Kingdom Proclaimers Report
Witnesses Go to the Public in France
FROM the early hours of Friday, January 29, 1999, and continuing into the weekend, Jehovah’s Witnesses in France enthusiastically distributed on the streets and later from house to house, 12 million copies of a tract entitled People of France, You Are Being Deceived! Why such a campaign?
At a press conference in Paris that Friday morning, the reason for the campaign was given. A Witness spokesman explained: “What we want to do today is make ourselves known for what we are and silence the defamatory statements spread about us. We are willing to accept criticism, but we will no longer listen to lies and comments that damage our reputation.”
Although Jehovah’s Witnesses are the third largest Christian religion in France, dozens of Witness children have been insulted and harassed in school. Adults have lost their jobs and have been threatened because of their religion. Unbelievably, even the religious contributions they have received have been assessed for a 60-percent tax. How did the campaign deal with this discrimination?
The tract declares: “The 250,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses and their associates living in France PROTEST against the dishonest way in which their Christian religion, which has existed in France since 1900, has been lumped together with dangerous sects since 1995. . . . PROTEST against the constant harassment to which they have been subjected.” The slanderous charges that have been leveled at the Witnesses in France and the devious ways in which detractors have sought to create negative publicity were exposed. The tract concludes by saying: “Today, more than two million Jehovah’s Witnesses and their associates live in Europe. They respect the laws of the States of which they are citizens by upholding the values of the Gospel. People of France, these are the facts. It is our duty to present them as they truly are!”
Quick, Positive Response
Millions of tracts were given out on the first day. In Paris alone, by midday over 7,000 Witnesses had put more than 1.3 million tracts in the hands of people. Seeing so many Witnesses giving out tracts on the streets was certainly a first for the people. The media, including national and local newspapers and television, reacted favorably to the communication drive. The newspaper Le Progrès de Lyon noted: “This initiative . . . brings into the open a misunderstanding about a word. In the last ten years, the word ‘sect’ . . . has taken on a perverse, dangerous, and harmful connotation. . . . Jehovah’s Witnesses are not of a dangerous nature likely to destabilize society.”
Those who know Jehovah’s Witnesses appreciate their peaceful nature and their deep respect for the established social order. Thus, many on the streets expressed their appreciation and support for the tens of thousands of Witnesses who took part in the campaign. Telephone calls, faxes, and letters from people expressing their thanks for the tract were received almost immediately. Above all, sincere ones were given the chance to hear the facts about the Witnesses as opposed to fictitious and senseless remarks, and those whose beliefs had been maligned were able to demonstrate their feelings for what they hold dear.