, 1,026; Turkish, 361.
When the Witnesses from Greece and Turkey heard that the Watch Tower Society had printed the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life in their languages, they expressed enormous delight. And among the many other new publications released was the book Is the Bible Really the Word of God? in Dutch and German.
News reporters were astonished at the mass baptism of 5,095 new ministers. The manager of the swimming pool where the immersion took place declared: “It is surprising how well everything works out and that everyone gets along so well without any disputes.” He said that he would rather work with 5,000 Jehovah’s witnesses than with 300 other persons!
How clearly the impression of Jehovah’s witnesses has been formed in the minds of Nuremberg residents can be seen by the following experience. A young man wearing a lapel badge of Jehovah’s witnesses was observed smoking in a streetcar. A policeman noticed this and approached the young man, saying: “Since when do Jehovah’s witnesses smoke?” The young man was so taken aback that he could think of no answer, whereupon the policeman then asked to see his identification papers and took him along to the police station. There they found several stolen bags and purses in his case. The identifying mark that had exposed him as not being one of Jehovah’s witnesses was his smoking!
GRAND ASSEMBLY IN ROME
While the assembly was being enjoyed in Nuremberg, there was another being enjoyed in Rome. The assembly sites were the Palazzo dello Sport and also the Palazzo dei Congressi. These two huge buildings, located near each other, were used for programs in Italian and Spanish.
Here, too, there was a tremendous reaction from the press, unprecedented for Italy. It was the first time that such extensive coverage was experienced. Dozens of favorable newspaper articles appeared, as well as good television and radio coverage. The most important news sources repeatedly requested information from the assembly’s Public Relations Department.
Milan’s Il Giorno noted the Biblically based faith of Jehovah’s witnesses and said: “They are conscientious objectors, but they pay taxes as real model citizens, putting to practice the Biblical principle ‘Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.’ . . . they make up an extremely united group with simple, severe and religious moral rules.”
A representative of the Catholic Press said: “From the practical viewpoint I must recognize that you live Christianity much better than we Catholics do.” And an editorial secretary of France-Soir stated: “Certainly, if all the world managed to live as you live, we would already be in Paradise.”
On the first day of the assembly, the Palazzo dello Sport was, as one delegate expressed it, “full of police.” There were police from the local police station, from police headquarters, and also from the political police. But the next day there were hardly any! One officer stated: “Yesterday, I stopped to hear some talks. I was really enthusiastic about the contents of these talks, particularly the one entitled ‘How Do You View Authority?’ Later I found one of the delegates who explained to me very clearly some Biblical points that I had never understood before.” He, along with other officers, marveled at the orderly behavior of the delegates.
On the final day, there was a total of 25,648 persons in attendance, 19,438 at the Italian program and 6,210 at the Spanish. Also, a very fine total of 2,212 persons was baptized. And all the Italian and Spanish delegates were delighted when they were presented with the new book Is the Bible Really the Word of God? in their own languages.
Thus, with the conclusion of the assemblies at Nuremberg and Rome, the European phase of the international “Peace on Earth” assemblies came to a close. So far, at thirteen North American and European cities, 840,572 had attended, with 27,442 being baptized.
Twelve more international assemblies are yet to be held in other parts of the world from October through December. Without a doubt those who will yet attend will feel just as did the delegates who have already attended—that their faith in God and his marvelous promises has been built up.
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Young delegate greets African arrivals, part of 82,416 at Wembley Stadium, London
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At Copenhagen, delegates from Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden heard program simultaneously in their four languages
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Bible dramas highlighted points that built faith in God
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European and African delegates at Paris enjoy release of book “Is the Bible Really the Word of God?” in French
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Part of new “city” built by Jehovah’s witnesses near Nuremberg to house, feed and seat 150,645 persons from 78 countries at “Peace on Earth” assembly
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Section of huge kitchen at Nuremberg showing some of dozens of steam cookers used in preparing meals
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Italian delegates inside Palazzo dello Sport in Rome enjoy program. Assembly received unprecedented press coverage