Persecution of Christians Tests Hearts in Malawi
IMMEDIATELY upon hearing, early in October 1972, of the hardships brought on their Christian brothers in Malawi, Jehovah’s witnesses all over the world came to their aid. Many contributions were mailed to the headquarters office of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society in Brooklyn, New York, and to branch offices around the world. The Brooklyn office, in turn, sent sufficient funds to branch offices neighboring Malawi to buy whatever was needed. Thus relief was provided as quickly as possible for the 19,000 Witnesses in the refugee camp at Sinda Misale in Zambia.
Because of the urgency, the congregations at Chipata, in the vicinity of Sinda Misale, had earlier arranged to supply 10,000 pounds of maize (corn) meal flour, 2,500 pounds of sugar, 75 bedcovers and 65 blankets, besides tools and implements, to be taken into the camp.
Shortly thereafter, large quantities of supplies from the nearby branch offices began to flow in. A small fleet of trucks was volunteered to haul in 20,000 pounds of maize flour, 6,500 pounds of dried fish, 950 tarpaulins, 150 boxes of clothing, several hundred new blankets, a large quantity of plastic sheeting, 100 shovels, 25 handsaws, 28 axes and assorted picks, hammers and other tools for clearing woodland, setting up tents, digging wells, and so forth. Much of the material was transported 1,500 miles to this location in Zambia.
Then during November and up until the camp’s evacuation in December by the return of all the refugees to Malawi, it was possible to deliver the following provisions.
79,000 pounds maize (corn) meal flour
2,180 pounds dried milk
500 pounds dried beans
157 bags salt
30 tons clothing
5,400 bars soap
one-half ton medical supplies, for clinics set up in camp
Money was also given to congregation overseers in the camp for the purchase of other necessities.
The overseers developed a distribution system so that all were assured of receiving the needed things for their families. Children were given special medical attention, and the milk was set aside for their use. Spiritual needs were not forgotten. One vehicle brought in twenty-one cartons of Bibles and Bible study aids, for the persecutors had stripped the refugees of all such possessions.
Land was cleared, tents were set up and wells dug. The sick were treated and conditions were improving. Then came the surprise return of the refugees to Malawi. Again they were forced to flee, most of them seeking refuge in Mozambique, where they were kindly received. Even there, however, roving groups of Malawi Congress Party Youth Leaguers crossed the border to molest them, but these were apprehended and punished by the Mozambique police.
SEPARATING WORK AFFECTS ALL MALAWIANS
Some have asked, ‘Why does God allow conscientious Christians to suffer thus? Is anything accomplished by it?’ Jesus pointed out that such things would occur in these “last days” when he told his disciples: “When the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”—Matt. 25:31, 32.
Jesus went on to say that the “sheep” would identify themselves by their kindness toward his “brothers.” He said that these spirit-begotten, anointed brothers of his would undergo imprisonment, sickness, thirst, hunger and lack of clothing, just as Jehovah’s witnesses in Malawi have suffered. He said that the “sheep” would give assistance. What they do in this way Christ counts as done to him personally.
In the past few years many have demonstrated a ‘sheeplike’ attitude, recognizing the proclaimers of the Kingdom as Christ’s representatives. They have assisted with their time, resources and abilities. They now stand alongside the “brothers” of Christ in proclaiming Bible truth to others, and these ‘sheeplike’ persons have the hope of living on a paradise earth under God’s kingdom.—Matt. 25:34-36.
An outstanding evidence of the separating work as actually taking place as a result of the persecution is the number of people who have taken a stand on the side of the Malawian Witnesses and who have fled with them. In the new camps in Mozambique they have been able to continue a study of the Bible, and now more than 200 have been baptized in the camps.
Also, many Mozambique citizens have given assistance and shelter to the fleeing refugees. In the camps provided in Mozambique, the Witnesses greatly enjoy their freedom to gather in large groups for Bible study meetings and to sing Kingdom songs, which they have not been able to do since 1967. They are working hard, clearing and cultivating land. Everything possible is being done by the Watch Tower Society to see that these refugees have the things that they need. And for the love demonstrated in active giving by their Christian brothers all over the earth, those in the camps express heartfelt appreciation. It serves as proof to them that God observes the integrity of his people and that he cares for them.—1 Pet. 5:7.
On the other hand, those who join in persecuting Christians are putting themselves in a very dangerous position before God. Nevertheless, the Witnesses do not view them as the “goats” of Jesus’ parable. That is for God to judge. Some of them may be sincere. If so, they may come to their senses, as did Saul, a violent but sincere persecutor of Christians, who later became the apostle Paul. (1 Tim. 1:12-16) But such persons should not think that because God does not act immediately against them they can go ahead with impunity. If they think so, they are missing the purpose of his patience in giving them opportunity to change.—2 Pet. 3:9.
Also, those who observe what is taking place and fail to aid those persecuted for obedience to Christ must face the questions: ‘Am I going to persecute harmless Christian people, or am I going to stand by and see Christians beaten, their arms broken, their homes burned, and yet keep silent? Am I going to let fear or selfishness cause me to hold back and not offer assistance to these people? Where, then, do I stand with God?’ Consequently, a real searching of hearts is being brought about in Malawi as well as in Mozambique and Zambia.
Even under persecution, the Malawian witnesses of Jehovah hold no malice toward their persecutors. They see that this is permitted by God so that a separating work may be accomplished. Their prayer is that the opposers may come to realize their true position before Almighty God and change their course, thus being separated to Christ’s “right hand” as “sheep,” with the prospect of everlasting life in a paradise earth as their reward.—Matt. 5:44.