Spain ‘Hears About Jehovah and His Glory’
THE popular image of Spain is that of sunny Andalusia in the south, with raven-haired, dark-eyed señoritas dancing to flamenco music of guitars and chattering castanets. But Spain is a country of fascinating contrasts. For example, the rugged north has its green fields, mountains and rocky coasts. There the hardy, robust folk earn their living from the soil, the coal mines, the sea, or from the industries of the Basque country. And, interestingly, instead of the guitar, in the north you are more likely to hear drums and bagpipes.
Of course, the common denominator for all of Spain is the Roman Catholic religion. But now things are changing and the Church is losing its grip on millions of Spaniards.
A new constitution was accepted by popular vote in December 1978. Among other things, this has severed the official ties between the State and the Catholic Church. Article 16.3 succinctly states: “No [religious] confession will have state character.” This constitution guarantees religious liberty for all.
CONTINUED INCREASE IN CATHOLIC STRONGHOLD
Against this background, what progress are Jehovah’s Witnesses making in Spain? Well, it certainly is encouraging to compare the 1975 peak of 31,948 proclaimers of the “good news” with the peak of 43,276 in 1980, an increase of over 11,000 in just five years. Also, whereas in 1975 there were 534 Witness congregations in Spain, Andorra and the Canary Islands, there are now 784.
The zeal of Jehovah’s people continues to impress many persons. For instance, one Protestant writer acknowledged (in Página abierta):
“Many people are surprised to know that there are so many hundreds or thousands of . . . [Witnesses] in their city. I would say that it is not surprising, but rather logical. Only a year ago they visited all the cities, from house to house, selling their famous book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. . . .
“The followers that this sect has now are only the logical fruit of the sowing they have done.”
He then said of his fellow believers: “It is about time that we lost our spiritual shortsightedness, and instead of just having our Bibles tucked under our arm we should receive the vision of going out with a briefcase full of Gospels . . . since we cannot expect the Lord to bless with an abundant harvest a sowing of the seed that we have not carried out.”
CHRISTIAN NEUTRALITY MAINTAINED
Due to its 40-year alliance with the Franco regime, the Catholic Church has lost prestige and credibility in Spain. Some of the younger priests are trying to break away from the traditional image, and so the clergy are divided over political issues.
In contrast, Jehovah’s Witnesses are keeping themselves unspotted from political involvement. (John 15:19; Jas. 1:27) Witnesses have been called to serve at polling booths and have respectfully declined because of their Bible-trained conscience. Some have been subjected to threats, and a Witness in Logroño spent three days in police custody because she refused to serve at a voting center.
As to the question of military service, draftees who are Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to be sent home until further notice. So at this time none of Jehovah’s Witnesses are in prison for refusing to take up military service.
WITNESSING IN SCHOOLS
Some parents are taking the initiative to establish contact with school directors and teachers, and this has resulted in a fine witness, as well as in expressions of appreciation for Watch Tower publications.
In one case, an 11-year-old Witness girl from the Andalusian province of Cádiz took along to school the book Your Youth—Getting the Best out of It and placed nine copies with her classmates. A teacher looked the book over and exclaimed: “What a pity that the Catholic Church doesn’t publish such a good book for the young people!”
Another teacher checked the book’s contents and then told the young sister that she could get up in front of the class and speak about a Bible subject. She took her book and read the chapter “How Do You View Discipline?” and then commented on it. As a result, she started a Bible study with a girl in her class, and this girl and her mother later attended the Memorial.
A DISILLUSIONED CATHOLIC FINDS THE TRUTH
Another interesting experience is that involving Gloria, who was born in Logroño and raised in a Catholic family. She entered a cloister convent at the age of 19, starting her novitiate at Orense in 1952. After eight years in Catholic missionary service as a teacher in Venezuela, her father died and she returned to Spain to care for her mother. Nevertheless, Gloria continued to be a practicing Catholic, getting up every morning at 6 to attend early Mass. Twelve years later her mother died and Gloria moved to Barcelona. Meanwhile, her religious practice had begun to waver. Why? Because of the bad example set by some of the priests with whom she had contact, especially one considered “very holy and wise” but who had made an immoral proposition to her! So she eventually quit going to church.
Then in 1975 a traveling overseer of Jehovah’s Witnesses called at her home and she listened. She explains:
“We were talking about subjects that had always bothered me because they did not seem to be either just or reasonable—hellfire, purgatory, the veneration of Mary, and so forth. He invited me to attend a meeting at the Kingdom Hall and I went . . . I came away very impressed. Everything that was said there was in agreement with the Bible, and that pleased me. I continued to attend the meetings, using the opportunity to observe the Witnesses. After two months I requested a Bible study. I was sure. Finally I had found the truth!”
DISCOS AND DRUGS ARE NOT THE ANSWER
In Spain today, there is a proliferation of discos and “pubs” where the temptations exist for immorality and drug-taking. Yet some are glad to break away from such practices and take up Jehovah’s worship.
One such example is Julián, from Torrenueva, Ciudad Real. Back in 1971 he was drawn into the hippie world and began frequenting a disco in the Barcelona red-light district. This led to experiments with different drugs, culminating in “trips” with LSD. Julián even had a replica of the head of his “idol,” a popular male singer, embroidered on the back of his jacket. It cost him 12,000 pesetas ($174, U.S.) and a month of living on bread, water and bacon fat to pay the bill.
However, as time passed, Julián realized that he had not found either true friendship or satisfaction in life. Thus, in April 1974, he decided he would visit a Catholic priest. At the same time, he was making arrangements to begin living with his girl friend. But that week an argument broke out among his workmates about whether Mary was really a virgin when she conceived Jesus. The majority, although being Catholics, did not accept Mary’s virginity, except for one man who spoke up. Julián talked to him afterward and learned that he was studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses. So Julián started to do so.
Needless to say, he did not go to see the priest that weekend and he did not begin living with his girlfriend. After two weeks of Bible study, Julián destroyed his hippie gear, including his expensive jacket. Why? “I had to get rid of my past ties in order to get a new start.”
Shortly afterward, Julián moved to the Pyrenean principality of Andorra to get away from his former associates. He got baptized as a dedicated witness of Jehovah in October 1974, and later started serving as a regular pioneer. In June 1978, he was called to serve at the Barcelona Bethel, where the Watch Tower Society’s branch office is located in Spain.
“HAVING PLENTY TO DO IN THE WORK OF THE LORD”
With much work yet to be done, expansion is being planned. The Bethel family in Spain now consists of over 50 members. However, there is no room for expansion in the Watch Tower Society’s facilities in Barcelona. So last spring there was located, on the outskirts of Madrid, a fine building complex that can be reconstructed to provide an excellent headquarters facility for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Spain. But would the Spanish brothers be able to provide what was needed to purchase the building? The response truly has been overwhelming. It has been particularly moving to see sisters donating their precious rings, brooches and other jewelry.—Compare Exodus 35:20-24.
Yes, there is still “plenty to do in the work of the Lord” in Spain, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are alive to this privilege. (1 Cor. 15:58) The message of truth is unifying people of many regions and origins—Catalonians, Andalusians, Galicians, Asturians, Castilians, Gypsies and Basques—to name just a few. Spaniards are receiving a report about Jehovah’s kingdom, and many are telling others of his glory.—Isa. 66:19.