Remaining Firm in Faith During Difficult Times
IN MANY parts of the earth, persecution rages against true Christians, even as it did in the first century. Just as Christians then remained firm in the faith, so they are doing today. Toward the end of 1978, a letter from a traveling overseer of Jehovah’s Witnesses to the branch office of the country in which he is serving told of vicious persecution being waged against the Witnesses in a certain area. Their steadfastness shines as yet another marvelous example of Christian integrity.
According to the traveling overseer’s report, the troublemakers told a group of Witnesses: “We do not want to hear about your preaching of Jesus anymore.” But they replied: “We do not see anything wrong with what Jesus did. So there is nothing wrong with our preaching about him.”
This enraged the men. So they made the Witnesses—three brothers and two sisters—bring all their books to a place about five kilometers (3 miles) away. There they burned the books. Then, after taking the brothers a short distance away, they started beating one of the sisters—just a young girl—while the brothers watched. Returning to the brothers, they said: “The girl has said you forced her to be a Witness.” However, the young sister who had just been beaten overheard this, and shouted: “That is a lie!”
Then the hands of one of the brothers were tied behind his back. He was beaten until he was unconscious. After shouting “Down with Jesus,” the tormentors beat another brother and cut off one of his ears. The third brother also was viciously beaten, which almost destroyed the sight in one of his eyes. But none of the brothers denied their faith in spite of this brutal treatment.
Finally, they took the brothers to the river, with the intention of drowning them. On the way the brothers prayed very earnestly. Then the tormentors changed their minds and led them back to their homes. There they were told not to go back to the town where the Kingdom Hall was for another three months. Yet the following Sunday one of the brothers went to the meeting in town.
Later, the same five Witnesses were accosted by another group of men. “Through whom do you approach God?” they were asked. One of the brothers answered, “Through Jesus.” But he was interrupted with the words: “We approach God through ancestral spirits.” And another inquisitor added: “So you do not worship your ancestors.” The Witnesses remained silent.
Then one of the group took a huge rod and began beating the brothers. Others joined him, beating them with their fists and kicking them with their boots. In time, one of the brothers was separated from the others and taken away by another group for interrogation. He was told to repeat the slogan “On with the war.” Because he refused, he was beaten again. One of the tormentors said: “Give us the other cheek because Jesus said that when one hits you on one cheek you should give him the other.”
The brother obeyed, and smiled as the others made a joke of him. However, the one who had asked him to turn the other cheek did not hit him again, but said scornfully: “You are like a mad person. Go now!” Others, though, began to beat him with the butts of their guns and with their fists, while still others kicked him with their heavy boots. By then he was in very bad shape.
After failing to make him compromise, they returned the brother to the original group of tormentors. These continued trying to persuade him to compromise and to say the slogan “On with the war.” “It is just a little thing to do,” they said. But the brother stood firm, refusing to compromise on this matter in spite of further beatings.
About this time the brother’s wife arrived on the scene. When it was learned who she was, the men tried to persuade her to get her husband to repeat their slogan. But the sister remained silent. By then it was after midnight—the brother having endured all during the daylight hours—and the persecutors gave up and left.
The next day, the brothers decided to slip away quietly, leaving behind their property and belongings so as to avoid undue attention. They found some Witnesses, and these have taken care of their brothers who had endured so much.
What is the attitude of these persecuted Witnesses? ‘We are determined, if need be, to die for Jehovah’s name,’ they say. And that is exactly what they told their persecutors to their faces. What has been the result of such integrity-keeping? For one thing, some who saw them endure under this brutal treatment were later heard to remark: “Jehovah is the true God.”
“Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you for my sake. Rejoice and leap for joy, since your reward is great in the heavens; for in that way they persecuted the prophets prior to you.”—Matt. 5:11, 12.