“Jehovah Has Done a Great Thing”
HOW refreshing to receive “a good report from a distant land”! (Prov. 25:25) It was indeed a joy to receive from Bangui, Central African Republic, a letter dated October 1, 1979, and written on the official stationery of Jehovah’s Witnesses, incorporated in that land as “Association Les Témoins de Jéhovah” (French title). The letter opened with these words:
“Are you surprised to see this association letterhead? Well, we here are just as surprised as you are. In fact, since Thursday evening, September 27, at six o’clock, all of Jehovah’s Witnesses here in Central African Republic have been living in a happy dream, filled with the same inexpressible joy that is explained in Psalm 126. At that time, it was announced publicly over the state radio here in Bangui that the ban of August 19, 1976, against Jehovah’s Witnesses was effectively annulled, and that we are again authorized to preach freely throughout all the territory of Central African Republic.”
Along with this joyful news came a copy of the governmental decree, signed by the president of the Republic, Mr. David Dacko, making official the lifting of the ban. Mr. Dacko replaced Emperor Bokassa as head of government on September 20, and is to be congratulated on his swift action in restoring freedom of religion and of speech to the oppressed witnesses of Jehovah.
How have the Witnesses reacted to this enlightened governmental action? The report from Bangui continues:
“The friends here have been very quick to return to zealous activity. Already this past weekend, a large number were out enjoying the door-to-door activity once again. Those congregations that had access to their Kingdom Halls were already back in them for their Sunday public talk and Watchtower study. Just three congregations here in the city, with a present total of 150 [Witnesses], registered a combined attendance total of 612 persons yesterday. Even many people who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses have expressed their joy at the removal of the ban. [Some] are asking . . . why all the other religions became closely involved with the [former government], with only Jehovah’s Witnesses remaining completely neutral.”
The neutrality of Jehovah’s Witnesses with regard to the political revolutions and conflicts now raging in various parts of Africa has won them the respect of many of the people, as well as some of the rulers. In contrast to Christendom’s religions, which try to curry favor with whatever ruler may be in power, whether he be tyrannical or liberal, Jehovah’s Witnesses consistently follow the only course open to true Christians—that of being “no part of the world.” Because of this, they suffer persecution in many countries. But this they willingly accept, even as did their Master, Jesus Christ, who endured all things “for the joy that was set before him.”—John 15:18-21; Heb. 12:2.
It was one of the rulers of Jerusalem, Gamaliel, who wisely counseled concerning first-century Christians: “Do not meddle with these men, but let them alone.” (Acts 5:38) As president of the Central African Republic, Mr. David Dacko has followed the same noble course with regard to the Christian witnesses of Jehovah. Lovers of freedom throughout the world will commend him for this. And it is hoped that the rulers of other African lands where Jehovah’s Witnesses are still under ban will heed this fine example, granting these harmless Christians freedom to worship Jehovah God in the way that he commands them through the pages of his Word, the Bible.
Truly, Jehovah’s Witnesses of the Central African Republic are delighted that they may express themselves in the words of Psalm 126:2, 3: “Our mouth came to be filled with laughter, and our tongue with a joyful cry. At that time they proceeded to say among the nations: ‘Jehovah has done a great thing in what he has done with them.’ Jehovah has done a great thing in what he has done with us. We have become joyful.”