“Where the land ends and the sea begins”—this is Portugal, continental Europe’s most westward country. It derives its name from the city of Oporto, which began as a Roman trading community near the mouth of the Douro River; it was a portucalle or port of call for ships.
This western corner of the Iberian peninsula has a population of nine and a half million people speaking Portuguese, a Romance language similar to Spanish in structure and vocabulary but quite distinct in phonetics and pronunciation. Portugal is less than a fifth the size of Spain, its neighbor to the east and north. But what a widely diversified landscape is found here!
The southern countryside has fine orchards, almond, fig and also carob groves. Heading north, we pass through wheat plains and the lush pastures of the Ribatejo cattle country, then vineyards and olive trees along with umbrella pines and eucalyptus trees. In the middle of the country snow can be found on the mountain range of Beira province, adding a touch of splendor. The north is distinguished by the beautifully terraced vineyards of the deep Douro River valley, birthplace of the world famous port wine.
THE GOOD NEWS REACHES PORTUGAL
Portugal became world renowned as a seafaring nation. The 15th century marked her golden era when her navigators and explorers discovered Brazil, the islands of Madeira, Azores, Cape Verde, São Tomé, much of Africa, as well as a sea route to India. But it was not until 1925 that Portugal began discovering the meaning of Matthew 24:14. It was then that George Young, a Canadian serving in Brazil, came to explore Portugal to advance Kingdom interests. He made arrangements for the Watch Tower Society’s president, J. F. Rutherford, to deliver the public lecture “How to Live on the Earth Forever” in Lisbon on May 13, 1925.
Despite opposition from the Catholic priests the occasion was a grand success with more than two thousand filling a high school gymnasium and another two thousand being turned away for lack of space. Francisco Ullan, an eyewitness, recalled the event: “The Catholic clergy made an unsuccessful attempt to break up this meeting. Yelling broke out and chairs were smashed. Happily, Brother Rutherford managed to control the situation.”
At the conclusion of the talk an invitation was given to those interested to leave their name and address with the ushers. Several, including Francisco Ullan and Angel de Castro, did just that. Yes, they accepted the truth and were among the first faithful servants of Jehovah in this land. That notable event sparked the beginning of the Kingdom work in Portugal.
The events that followed in quick succession make it plain that Jehovah’s spirit was giving a strong lead. During this first year the Portuguese edition of The Watch Tower was published in Lisbon. The first issue was released in September 1925 with its front page bearing the name of George Young as editor. At the close of 1925 an office to handle subscriptions and correspondence was opened at Rua Santa Justa, 95, in Lisbon. The Watch Tower became so well known within the year that subscriptions were received from places as far away as the Azores.
PERIOD OF THE REPUBLIC
How were such things possible in a traditionally ultraconservative Catholic country? Political circumstances permitted a climate of great liberty. The monarchy had suffered a severe blow with the assassination of King Dom Carlos I and heir Prince Dom Luís Filipe on February 1, 1908. Then on October 5, 1910, a republican revolution ended the rule of Dom Manuel II, terminating the Portuguese monarchy as a ruling power. There was now freedom of speech and press.
The power of the Catholic Church began to wane, as people manifested opposition to the clergy. They held demonstrations on the streets of Lisbon to influence the government to suspend the Portuguese representative at Vatican City. Newspapers printed speeches of republican leaders manifesting anticlerical attitudes. The army was forbidden to participate in religious observances, and “saints’ “ days were no longer kept as holidays. Religious oaths ceased to have legal force. The government abolished religious instruction in schools and the teaching of theology in the universities. In April 1911 the Law of Separation outlined the lowered position of the Roman Catholic Church. Fathers of the republic regarded the Throne and Church as institutions of little worth.
During this time a small group of people in Lisbon manifested interest in the truth, but it was not until 1926 that regular Bible study classes were held. With the April 1926 issue of The Watch Tower the editor was listed as Virgílio Ferguson. George Young had remained only a short while to organize the work. Brother Ferguson, accompanied by his wife, was now assigned to take care of Kingdom interests in this country.
The special public talk delivered by J. F. Rutherford in the Alexandra Palace in London, in May of 1926, received wide publicity in Lisbon. The lecture presented a resolution entitled “A Testimony to the Rulers of the World.” This resolution was translated into Portuguese and printed as a large tract for free distribution.
UNDER A DIFFERENT GOVERNMENT
Then on May 28, 1926, encouraged by conservative factions with the backing of the Catholic hierarchy, a military coup d’etat was staged without a shot being fired. From this resulted the establishment of a military dictatorship. It became known as O Estado Novo (The New State). The dominant personality of this new political regime was the minister of finance, Dr. António de Oliveira Salazar. In 1932 he became the president of the council (prime minister).
Due to the establishment of the New State dictatorship in 1926, there was now much less freedom of speech. Beginning with the November 1926 Watch Tower, every issue was subject to government censorship, and the following notice appeared on the cover, “Approved by the Censorship Committee.”
The first Yearbook report, published in 1927, relates the following: “The work in Portugal is conducted from the Society’s local branch at Lisbon. There are now 450 subscribers to the Portuguese WATCH TOWER. Books and booklets put out during the year total 764. There have been many inquiries by letter about the Truth, and these have received attention. The following is a quotation from the report of Brother Ferguson, the local manager:
“ ‘I think there is a great witness yet to be given to the people here, and it seems that the time has come when the people will heed the message of the Truth and more will manifest an interest in it.’ “ How right he was!
These very words were finding their fulfillment on Flores Island in the Azores. At this time a man passed away who had been interested in The Watch Tower. When his daughter and son were cleaning their father’s office they found some old copies of the magazine. The son, Abílio Carlos Flores, especially took an interest in the magazines. He relates: “The Watch Tower gave such a clear explanation of the Bible that I immediately wrote to Virgílio Ferguson requesting a subscription.” The seeds of truth bore fruit. Until his death in 1974 Brother Flores was an active servant of Jehovah.
By May of 1927 the Portuguese Watch Tower was being printed in Bern, Switzerland, and being distributed under heavy government censorship. The political New State was more and more controlling the press and restricting the liberty of the people, but this did not stop expansion. In 1927 the brothers distributed a total of 3,920 books and booklets and 61,000 copies of The Watch Tower.
THE FIRST BAPTISM
The summer of 1927 saw a truly happy event, the first baptism. Two of the 14 newly baptized brothers were Spaniards, Francisco Ullan and Angel de Castro. Fired with zeal for their newfound faith, they visited their native land to spread the Kingdom message. On August 15, 1927, they traveled to their respective villages. In his hometown Francisco Ullan quickly roused the opposition of the Spanish clergy, and within fifteen days he was ordered to leave the country. Angel de Castro received similar treatment in his hometown. His distribution of Bible tracts started an uproar. Brother Castro sent a tract to the local priest, who replied through his envoy: “Just tell this man I’m sorry the Spanish Inquisition is over, otherwise I would liquidate him.”
HELP FROM ABROAD
On January 4, 1929, João Feliciano returned to Portugal from the United States with the intention of spreading the good news that he had learned. He got in touch with Brother Ferguson, and Bible study classes were started in another section of Lisbon. He went from house to house distributing Bible literature with great zeal. He helped many and became known as “the man with the basket,” since he used a large fruit basket to carry the publications. Until his death in 1961 he was a faithful servant of Jehovah.
November 1931 saw the adoption of the new name “Jehovah’s witnesses.” There was a phenomenal distribution of 260,000 copies of Luz e Verdade (Light and Truth), containing Brother Rutherford’s complete lecture “The Kingdom of God—The Only Hope for the World.”
THE FIRST COLPORTEUR
By this time Manuel da Silva Jordão was working as a colporteur, traveling from one end of the country to the other, visiting all subscribers and preaching the good news. Since a number of subscribers in the north of the country had shown interest, he went to Braga. One day on the street a man came running up to him, saying: “Good day, Sir. I’m certainly happy to meet you. I have come to learn something about the Bible from you.” Brother Jordão asked him if he knew anything about the Bible. “Yes,” he replied, “I am a subscriber for The Watch Tower, and I correspond with a man named Virgílio Ferguson in Lisbon. Ever since you arrived in this city I have been looking for you.”
At the home of this interested man in Braga a small group of about seven persons began to study the Bible. Since this city is known as the “Vatican of Portugal,” it did not take long for the opposition of the Catholic Church to manifest itself. The clergy reported Brother Jordão to the police, who awakened him at midnight and threw him into jail.
After his release the next day, a local priest arranged for the principal court recorder to plan an encounter with him at the city’s main square. They planned to expose Jordão as a false Christian, without higher learning. About fifty persons showed up for this “casual meeting.” The priest appeared and a lively discussion about who Christians are and their work followed. Finally, the court recorder said to the priest in a loud voice: “I thought you came to defend the Catholic Church, but you have not been able to show even one text from the Holy Bible!” Eyewitnesses relate that the embarrassed priest quickly left.
BRANCH OFFICE CLOSED
Toward the end of 1933 Brother and Sister Ferguson left Portugal, and the publication Luz e Verdade was suspended. For all practical purposes direct contact with the branch office was severed. It was closed, and there was henceforth no supply of spiritual food from within the country. It is significant that this took place during the same year that a new political constitution was adopted in Portugal. The new constitution broadened the powers of the State, giving it absolute authority and complete control of the press.
Later, in May 1940, Portugal signed a concordat with the Vatican, giving the Roman Catholic Church a highly favored position. Religious instruction was restored in State schools, and the property it had possessed before 1910 was returned.
DIFFICULT TIMES BEGIN
The work now had to be cared for by colporteur Manuel da Silva Jordão. During the difficult time that followed he managed to communicate with some brothers in Spain. On several occasions Herbert F. Gabler visited the brothers in Portugal. Around 1938 Brother O. E. Roselli, a United States citizen, visited Portugal, encouraging the brothers to go from house to house, using what was called a testimony card. In time all organized preaching gradually ceased, and a period of inactivity set in.
A FRESH START
In 1940 Angel de Castro visited a friend in Lisbon with whom he often discussed the Bible. This friend’s son, Eliseu Garrido, about fourteen years of age, began to take an interest in the conversations. Castro gave him several old Watchtower magazines to read. Later he showed him a handwritten book he had compiled with Bible texts on various doctrines. The young boy appreciated this 300-page reference book and began making a copy for himself. In the meantime he read the book containing the photographs of the Photo-Drama of Creation. This had a strong impact on his mind. As soon as he finished copying Castro’s reference book he asked: “Are there no other people in Lisbon who believe these things?”
Within a few days Manuel da Silva Jordão came to his home to help him further. Brother Jordão put Eliseu in contact with Joaquim Carvalho, a shoemaker whose home now was the general meeting place for the Bible Students.
Joaquim Carvalho had learned the truth in the beginning of the 1930’s. All the literature that was on hand when the branch was closed in 1933 was stored in his Lisbon shoe shop.
These studies began to be held with greater frequency. But a tendency arose to deviate from the published material and to give private interpretations. Finally, young Garrido spoke up: “Why don’t we hold to the material published in the magazines instead of introducing other information? After all, is not everything we need published by the Society? We have already confirmed the fact that we can put full trust in Jehovah’s organization. I suggest we limit our study to asking the questions, looking up the scriptures and then reading all the paragraphs in the magazine and not just the ones we like.”
During this reawakening period the brothers started using the Photo-Drama of Creation. Joaquim Carvalho had many connections with small Protestant groups, principally of the Adventist sect. They learned of the existence of the Photo-Drama and requested that the brothers show it at their meeting place. Some also wanted our literature for use in their Bible study. One Adventist group went so far as to remove from the Society’s books the front page showing the name of the publisher. Then they would stamp in the time and address of their own meetings!
It became obvious that Joaquim Carvalho liked to maintain contact with the leaders of these Protestant groups. Their frequent encounters revealed a persistent desire on the part of the Protestants to form a union with the Bible Students. When this became known the Bible Students realized there had to be a clearer separation if they were to have Jehovah’s blessings. They therefore severed all such connections.
PREACHING BECOMES IMPORTANT
Up until this time public witnessing consisted mainly of the distribution of tracts. But by 1944 the group manifested an earnest desire to do more in the ministry. They sensed a need for adhering closely to organization publications. Through correspondence with brothers in Brazil they were now regularly receiving copies of the Informant, which quickened their interest in field service.
So the brothers decided it was time to go from house to house and present the householder with the printed testimony card. After the card was read they would offer the householder literature.
It became the custom for two brothers to go on Sundays, preaching the good news from house to house, using these testimony cards. Reporting this ministerial activity, however, was something yet for the future.
At this same time the small group was very happy to learn of the existence of sound equipment and the phonograph. Brothers in Brazil sent the group 10 records in Portuguese and one phonograph. The brothers were thrilled with this new provision for giving a witness. The records explained the truth about subjects such as purgatory, the soul, the keys of the Kingdom, and so forth.
Courageously the group decided to inaugurate the use of this equipment. Eliseu Garrido recalls one of the first occasions. “We went to a small patio that had a cluster of homes in the Campolide area of Lisbon,” he related. “Here we set up the phonograph and invited the householders to come to the patio and hear an interesting Bible message. About thirty persons came and listened attentively. At the conclusion we were happy to offer them Bible literature.”
PREACHING STIMULATES ASSOCIATION
From this time on the brothers became more and more conscious of their need for closer association. The group of interested persons regularly attending the Bible study on Sunday grew to about fifteen. Because attendance was increasing, they decided to rent a small room to serve exclusively as a meeting place. The main publication used at these meetings was The Watchtower. Gradually the brothers began to appreciate the need to draw closer to the worldwide organization of Jehovah’s people.
A truly historic decision was made in October 1946, when Joaquim Carvalho and Eliseu Garrido decided it was time to communicate with the Society’s headquarters in Brooklyn. In their letter they requested that the Society send a missionary to Portugal.
OTHER SEEDS OF TRUTH BEGIN TO SPROUT
Unknown to the Bible Students in Lisbon, interesting developments were taking place in other parts of the country. Just across the Tagus River, in Almada, Delmira Mariana dos Santos Figueiredo had been greatly shocked by the death of her 16-year-old son. She recalls: “I spent every day in the cemetery thinking about my son, where he was and why God had permitted his death. I began remembering things my father had told me from the Bible. He had known Virgílio Ferguson back in 1927 and had attended meetings.”
On returning home from the cemetery one day, Delmira began looking for the old books that her father had kept. In a short time she knew she had found the truth of God’s Word, and in 1945 she wrote to Brooklyn. When a reply came, tears of joy ran down her cheeks. Finally, she had established contact with God’s people.
The letter was written by a brother born in the Azores, John Perry, a member of the Brooklyn Bethel family. He suggested that if she did not possess a Bible she should buy one and read the references he cited, dealing with the resurrection hope and God’s promise of a righteous New Order. Through John Perry, the Society began mailing small packages of books and booklets to Delmira, encouraging her to distribute them free of charge. She began doing so right away. Her main territory was the cemetery, since that was where she herself began thinking about God. Her friends and neighbors thought that she had lost her mind because of the death of her son. All alone, several times a week, she would go to the cemetery endeavoring to talk to bereaved ones about the hope of the resurrection. Her newly acquired reputation as “the crazy woman” did not dampen her zeal for preaching the good news, and the more she preached the stronger her faith grew.
“One day at the cemetery,” recalls Delmira, “I noticed a lady who had been kneeling at a grave for several days in succession. I started to speak with her and learned she was mourning the death of her 22-year-old daughter. Upon hearing about the resurrection and God’s purpose for a Paradise, this woman, Deolinda Pinto Costa, was so eager to learn more that she invited me to her home for a weekly Bible study. In a short time we were both going to the cemetery, not to mourn, but to share our wonderful hope.”
Love for the truth motivated these zealous women to organize a Bible study for the several interested persons. Every Wednesday afternoon, at the home of Deolinda Pinto Costa, a group of six or more women gathered to study the Bible with the aid of the Society’s publications. Through correspondence with John Perry in Brooklyn, this group of interested women learned there was a nucleus of brothers in Lisbon.
At the same time the brothers in Lisbon had been advised there were interested persons in Almada. They made arrangements to meet. When they did, the brothers were amazed to find a group of eight persons, all women, holding a weekly Bible study. Right away regular meetings were organized at Deolinda’s home with the Lisbon brothers present. What a joy to observe the first sisters of this Almada group still maintaining their integrity and active in Kingdom service down to this day!
THE TRUTH SPREADS FARTHER NORTH
An interesting development took place at this time in the most distant province of Portugal called Trás-os-Montes. In November 1945 Purificação de Jesus Barbosa, who learned the truth in the United States, returned to her native country to preach the good news to her relatives. Her hometown, Lousa, is more than two hundred and fifty miles (400 km) from Lisbon. Although most of her relatives rejected the truth and showed contempt toward her, two young cousins showed interest. Purificação gave 22-year-old Maria Cordeiro a Bible and several booklets as a gift. Her younger cousin, 13-year-old António Manuel Cordeiro, was thrilled to have a Bible in his hands for the first time. He recalls the first conversation his cousin had with him about the Bible:
“She read me the first chapter of Genesis and then showed me the name of this God who had created the beautiful earth and all things in it. For the first time in my life I heard God’s name, Jehovah, and from that very day onward I began to develop a deep love and appreciation for my Grand Creator.”
For more than a year the brother and sister waited anxiously every day to return from their work in the fields, so that after the father went out to gamble and drink they could slip away to their cousin’s home to learn more about the Bible. They came to learn many of the basic truths of God’s Word in addition to reading the books Jehovah, Salvation and Children. A little more than a year later the visiting cousin returned to the United States. Her efforts, however, had been richly blessed, for she left behind two cousins and a woman, who were now interested in the truth.
TAKING A STAND
Tests of integrity came early to Maria and António Cordeiro, who were entirely isolated. They cut off their association with the Catholic Church. When the priest visited their parents’ home he ridiculed António and Maria for refusing to kiss the cross. On religious holy days, to avoid trouble, they would leave home early and go to the woods, spending the entire day reading the Bible and the Society’s publications.
About two years later the boy, then 15, became sick and was interned in a Catholic hospital. Before an operation he refused confession and a “blessing,” thus enraging the priest and nuns. When his father came to take him home a report on his conduct was given. At home the father ordered António to go to confession, demanding that he seek forgiveness for all his “wicked deeds.” Thus compelled, António went. Alone with the priest, he explained why he had refused, since the Bible shows only God, through Christ Jesus, can forgive sins. It was much different from a confession, and the youth gave the priest a thorough witness regarding his Bible-based faith.
Young António realized he would have to stay at home until he became of legal age. So, according to his parents’ wishes, he obediently worked daily in the fields, but at night he studied the Bible with his sister, taking advantage of every opportunity to tell others the good things he was learning. Yes, how thrilling to say ‘endurance had its work complete,’ for years later, both these young persons were among the first regular pioneers in the country. António later married, served as a circuit overseer for many years and is still pioneering.—Jas. 1:4.
LEARNING TO ORGANIZE
Without a doubt, the time had come to organize the Kingdom work further. In reply to the letter of Carvalho and Garrido, the Society sent two representatives to Portugal in May 1947. Brothers F. W. Franz and H. C. Covington were met at the Lisbon airport on May 5 by a group of eight happy brothers. For these few dedicated servants of Jehovah who had remained faithful over the years, this was an outstanding moment. The brothers were overjoyed at hearing Brother Franz give a talk in Portuguese on the subject “Organization Instructions.” At this time four servants were temporarily assigned to handle the first congregation in Lisbon.
During this visit Brothers Covington, Franz, Carvalho and Garrido investigated the possibility of legalizing the work and obtaining permission to send in missionaries. Their request was flatly denied.
That same year saw also the first visit of Brothers Knorr and Henschel to Portugal, on December 13—another milestone. Also with them was John Cooke, assigned from the eighth class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead to serve in Spain and Portugal. Because of bad weather the plane was delayed considerably, so the two-day visit was reduced to a few hours. They arrived at midnight and left at eight-fifteen the next morning, spending all night answering questions and discussing the progress of the Kingdom work.
It became quite clear that this little group was not completely at unity. Some of those present showed themselves to be stubborn individuals who criticized the organization and the truth itself. Because of this poor spirit there was little progress. The one bright hope was the group of sisters in Almada.
However, the brothers received needed discipline, and the work advanced. Increased numbers of the Informant from Brazil, as well as the booklet Organization Instructions, were of great help. Before the arrival of Brother Cooke the Lisbon group sent their first service report of four publishers to Brooklyn. Instructions had been left to start the door-to-door work systematically. On the very first street where they began witnessing, they placed 400 booklets, resulting in many Bible studies!
MISSIONARY ACTIVITY BEGINS
On arriving in Lisbon from Spain for the second time, in August 1948, Brother Cooke was greeted by a group desirous of learning theocratic methods of preaching. One or two old-timers, however, showed reluctance to line up with organization instructions. The first meeting for the missionary was quite an occasion. Relates Brother Cooke: “I gave my first talk to the Almada group in Spanish, and it was translated into Portuguese by Eliseu Garrido. At the end of the meeting, which was closed by Brother Carvalho, who acted as chairman, he stood up before the group and, in sanctimonious fashion, stretched out his arms before the audience and blessed the congregation. Over the years Carvalho retained many of the customs and ideas of Babylon the Great and so was quite difficult to handle.”
On September 27, 1948, the first baptism was held after the arrival of Brother Cooke, with a total of eight baptized, including Eliseu Garrido. Six of this number were sisters, all from Almada. The group in Lisbon, however, was characterized by “men only.” Sisters were not given a warm welcome. Now with the introduction of organizational methods some of the older brothers in Lisbon did not enthusiastically support the new missionary. Meeting attendance dropped. The sisters in Almada, however, were eager and willing to go in the house-to-house ministry. Brother Cooke reports:
“I shall never forget one of my very first outings in the ministry with the sisters in Almada. Yes, six of them went to the same house together. You can just imagine a group of six women standing around a door while one of them gave a sermon! But bit by bit things began to take shape and started to move.”
The arrival of a missionary was a real blessing. The brothers were helped to put aside their personal opinions and line up with organization instructions. The Theocratic Ministry School and Service Meeting were organized. Delmira Mariana dos Santos Figueiredo reports: “After Brother Cooke arrived we began to study The Watchtower by questions and answers. Until that time one brother read and we listened.”
The time had come to put aside the printed testimony cards and prepare short sermons for use in the door-to-door work. Brother Cooke prepared the brothers to present The Watchtower as well as tracts at the doors.
FIRST KINGDOM HALL
With the arrival of the missionary, a small room had been rented at Praça Ilha do Faial for holding meetings. As the work prospered it became apparent that a larger place would be necessary.
The Memorial for 1949 was held in a private home in Almada. The brothers were thrilled to see 116 in attendance! Since this number could not all squeeze into the living room normally used, the overflow crowd huddled into an adjoining room. The speaker stood in the doorway and addressed two audiences at the same time. It was not long after this that the Lisbon group found a fine apartment for meetings on Rua Passos Manuel 20, first floor, which became known as the first unofficial Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Portugal. For many years it served as the center of pure worship.
So as not to attract the attention of other tenants, the brothers did not sing in the Lisbon hall. However, when they went across the river to visit the group in Almada, in a private home, they were happy to sing loud and long.
GETTING IN TOUCH
About this time the isolated persons in Lousa, Trás-os-Montes, had obtained from their cousin in the United States the address of the brothers in Lisbon. Maria Cordeiro, who on several occasions had been beaten by her violently opposed family, wrote: “Could you please send someone to help us and encourage us?” John Cooke set out on a two-hundred-and-fifty-mile (400-km) journey. It turned out to be quite an exciting experience, as he relates:
“From the nearest railway station I had a three-hour climb into the mountains to reach the village of Lousa. This area is called Trás-os-Montes, which means ‘beyond the mountains.’ I found out that it lived up to its name. It had no roads leading to it, only rough tracks, no buses, no cars, no doctor or drugstore, no police and not a single telephone. The houses were made of stone and covered with rough tiled roofs having no chimneys. The people would light a fire on the floor to cook and the smoke just found its way out through cracks in the roof or the door. They were very superstitious, completely dominated by the Catholic Church.
“Due to opposition from the family it was very difficult to visit Maria Cordeiro or her brother António. I managed to arrange lodging with the mother of the Witness who had brought the truth to this area from the United States. On a few occasions, though, we were able to get together for an encouraging discussion. Meanwhile, I started doing house-to-house work. The priest lost no time in warning the people about me. I was making a return visit when neighbors warned that there was talk of attacking and burning down the house where I was lodging. The family I was visiting confirmed the rumors and convinced me to stay overnight in their home, since it was too dangerous to go home in the dark. The following morning the town was alive with rumors and tension.
“While still at the home of the interested person, the local regedor (town administrator) came to visit me and check for himself what I was doing. After hearing a brief explanation he went away satisfied. Then the priest came. Since he did not come into the house, we stood in the street outside and talked. Before I knew it a large crowd had gathered to hear the conversation. Although the priest was young, he was not fanatical, so I managed to keep the discussion on a calm, friendly basis. To get out of awkward situations regarding doctrines he quoted frequently in Latin, to impress the townsfolk with his ‘superior knowledge.’ He admitted that he did not possess a Bible and wondered if I could arrange for him to get one; then he left. This incident broke the tension. I gave an impromptu talk and handed out many tracts, thus ending my visit on a peaceful note.”
PROGRESS DESPITE SPIRITISM
A Bible study was started with a widow who wrote poetry in French under demonic influence, believing she was directed by the spirit of the famous French author Victor Hugo. A detailed discussion of the resurrection helped her to understand the truth; she abandoned spiritism and was baptized. Another study was conducted with a spiritist who was a well-known medium in Lisbon. This woman had a great mental battle to throw off demon influence, but eventually she also was baptized.
No doubt due to these events, several leading spiritists came to the Kingdom Hall, seeking a debate. The missionary pointed out that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not interested in public debates. The directors of these groups insisted that the discussion would be private, since their main objective was to hear our view about religious subjects. They agreed to meet at the Kingdom Hall and to base their discussion on the Bible.
On the meeting night about fifty members of the spiritistic group appeared. On the platform there were two representatives to serve as spokesmen for each side. The first question propounded by the spiritistic leader was based on Matthew 10:28, and he asked: “How can Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the soul dies when the Bible says that it does not die?” Brother Cooke, in a matter-of-fact manner, said that was easy. If he would just read the last part of the same text, it says to “rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” This demolished the argument of the group of intellectuals. Seeing that a discussion based solely on the Bible was too difficult for them, they asked Brother Cooke to give a Bible talk outlining our beliefs. A fine witness resulted.
WORK BEGINS IN THE AZORES
Meanwhile, interesting developments were taking place in the Azores. With the exception of Santa Maria Island, the nine islands that comprise the Azores archipelago are volcanic. Due to hot springs, much rain and sunny summers, vegetation flourishes. Fruit trees, such as orange, apricot, lemon, banana and fig, abound. A wealth of fish feeds the islands’ population.
In the Azores the Catholic Church has controlled people’s lives for centuries. Also, everyone knows everybody else. It was in such a setting that several righteously inclined men manifested genuine love for the Bible. Yes, many years before the good news reached these islands, a remarkable incident took place in 1902 on Pico Island.
Six God-fearing Azoreans conducted the funeral for a five-year-old boy. They held the service without the presence of a Catholic priest, and the men sang an evangelical hymn. Such audacity drew the fire of the local priest, who had the men taken to court and accused of offending not only the country’s religion but also God himself! The case was taken before the Azores Court of Appeal in 1903 and eventually reached the Supreme Court in Lisbon, where it was dismissed for lack of evidence.
Before the case came to trial one of these six men, João Alves Pereira (John Perry), emigrated to the United States. He came in contact with Jehovah’s people and, as already mentioned, became a member of the Brooklyn Bethel family, serving as such until his death in 1965. Among the first publications he mailed back to his family and friends on Pico Island were the books The Harp of God and Millions Now Living Will Never Die.
Later, the sons of two other men who attended that funeral in 1902 also emigrated to the United States, both learning the truth. One of these, Isaac Ávila Fontes, sent literature to his father, José Silveira Fontes, who studied by himself and then started telling others about the good news. Then in 1940 Aníbal Nunes, the son of a third man who attended that funeral, was contacted by the Witnesses.
Aníbal and his wife, filled with zeal and determination to help their fellow countrymen, left the United States in 1947 to return to their native Pico Island. One of the first persons they spoke to was a young married neighbor, Maria Ávila Leal. As Aníbal was witnessing to her the bells of the church rang three times, and being a devout Catholic, she began to explain how important it was to recite the Ave Maria (Hail Mary).
Brother Nunes asked her if she knew who the Creator of this earth was. She answered, “Yes, of course, God.” “Are you sure?” he queried. After confirming her answer, he asked, “Where was his mother when he made the earth?” She quickly answered, “God does not have a mother.” Now he questioned, “What do you mean when you say, ‘Holy Mary, mother of God’? Are you referring to God or to Jesus who is God’s Son?” The full force of the Trinity falsehood struck her instantly. Right then and there, she understood that Jesus was not God, but that Mary was the fleshly mother of Jesus, who is God’s Son.
Within ten days of his arrival Brother Nunes had persuaded many to listen to the truth. He arranged for a public meeting in his brother’s home, where 82 attended, many standing outside by the door and windows to hear. The talk was given at night by candlelight. This talk, together with the fact that Maria Ávila Leal stopped going to church, caused a tremendous upheaval in the small community of several hundred homes. Only wagon trails led from one group of homes and villages to the next on the 178-square-mile (461-sq-km) island, but the news that the church had lost one of its most zealous members traveled like wildfire.
The embittered priest unleashed a desperate attempt to instill fear into the heart of young Maria. He made all kinds of untrue statements about her. Her neighbors singled her out as the object of scorn and abuse. All of this was to no avail. The truth of God’s Word fell on good soil, and Maria became a most zealous, fearless publisher, serving for some years as a special pioneer.
In 1949 Maria’s 23-year-old brother attempted to persuade her not to follow this new religion. One day she gave him the booklet Religion Reaps the Whirlwind. Although filled with prejudice to the point of not wanting even to touch the booklet, he somehow accepted it. Fearful he might be found with Witness literature, he took it to a cave in the hills and there read it carefully from cover to cover. The booklet’s message had immediate influence on Manuel Ávila Leal. He severed his association with the Catholic Church and began to meet with the Witnesses. He still vividly remembers the full force with which the message of this one booklet struck home. He says:
“It was the strong Bible truths put so clearly and boldly against false religion in this unforgettable booklet that convinced me as to the truth of God’s Word.”
Around the same time José Silveira Fontes, another one of the six men who had been brought to trial back in 1902 for conducting a funeral service without a priest, moved to São Miguel Island. It is the largest of the nine islands, having been formerly two volcanoes that ejected so much lava and ash that they eventually united. On this island of orchids and tea bushes he told others what he was learning from The Watchtower. His informal preaching in the chief city, Ponta Delgada, resulted in the first four native Witnesses. The two sisters, Maria Rosa and Maria Leite, are still zealously declaring Jehovah’s name.
On another island, Graciosa, a dockworker noticed a pamphlet fall from the pocket of a fellow worker. He picked it up and asked if he could read it. His co-worker gladly agreed, saying a passenger on one of the boats had given it to him, but he did not know how to read. The dockworker, Manuel Moniz Bettencourt, read the tract, which was entitled “The New World.” He wrote the Society for more and started distributing them throughout the island. The seeds of truth were being scattered on Graciosa Island. Thus began the ministry of another Witness.
MORE MISSIONARIES ARRIVE
The year 1950 ushered in a new period for the work in the Azores with the arrival of two Gilead graduates, Paul Baker and Kenneth Williams, on Pico Island. In this ultraconservative, Catholic-dominated island the work began to make progress. But the government, under pressure from the clergy, expelled the missionaries. Good work, however, had been done, resulting in a new peak of 21 publishers. Paul Baker reapplied for a visa, which was approved. It was not long, though, until the police were at his boardinghouse to arrest him on charges of engaging in Communist activities. He was escorted to the first ship leaving for Lisbon, where he spent a week in jail. There the trumped-up charges were withdrawn, and he was ordered to leave the country.
During this time the work in Portugal had been moving ahead steadily. After three years in the Iberian peninsula on his own, John Cooke was happy to have two missionaries, Mervyn Passlow and Bernard Backhouse, join him in 1951.
VISIT BY F. W. FRANZ IN 1951
Excitement was running high in Lisbon in expectation of Brother F. W. Franz’ return visit. The climax of a busy week was a one-day assembly under large umbrellalike trees. Ninety were present and 11 were baptized. In those early days of the work in Portugal, the frequent visits from members of the Governing Body helped our brothers feel close to the hub of the work.
On the last night of his visit Brother Franz gave a farewell talk at the missionary home. The absorbing subject was “Baptism of Fire.” Afterward a larger crowd than usual milled around. Some neighbor must have complained, for the next morning, bright and early, a secret police agent showed up to check on matters. He gave the impression he was satisfied. But this was not the last the missionaries were to see of the secret police. They had learned a valuable lesson however: Henceforth they could not carry on their activities so openly.
Brother Cooke left Lisbon to accompany Brother Franz on a visit to the congregations in Spain and then to attend the international convention in England. Brother Backhouse’ visa expired, and the authorities refused to renew it. So, shortly afterward he had to leave for Spain. Brother Cooke became ill and could not return. The only missionary remaining to care for the work was Brother Passlow, and he was also seriously ill. Later, while still comparatively young, he died after a full life of devoted service, in Australia and Portugal.
There were serious problems ahead. Certain individuals began to indulge in criticism and backbiting. Two brothers particularly were upset at the way the work was being directed. One of these, a watchmaker named Santos, began selling pictures of John Cooke, engraved with the words O Nosso Pastor (Our Pastor). This strong-willed man succeeded in swaying some of the older brothers to follow him.
Santos could not understand why he had not been appointed as a servant, so he wrote lengthy letters to Brooklyn. His state of mind can be seen from this statement in one letter to Brooklyn: “Why, I actually gave a clock to the missionaries to put in the Kingdom Hall and even then they did not make me a servant.”
He began to share his grievances more and more with Joaquim Carvalho, who had not attended any meetings for several months. They intimated to others that the missionaries were not Portuguese, did not do justice to the language and really did not understand the local situation as well as they did. In this way they sowed seeds of discontent. How did this affect the majority of the publishers? Meeting attendance dropped. Some even broke away from the organization and began holding separate meetings. The faithful missionary persevered, however, trusting in Jehovah to direct matters.
The answer to his prayers was a visit by Brothers Knorr and Henschel and the return of a healthy Brother Cooke in February 1952. A meeting of complainers, servants and missionaries took place. It was quite an occasion. The complainers and the servants had prepared long typewritten statements. But with one simple gesture Brother Knorr put all the papers aside and said: “No, I don’t want papers. Here are your brothers. Now, if you have anything against them, just say it.” This direct, simple, Biblical approach to the problem completely bewildered the troublemakers. For quite a while they floundered, not knowing exactly what to say.
Brother Knorr then said: “Well, I have sat here for an hour and all you have actually complained about is that this sister (who was interpreting) smiled at something one of you said in a meeting.” Then several mentioned specific points where they felt they had been slighted. The two principal complainers, Brothers Santos and Carvalho, clearly manifested a bad spirit and were reprimanded. Of course, all present received good straightforward counsel about putting aside personal differences and getting on with the really important work of preaching the good news.
That afternoon at a meeting in Almada, Brother Knorr gave strong counsel to the 122 brothers who attended. He explained the right attitude all should take toward Jehovah’s organization. Brother Cooke was then appointed as overseer for the one congregation, consisting of two groups.
Reactions were swift. Brother Santos refused to acknowledge the appointment and announced that the study group was his, being held in his own home; and if any wanted to follow the organization they were free to do so. He also asked to have his clock back. When Brother Cooke attempted to attend the book study conducted by Brother Carvalho he was refused entry. In a short time these independent groups ceased to function, and eventually Santos and Carvalho were disfellowshipped.
It was obvious that Satan was trying to torpedo the theocratic organization in Portugal. But this was without success. After Brother Knorr’s visit the whole situation rapidly improved. The service year ended with 62 publishers reporting, a new peak of 207 at the Memorial and new interest springing up.
The situation was summed up by a 1954 Yearbook report, which said: “A drastic cleanup took place in 1952 as far as Jehovah’s witnesses are concerned. This year’s report on the country shows the importance of keeping the new-world organization clean, for a splendid increase has come forth. . . . Congregations should never be fearful of losing publishers when it comes to those who do not line up with the Word of God and follow the fine principles that he constantly teaches us. We must remember that Jehovah is taking care of his organization.”
BROTHER COOKE FORCED TO LEAVE
The two congregations in Portugal were now growing in size and maturity. In January Eliseu Garrido moved to Oporto, opening the door to Kingdom service in Portugal’s second-largest city. An unexpected event, however, was in store. The authorities refused to renew Brother Cooke’s visa. His missionary service in Portugal was over. Good-bye Portugal—Off to Angola! He now serves faithfully in the South Africa branch.
The Kingdom work was now opening up on Madeira Island. The Portuguese word madeira means “wood.” When this mountainous island was discovered about 1420 it was uninhabited and covered with dense forests, hence the name. The population of about 257,000 lives nestled in towns and villages at the mouth of ravines or on the lower slopes. A pioneer from New York, Brother Freitas, spent some months on this island and apparently initiated the preaching of the good news. His efforts were richly blessed with four publishers soon reporting. The first Memorial celebrated in 1954 had a fine attendance of 21.
CORDEIRO SPREADS THE GOOD NEWS
Meantime, in Portugal, António Manuel Cordeiro, the young boy from Trás-os-Montes, became one of the country’s first auxiliary pioneers. He had come to Lisbon, where he used his time in association with the brothers and in field service. His cousin arrived for a second time from the United States, this time bringing her son. He recalls:
“In the summer of 1954 my cousin’s son and I decided to spread the good news in isolated territory for six months. We witnessed in dozens of villages in the remote districts of Bragança and Guarda, being arrested in Sandim village due to a complaint made by a priest. We were taken to the city of Guarda and thrown into a dungeon where we spent the night. After a lengthy interrogation they took our fingerprints and released us. Our only means of transportation was walking and an occasional ride on an ox-drawn wagon. We carried foodstuffs in a bundle and purchased bread and cheese along the way. Now and then we ate a good hot meal at a pensão [boardinghouse].”
Arriving at Seixo de Carrazeda de Ansiães, they found that there was no such thing as a pensão, but, happily, one of the first families António witnessed to offered them meals and lodging while they witnessed to every family in the village. Arriving late at another village, they found that the only available place to sleep was a bed of hay next to the burro. Recalling those days, António says: “We were not discouraged nor discontented with these conditions. Rather, we were filled with happiness at the privilege of taking the good news to these people.”
STORM CLOUDS ON THE HORIZON
In November 1954 Gilead missionary Eric Britten, along with his wife, Christine, arrived from Brazil to look after the branch. It became the custom to hold regular “picnics” in a wooded area near the beach. Later, these wooded areas became known as O Salão do Reino Verde (The Green Kingdom Hall). These occasions proved to be times of great spiritual refreshment. In May 1955 a special one-day “picnic” was arranged for the Cova de Vapor area. The brothers rented a ferryboat to take them across the Tagus River to the beach area. They soon discovered they had uninvited visitors. Two plainclothes policemen accompanied them all day long. A record 230 attended this “picnic.”
The following morning secret police agents visited the homes of some of the brothers. They were asked questions like these: What kind of organization do you belong to? Who are the speakers? Are not some of them foreigners? Is it true that you had a meeting yesterday at the beach? How often do you have these picnics? This was one of the first incidents that showed that the police were closely observing the Witnesses.
In 1956 the secret police, known as P.I.D.E. (Polícia Internacional e Defesa do Estado), appeared with greater frequency at the meetings. In July a friendly neighbor told missionary Mervyn Passlow that the police had him and his wife under surveillance. Shortly after this the couple were expelled from Portugal, even though the wife was a native-born citizen. Police interference also resulted in closing down two meeting places in Lisbon.
PROGRESS IN OPORTO
In Oporto the work was now making excellent progress. In 1955 the first congregation was formed. In 1956 the first Kingdom Hall was rented, and in 1957 Brother F. W. Franz gave a talk there to a happy audience of some thirty persons. Among those who shortly thereafter began to study were Armando and Luiza Monteiro, a zealous couple who were to further Kingdom interests in this historic city. Oporto now received a new blessing—two missionaries, Domenick A. Piccone and his wife, Elsa, who had been expelled from Spain. In 1959 more missionary help came to Portugal from the 33rd Gilead class with the arrival of the Roberts and Beveridge couples.
Whether in Oporto or elsewhere in Portugal, the brothers found that informal witnessing was an excellent way to help others learn the truth. For example, one of Portugal’s first publishers, Alpina Mendes, was taking a treatment at a health spa in Caldelas. While there she witnessed to José Maria Lança, a journalist. For the next 15 days they talked daily about God’s purposes. Lança read “Let God Be True” twice during this time. When he returned to Lisbon a Bible study was started with him, and he soon attended meetings. Four months later he was baptized and is presently a traveling overseer.
Lisbon’s parks and gardens serve as a fine natural setting in which to speak of the restored Paradise. Armando Lourenço, now an elder, tells how he learned the truth in 1956: “I was sitting in the Lisbon Campo Grande Park reading my Bible one sunny afternoon when Josué Guilhermino sat down and asked the question Philip had put to the Ethiopian, ‘Do you really understand what you are reading?’ I answered with the same question the Ethiopian presented to Philip, ‘Really, how can I, unless someone helps me?’ “ (Acts 8:30, 31) Brother Lourenço was baptized four months later and eventually went to Gilead School, returned to Portugal and served as a circuit overseer for many years in different parts of the country.
CAPE VERDE RECEIVES THE TRUTH
The first seeds of Kingdom truth were brought to the Cape Verde Islands in 1958. This group of 10 islands is situated in the Atlantic Ocean some two hundred and seventy-five miles (440 km) from the African west coast. A native who had emigrated to the United States returned for a visit in 1958, leaving a considerable amount of literature and subscriptions for The Watchtower.
Toward the end of 1958, on São Tiago Island, some of the Society’s literature found its way into eager hands. While visiting a photographer friend, Luis Alves Andrade noticed two booklets, “This Good News of the Kingdom” and “Look! I Am Making All Things New,” and asked to read them. The man carefully studied each booklet and checked every reference in an old Bible. A week later he returned to his friend and was thrilled to find a book, “Let God Be True.” He gladly accepted it and, by himself, studied it from cover to cover. Now he had no doubt that the truth of God’s Word was being taught by Jehovah’s Witnesses. He subscribed for the two magazines, which, for a good number of years, were his only means of receiving spiritual food.
A TIME OF EXPANSION
Interest was increasing, and the Kingdom Halls were overflowing. It was a time for expansion in Portugal. So Brother Piccone was assigned as the first full-time circuit overseer, visiting isolated groups and interested persons in all parts of the country. On his arrival at the home of an interested lady in Monção, in the northernmost Minho province, word swiftly spread that a foreigner was in town. No sooner had he begun witnessing to her than the neighbors began arriving. It was not necessary to leave the house to visit others, since it constantly was full of people eager to hear the good news.
In the fall of 1959 Brother Piccone visited the Azores. He relates: “Visiting the Azores is quite an experience since only two of the nine islands have docks. Being situated in mid-Atlantic, these islands are often surrounded by stormy seas, as was the case when we arrived. It was quite a challenge to get off the steamer’s ladder into the waiting rowboat. We had to wait until a wave brought the rowboat to the exact level of the ladder and then jump, hopefully, at the right moment! It was quite a job to get the Society’s film equipment, luggage and literature off the ship in safe condition. From there, skilled oarsmen rode the waves, timing their arrival to shore to avoid capsizing the boat.
“Showing the film on Pico Island presented more obstacles. Since the brothers lived in a village where there was no electricity, we had to walk about five miles to the next town to see what could be arranged. On our way into town a man picking grapes noticed I was a stranger, so he invited us to visit his wine cellar and hospitably offered a drink. The conversation turned to the subject of the film projection, and to our amazement, his brother, who was treading grapes in the winepress, owned the local movie house! Arrangements were made to show the Society’s film there the following night. The next day, as we approached the hall, we had a pleasant surprise. Rockets were being fired to inform everyone in the neighborhood that a movie was to be shown. An attendance of some one hundred and fifty came to see the film.”
The truth continued to spread throughout the Azores. In 1960 Santa Maria, an island well known to transatlantic plane travelers, received the truth. Delayed at the airport while repairs were being made on the plane, a brother took advantage of the time and witnessed to a man, who subscribed for The Watchtower and was encouraged to speak to others. He was told that if he could arrange for enough to subscribe for the magazine, he could receive a visit from one of the Society’s representatives to get help to understand the Bible. The man went around to his friends and obtained several subscriptions. He then wrote the Society, requesting that someone visit them. The traveling overseer was surprised to find that 19 turned up to see the Society’s film.
What excitement came in the year 1961! For a number of years the publishers in Portugal had keenly anticipated reaching the 1,000 mark in Kingdom preachers. This eventful occasion came in January with a 30-percent increase over the previous year’s average!
In the 1940’s, when Bibles were not easy to obtain, Eliseu Garrido went to secondhand-book shops and purchased many used Bibles. On one occasion he bought as many as twenty-five for as little as five escudos (17c U.S.) a copy.
Brother Manuel Almeida had an interesting experience in 1960 with a prominent Bible society. He explains: “I was purchasing an ever-increasing number of Bibles for all the Lisbon Witnesses, being given a 20-percent discount. One day the director told me to place a regular standing order so the Bible society would know how many to import. When I mentioned that the Witnesses could use at least 125 monthly he was amazed, since the total monthly order of the Bible society was only 250.”
How encouraging to learn that Jehovah’s Witnesses were distributing half the total number of Bibles received by this Bible society! Evidently religious bigotry seized the minds of these “Bible lovers,” for in the latter part of 1960 Brother Almeida was advised that they would no longer supply the Witnesses with large quantities of Bibles.
MACAO RECEIVES THE GOOD NEWS
In 1961 the Kingdom work was introduced into the Portuguese city-province of Macao, located on the South China coast at the delta of the Canton and Pearl rivers. Macao has the distinction of being the oldest European outpost trading with mainland China, dating back to 1557 C.E. A sister moved there with her husband, who was in the armed forces. Although she found few people who could speak her language, she planted seeds of Kingdom truth. The following year she returned to Portugal, and the few interested people and subscribers henceforth came under the care of the Hong Kong branch.
DIFFICULT TIMES IN ANGOLA
In 1960, to maintain better communication, oversight of the work in Angola was transferred from South Africa to Portugal. Police in Angola increased their surveillance of the Witnesses. In February 1959 the P.I.D.E. refused to allow the zone overseer, Brother Arnott, to enter the country. Then the police gave strict orders forbidding meetings and all association between European Witnesses and our African brothers. So from this time onward both groups held separate underground meetings.
In March 1961 a wave of terror, violence and destruction swept over Angola, coming from the Congo border. Entire villages were burned to the ground, and bodies of both blacks and whites were found mutilated beyond recognition. Men were strung up and killed like pigs; women had their stomachs ripped open and children were butchered. Shortly after this outbreak of wanton slaughter, Jehovah’s Witnesses began to be accused of acts of terrorism. The Roman Catholic Church took a lead in this gross misrepresentation. A Catholic journal, A Provincia de Angola, denounced the publications of the Witnesses as being subversive.
As the war against terrorism developed into a full-scale confrontation official government publications endeavored to blame the Witnesses for fomenting terrorism in Angola. One such publication, Ultramar, stated: “Prof. Silva Cunha admits that before terrorism broke out, this sect influenced the Angolan population, especially in the regions of Luanda and Moxico. We also believe his suppositions are well founded. . . . The Watch Tower is an American movement of great proportions and capital. If the U.S.A. would not receive any other results, at least they would benefit immediately from great prestige. . . . It would not be beyond imagination that the White House gave this movement some protection in Africa.”—Vol. 5, 1964, number 17, p. 54.
It is not hard to imagine that this kind of twisted thinking unleashed a fierce nationalistic spirit accompanied by close surveillance of our brothers. Strict measures limiting any association of Africans to no more than three in number were introduced. Henceforth our brothers in Luanda reorganized their meetings, holding them in smaller groups. In spite of great tension they were thrilled to have 130 present for the Memorial in March 1961.
NEUTRALITY A BLESSING
When terrorism broke out many were confused as to whether the Witnesses could really be responsible for such action. Carlos Agostinho Cadi was working on a plantation in northern Angola, near the Congo border. The danger of losing one’s life became so great that the plantation owner fled to the Congo, leaving Brother Cadi in charge. No sooner had the owner left than the advancing Portuguese army arrived and rounded up all the African workers. Suspecting them of being terrorists, the Portuguese gave the order to shoot all of them.
Pleas for mercy fell on deaf ears. Then Carlos Cadi showed the soldiers papers in his possession proving that he was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and in no way involved in terrorism. This succeeded in staying the execution. When the commanding officer arrived and examined the letters, he handed Cadi over to the P.I.D.E. for investigation. Thus his life was spared.
A MAN OF FAITH
At this time João Mancoca, an African who had contact with the Society’s publications back in 1943, was in Luanda. On June 25, 1961, while he was conducting a Watchtower Study in Luanda, military police with fixed bayonets suddenly appeared. The police sent the sisters and children home; then the brothers were subjected to terrible treatment. Mancoca himself states:
“I do not have words to describe the manner in which we were treated. The corporal in charge of the soldiers openly declared we would be beaten to death. After being brutally beaten into little more than a pile of flesh, it seemed that he was right. While I lay on the floor, handcuffed, I received such blows with a wooden club that later I vomited blood for 90 days. But what concerned me now were the lives of my fellow companions who were being barbarously struck with wooden clubs. In prayer I asked Jehovah to care for the lives of these, his sheep. Convinced that some of us would die, the soldiers returned about every half hour during the night, inquiring if anyone was dead. They seemed most puzzled that we outlived the inhuman torture, and some were heard to remark that our God must be the true one since we had survived.”
For five months the brothers remained in the São Paulo prison in Luanda. When transferred to a large dormitory of some six hundred men they took advantage of opportunities to witness, and on three occasions Brother Mancoca was able to give a talk to more than three hundred fellow prisoners. Many of these who later were freed from prison accepted the truth. Some of them are today serving as elders in Luanda. The prison authorities’ plan to silence and intimidate Jehovah’s servants backfired.
The brothers were then transferred to southern Angola and held another five months in the Security Police prisons at Mossâmedes. Although strictly watched, they were able to take advantage of informal witnessing and even held a regular book study. Here another splendid witness was given. In a short time some prisoners who had been guilty of unlawful political activities saw that God’s Kingdom was man’s only hope. Then the brothers were transferred to Baía dos Tigres, a penal island, and sentenced to “fixed residence” or restricted movement at government work camps.
Literature sent to the brothers at one work camp was intercepted. The angered camp administrator punished our brothers by sending them to a recently constructed work camp far in the interior near Serpa Pinto. Three months later Sala Ramos Filemon along with João Mancoca and three other brothers, together with 130 other prisoners, were transported in cattle cars to this camp. Their reception provided a grim preview of what lay ahead.
Herded out of the cars like animals, our brothers were cruelly beaten and knocked about. Once again the blows were so savage that they thought death was imminent. The camp was completely enclosed with barbed wire. Oppressive conditions consisting of heavy work, little food and no clothing became the daily routine. Our brothers subsisted on dried fish, poor quality cornmeal and stalwart faith. No longer able to endure the inhuman treatment, four political prisoners tried to escape, but they were caught and, as a warning, tortured to death in the presence of all.
OPPOSITION BEGINS IN PORTUGAL
The outbreak of terrorism in Angola in 1961 had immediate effects on the work in Portugal. With a flood of false propaganda flowing into the country accusing the Witnesses of inciting the masses to rebellion, Portuguese police began to interfere with their preaching activities. In the town of Évora, some eighty miles (130 km) east of Lisbon, a pioneer, Horácio Arnaldo Duarte, was summoned to the local P.I.D.E. headquarters for questioning. There the police showed him pictures of dismembered Portuguese soldiers and accused the Witnesses of being responsible.
In the summer of 1961 a special pioneer, Artur Canaveira, was followed by P.I.D.E. agents for many weeks. Then in September they arrested him. He relates what happened: “I was accused of subversive activities and of having some connection with Communism. For three months I was subjected to interrogations and vicious beatings in an effort to force me to admit that I was a Communist. Four or five agents at a time would shoot questions at me trying to create confusion. The interrogations always took place at night when my resistance was the lowest, with a radio playing to drown out any screams.”
All this time he was held incommunicado until transferred to the P.I.D.E. prison at Fort Caxias, a Lisbon suburb. Then on January 22, 1962, he was released.
Just four days later, on January 26, 1962, Brothers Eric Britten, the then branch overseer, Domenick Piccone and Eric Beveridge and their wives, all missionaries, were called to P.I.D.E. headquarters and ordered to leave the country within 30 days. They were told that the reason for their expulsion was their talking to others about their religion and teaching neutrality. In an interview with Brother and Sister Beveridge the director of the P.I.D.E. referred to a recent incident where a young Portuguese man had refused military service and asserted that the Witnesses were responsible for his actions. Conscientious objection would not be tolerated in Portugal, he added.
It was a hard blow to see the missionaries depart, and many tears were shed. They had truly given of themselves whole-souled and were warmly loved for their zeal and fine example. The Brittens eventually returned to Brazil where they are still serving full time in the circuit work. For the Piccones, it was their second expulsion from a missionary assignment. They went to Morocco but are now in El Salvador. The Beveridges were assigned to Spain, where they served for 19 years before being transferred to the Brooklyn Bethel family.
KINGDOM MINISTRY SCHOOLS
How opportune that just before the expulsion of the missionaries they were able to hold the first Kingdom Ministry School! This was a most timely provision for the 20 congregation servants in the country, preparing them for difficult times ahead. We rejoice that the majority of these brothers are still serving faithfully. Over the years successive courses have provided valuable instruction, resulting in the unification of the work, as well as keeping alive the evangelizing spirit.
PIONEERS SPEARHEAD THE WORK
Since the missionaries were gone, local brothers responded to the challenge to carry on the preaching work. Reminiscing about those times, circuit overseer Gilberto Sequeira says:
“When the Society sent missionaries to Portugal in 1958, I realized then that we also should give our very best to Jehovah and, if at all possible, join the pioneer ranks. Although having a young daughter, I became a special pioneer in 1959 and would never trade all the blessings received for any other life. My first assignment was Moscavide Congregation on the outskirts of Lisbon. I started studies in a number of localities. Many times I traded the literature for eggs, oranges, lemons, cakes, and so forth, as people had little money. What a blessing to see some I studied with now serving as elders in the congregations I am privileged to visit! Nothing is comparable to full-time service and the precious relationship one develops with Jehovah.”
Brother Henrique Arques was another publisher whose heart motivated him at this time to enter the pioneer ranks. After more than twenty years in full-time service, along with his wife, he makes this comment: “The word was out for more pioneers and I gladly volunteered. I have learned never to despise the day of small beginnings. It has been my privilege to go into every part of the country, including service on Madeira, the Azores and Cape Verde Islands. The offers I had of lucrative jobs could never stand up to what Jehovah offers.”
BRANCH OFFICE GOES UNDERGROUND
Due to the increased police surveillance the branch now had to be reorganized for underground activity. It was moved to an inconspicuous shed in the backyard of António Matias, a tailor in Lisbon. Gilead missionary Paul Hundertmark and his wife, Evelyn, had been expelled from Spain in 1960 and were now in Portugal, learning Portuguese. Suddenly, Paul found himself with an underground branch to look after. And what a challenge that was going to be!
Following the expulsion of the missionaries in 1962, the authorities hardened the campaign of persecution against Jehovah’s Witnesses. They issued a communication to all post offices prohibiting the circulation of our Bible literature, classifying it as “pernicious.” They seized large quantities of Bibles and literature published by the Watch Tower Society, and this literature they cut up and burned. Thousands of subscribers for The Watchtower and Awake! were denied the right to receive their magazines.
In quick succession, police searched the homes of scores of brothers, confiscating literature. The police threatened them with imprisonment if they continued to attend meetings. One of the first brothers to be visited by the police was Manuel Almeida, who presently serves on the Branch Committee. Though having no warrant to enter or search, the police confiscated all publications put out by the Society. Before the wave of persecution ended, this brother not only had his home searched seven times but was summoned an equal number of times for lengthy interrogations by the P.I.D.E. The police then began to raid Kingdom Halls in Lisbon, and early in 1962 the first one was closed down by police order.
FIRST COURT CASE
In 1962 a group of 12 brothers was reported to the police for holding a meeting. The brothers were called to police headquarters for questioning and were threatened with imprisonment if they continued to meet for Bible study. In January 1963 some of the brothers received the following order from the commander of the Public Security Police of Caldas da Rainha:
“I order any authorized agent . . . to notify with all legal formalities [name of brother], residing at [address] Town of Caldas da Rainha, Borough of Caldas da Rainha, that: He cannot continue to exercise his activities of Bible reading or that of Jehovah’s Witnesses or of any other religious character, and in addition to this promote, establish, organize or direct associations of an international character such as the one he has been said to belong to.”
The Public Ministry accused the brothers of holding religious meetings without obtaining authorization. At the opening of the trial on March 21, 1963, the judge was amazed to see the courtroom full of spectators. Generally, court cases of this kind, when the State was the accuser, took only a few minutes. But the fair-minded judge was so interested in seeing that justice was done that the trial lasted nearly three hours. He allowed three witnesses for the accused to speak and asked several questions concerning Bible subjects. The verdict proved to be a favorable decision for true worship, the accused being acquitted.
A CIRCUIT ASSEMBLY CANCELED
In July 1963 a circuit assembly was planned at Faro, on Portugal’s southern coast. The brothers rented a large warehouse to show one of the Society’s films, but someone registered a complaint with the police. At the last minute the brothers canceled the arrangement. It was a wise decision. The police had been advised that there was a “political meeting,” so about midnight a detachment of the riot squad surrounded the warehouse. They drew machine guns for action and prepared for what they thought would be armed resistance. What a surprise when they found the warehouse empty! The circuit overseer, Césario Gomes, was later interrogated at great length. He related what followed:
“All items confiscated in my car were brought in and placed on the police chief’s desk. What really worried me was a list of names and addresses of overseers in the entire circuit. I was certain this list would be seen. Immediately I prayed to Jehovah, asking for his help to protect my brothers, in harmony with the thoughts of Psalm 118:6-8. Then, as the chief of police was examining each item and writing down its description, I was able to place my elbow on the corner of the desk. When he was distracted I managed to remove the piece of paper containing the names. I then asked permission to go to the washroom and speedily flushed the list down the toilet.”
MISSIONARY TO CAPE VERDE ISLANDS
An outstanding year in the history of the work for Cape Verde Islands was 1962, with the arrival of George Amado, a Gilead graduate. Shortly thereafter a special pioneer, Jack Pina, arrived to work along with the missionary on Brava Island. Within two months the missionary was reporting 14 home Bible studies, and soon 20 persons were assembling for the weekly Bible study. The celebration of the Memorial in 1963 had a fine attendance of 45. Then came a turn in events. The two pioneers were ordered to leave the islands. Seeds of truth, however, had been sown and had taken root.
The “Everlasting Good News” Assembly in Milan, Italy, in 1963 is especially remembered for different reasons. It was the first international convention attended by Portuguese delegates, with the entire program being presented by Portuguese brothers in their own language. The twenty-five-hundred-mile (4,000-km) round trip was also unforgettable. For the majority of brothers it was their first trip abroad. To make the trip, some purchased their first car after taking a course in learning how to drive. One brother had trouble with the clutch and gearbox, each gear successively breaking down. It was quite a sight to see him finally driving into town in reverse, with only that one gear functioning.
Brother Américo Campos from Almada relates what happened to their three-car caravan: “In Barcelona, Spain, two brothers were robbed of all their money as well as passports. On the return trip we learned the French thieves were more experienced than their Spanish colleagues. While we slept soundly, they broke into our cars and took everything. They even entered our tents, taking our money and souvenirs. We were wiped out materially but had received so much spiritually at the convention that, in a positive way, we commented on the truth of Jesus’ words at Matthew 6:19: “Stop storing up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break in and steal.”
CHURCH-INSPIRED PERSECUTION CONTINUES
Adverse publicity about the Witnesses began to appear more frequently in the newspapers. During the summer of 1963 a series of five television programs about the Witnesses was broadcast from Lisbon. A Roman Catholic priest conducted the discussions, and he delighted in grossly misrepresenting Jehovah’s people.
On the evening of August 22, 1963, five P.S.P. (Public Security Police) agents with guns in hand broke into a private home in the northern coastal city of Aveiro, interrupting the local meeting. Everyone was arrested and taken to the police station. At four o’clock in the morning the children were released. The others had to wait until seven-thirty the next evening. They were formally charged with holding an illegal meeting. Thus the stage was set for the Witnesses’ second court case in Portugal. The evidence showed that the privacy of a home had been invaded. The judge delayed for nearly a month before declaring all 10 Witnesses guilty. Brother António Beirão and his wife were considered responsible for the meeting, and although having two small children, they were sentenced to one month in prison.
PRISONERS WITNESS IN ANGOLA
Meanwhile, in Angola, the penal work camp was affected by the Catholic Ecumenical Council in 1963. Representatives of Christendom’s sects requested the camp administrator’s permission to hold special interfaith prayer days. Prisoners most qualified to represent each religion were invited to share in these prayer sessions. Brother Mancoca, invited to represent Jehovah’s Witnesses, declined. He used the opportunity, however, to make clear the Witness position of noninvolvement in interfaith meetings.
The so-called friendly leaders of Christendom viewed Brother Mancoca as being most audacious and sought revenge. Using the camp administrator, they launched an attempt to silence him. Camp authorities expressly forbade him to hold religious conversations with fellow prisoners or engage in any religious activity whatsoever, under the penalty of death. They told him his ‘followers would be banished to penal colonies on Cape Verde Islands if he disobeyed orders.’ Brother Mancoca wrote a letter to the camp administrator, politely stating that he could not obey such orders and that in reality they were contrary to the Portuguese Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion.
Reaction to his letter was swift. They separated Mancoca from all other prisoners and kept him at a distance of some two hundred feet (60 m) so he could talk to no one. Camp guards intensified their vigilance to make sure he was not practicing his religion or reading the Bible. In spite of these difficulties, Mancoca was able to translate the booklet “This Good News of the Kingdom” into the Umbundu dialect.
It became evident that the isolated groups in Luanda needed assistance, so in March of 1963 Manuel da Silva, his wife and two children moved to Angola at the Society’s invitation. Since they were both special pioneers, the work was quickly organized and produced fine results. Then on October 14, 1963, in Luanda, Manuel da Silva and Manuel Acácio Santos were arrested and imprisoned. The following month the P.I.D.E. arrested the brother who had been caring for the work in Luanda, Manuel Gonçalves Vieira. The police chief told him: “The work of Jehovah’s Witnesses has been banned throughout all Angola.”
The police now presented Vieira with an ultimatum: Sign a declaration promising to renounce all activities connected with Jehovah’s Witnesses or go to prison. Upon refusing to be intimidated, he was put in solitary confinement for two months, in spite of the fact that his wife was expecting her third child in a few weeks. By this time Manuel da Silva had also been placed in solitary confinement for having preached the good news to fellow prisoners.
Finally, on January 23, 1964, the three brothers were informed that they would be deported to Portugal.
Meanwhile, in Lisbon, Brother Joaquim Martins, who had been a faithful Witness since 1939, was now a successful businessman, operating several dry-cleaning stores. In February 1964 he had unexpected visitors! P.I.D.E. agents rummaged through everything at his home and shops in an effort to find publications put out by the Society. They confiscated his literature, including a precious library dating back to 1925.
At one of the stores he kept a large tank for use in secret baptisms, and over the years scores of brothers were baptized there. Later Brother Martins sold his business and became a pioneer, dying faithful in 1979.
During 1964 several issues of the Awake! magazine, as well as letters from all over the world, helped Portugal’s leading citizens know exactly what was happening in their own country.
In the Azores Brother Manuel Leal decided it would be good to place copies of the Awake! in the hands of the local authorities. He gave copies to the district governor, police officials, and so forth. Several days later the P.S.P. summoned him to appear for questioning. After severely interrogating him, the police ordered him to disclose the names and addresses of where he had left the magazines. Leal refused, saying that he would not give information that would result in innocent people becoming objects of persecution. The subchief began writing a report on the interrogation but became embarrassed when he had to state that the reason why Leal would not give the names and addresses was that the police would then persecute these people. Frustrated, he ripped up the sheet of paper and left the room.
The job was finally turned over to a secretary with the subchief helping. They both became confused. Finally, when the statement was completed, Brother Leal would not sign it because it misrepresented the facts. Leal reports: “When I attempted to explain our beliefs and used the name Jehovah, the subchief shouted: ‘Do not use that name! If you say it again I will order you imprisoned!’ I responded that I had to use the name if I was to defend myself, and at any rate, this very name was in the Catholic Mass book, which I promptly showed them, to their chagrin. An excellent witness was given.”
GOVERNMENT OPPOSITION INTENSIFIES
The authorities were hardening their hearts. During October 1964 an extremely prejudiced bulletin was distributed by the minister of the interior, saying:
“It must be rigorously understood that the sect ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ is not a religious sect, because their purposes are purely material: extinction of the governments, of authorities and of the churches and existing cults in order to prepare the way for the installation of Universal Theocracy. The use of the Bible is nothing more than mere technique of propaganda and defense before the authorities, of a movement with ambitious political objectives [italics theirs].”
Armed with the backing of this government bulletin, police began to organize daily raids on the homes of the brothers throughout the country.
In an effort to clarify our position and with the aid of the U.S. State Department, it was arranged for a foreign delegation of three Witnesses to speak with Dr. Franco Nogueira, then Minister of Foreign Affairs. The foreign delegation, composed of Brothers Philip Rees, Richard Abrahamson and Domenick Piccone, traveled to Lisbon and on February 25, 1965, explained our position of strict neutrality. Dr. Nogueira promised to look into the situation, as he stated there was no apparent reason for denying Jehovah’s Witnesses religious freedom. The only answer received, however, was a steady increase of police interference.
Despite the difficult times, the organization was growing. A new peak of 2,839 publishers was reached in April 1965, with four circuits organized to care for the many new congregations springing up.
Why many considered Portugal to be a police state can be readily seen in the diversified structure of its law-enforcement agencies. There were Public Security Police (P.S.P.); Republican National Guard (G.N.R.); Military Police (P.M.); Highway Patrol Police (P.V.T.); Judicial Police (P.J.); and the International Police and Defense of the State (P.I.D.E.), which was commonly known as the secret police. Our brothers received harsh treatment from G.N.R. and P.I.D.E. The general public especially feared the P.I.D.E., which relied heavily on a paid informer system. Reportedly, it was modeled after the Nazi Gestapo with the assistance of Gestapo agents during the second world war.
Due to the neutrality of the Witnesses, a number of young brothers received brutal treatment from the hands of the P.I.D.E. Luís António de Silva Canilhas, of Larajeiro, Almada, tells what happened to him after two hours of questioning on July 9, 1965:
“Having shut all the windows and doors, they began striking me on every part of my body. A blow in the stomach knocked me to the floor. Another left me with a black eye. As I was limping on one leg, I couldn’t stand up, so they picked me up by my ears and once again began beating me. These men did not have the appearance of humans as they treated me like a dog.”
Disgraceful treatment was meted out to older people as well. In July a Lisbon overseer, Manuel Vaz, 72 years of age, was summoned to P.I.D.E. headquarters for questioning. For five hours he was rudely insulted and interrogated. “The true religion is the Catholic religion,” said one P.I.D.E. agent to Brother Vaz. “She has preserved the Bible and is following Jesus Christ and the apostles. It is not for you, an ignorant man, to teach the Bible. It is only for those who are authorized. But you would like your religion to be free, wouldn’t you? This will never be! No, never!”
As summer of 1965 approached, some four hundred brothers prepared for the long journey to attend the “Word of Truth” Assembly in Basel, Switzerland. At the last minute the P.I.D.E. decided to interfere with convention plans. Just one day before departure date the police told 50 brothers who had received permission to travel that the authorization was canceled. Much to the chagrin of the police, one busload of brothers had already left. An urgent telephone call to the border was unsuccessful. The bus was well into Spain!
In November 1965, in Rossio ao Sul do Tejo, three police agents converged on a group of 17 brothers assembled for the Watchtower Study, breaking up the meeting and seizing all Bibles and literature. They searched the brothers and took them to the police station amid outbursts of ridicule and defamatory language from a crowd of curious onlookers that now assumed mob characteristics.
That evening the brothers were informed that they would be freed on bail of 2,000 escudos each ($70 U.S.). Only seven could raise this sum. Then police authorities released all except António Manuel Cordeiro and Tiago Jesus da Silva, who were considered the organizers of the meeting. Bail for them was set at 20,000 escudos each ($700 U.S.), an exorbitant sum for the average citizen, whose monthly salary was only 1,700 escudos ($60). They were held incommunicado for several days and then kept in prison three months until the charges were finally dropped.
The same day that the police broke up the meeting at Rossio ao Sul do Tejo, P.I.D.E. agents in the university city of Coimbra visited the local Kingdom Hall. After listening for about twenty minutes, they suspended the meeting; then they confiscated all Bibles and literature put out by the Society. When the overseer requested they be allowed to keep their personal copies of the Bible, the police answered: “No, we cannot allow that. We must take them because your Bibles are underlined, which means those particular references have been given a different interpretation”!
OUTMANEUVERING THE OPPOSERS
If the intensity of police activity was increasing, so was the ingenuity of the brothers in handling these delicate situations. This is illustrated by the experience of a 17-year-old publisher, who relates:
“Because of unavoidable problems I arrived at the Hall 15 minutes late. Immediately I noticed something strange: A man was walking back and forth in front of the Hall. I thought right away that he must be a P.I.D.E. agent. I too began walking back and forth, but in the opposite direction. We passed several times. Finally, after 15 minutes the man approached me and whispered: ‘I had the impression you were one of them, but I see you’re not. You wouldn’t be doing the same thing that I am doing, would you?’ Confidently I answered: ‘Obviously, just excuse me for arriving late.’ He replied: ‘No problem, if you don’t mind, keep an eye on this place while I go and have supper. I’ll be back shortly!’ I answered: ‘Don’t worry, I’ll take care of things.’ After waiting a few minutes I entered the Hall. When I explained to the brothers what had happened, we all left in a hurry!”
GROWTH ON MADEIRA ISLAND
Brothers were also experiencing opposition on Madeira Island, but the work was progressing well. During 1966 a brother on Madeira enjoyed the unique experience of having a policeman accompany him from door to door. He had been arrested while engaging in the house-to-house ministry, and at police headquarters doubts arose as to whether his mission at the homes was purely Biblical. The police decided the best way to settle the question was to return to the homes he had visited and find out. So off went the brother, accompanied by the policeman. At each door it was verified what had been said and an additional witness was given. Many householders who had not listened the first time were amazed to see a policeman with the brother, and this time they paid close attention! Although the policeman wanted to stop after a short while, the brother insisted they continue to check out all the homes he had visited. In the end the policeman was quite tired and said he would certainly give a favorable report on our brother’s persistence and ability to explain the Bible’s message!
KINGDOM HALLS CLOSED
Kingdom Halls all over Portugal were more and more the target of police raids. Valuable equipment was being lost. All efforts to legalize the organization had produced no tangible results. So in 1966 the time came for a realistic appraisal of our circumstances. Various factors indicated that the Kingdom work could be better accomplished by meeting in small groups in private homes. Despite government refusal to give us legal recognition our existence could not be denied. In ever-growing numbers Jehovah’s Witnesses were present, successfully preaching the good news.
Although fully trusting in the guidance of the “faithful and discreet slave,” this was a hard time for many brothers. Some wondered how the organization would move ahead. Several questioned how a congregation could effectively function in small book study groups of about twenty publishers. Without doubt, this was much more work, since each group was required to put on the entire program of five weekly meetings. Many brothers and sisters had assignments in either the Service Meeting or the Theocratic Ministry School, or both, every week! Their apprehension, however, proved to be unfounded, as more work produced more spirituality and growth.
A SIGNIFICANT COURT TRIAL
In June 1966 a court trial was held in Lisbon’s Plenary Court. The trial, involving 49 members of the Feijó Congregation, captured the attention of all Portugal. The case began a year earlier when police broke up a meeting of some seventy persons in the home of Afonso Mendes and arrested the overseers, Arriaga Cardoso and José Fernandes Lourenço.
After 4 months and 20 days in prison, the two brothers were released on bail. During the time they spent in prison they were denied all reading material, including the Bible, and they were subjected to hours of questioning. The State prepared a court case against the two overseers and 47 other members of the congregation. Bail was set at 2,000 escudos ($70 U.S.) each. The government prepared a 416-page brief. The Witnesses were accused of “a crime against the security of the State.” The accusation added: “They constitute a political movement, coming from various countries with aims of disobedience, agitation and subversion of the popular masses and especially the youths of military age.”
When the day for the trial arrived, brothers from all over the country were on hand to give moral support. A bus was even chartered from Oporto in the north. Police officials had never seen such a sight, with hundreds of Witnesses converging on the courthouse.
Reporting on the incident, Lisbon’s O Século stated: “Whoever arrived yesterday at Largo da Boa Hora [the courthouse square] would have seen a surprising spectacle. . . . The windows around the second and third floors as well as the corridors, of which there are many, were full of people. In the patio people were packed tight. . . . There was no disturbance. It was calculated there were more than two thousand persons present inside and outside the building. It was the first time that so many people had been seen there. They were, in the majority, sympathizers with the accused and their religion.”
Judge António de Almeida Moura lost no time in telling the first defendant, Arriaga Cardoso, that constitutional guarantees of freedom of worship do not apply to such a religion as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Lisbon’s Diário Popular, June 24, 1966, reported his remarks: “There is no liberty for anyone who invents a religion and does what he wants in the name of God or whatever it might be. He has to be subordinate to men who rule things on earth. . . . You are accused of disobedience of a general kind to the laws of the Nation.”
When Brother Cardoso started to pick up his Bible, having in mind reading Romans 13:1 pointing out our need to be in subjection to earthly “superior authorities” when their laws do not conflict with God’s laws (Acts 5:29), the judge quickly interrupted, stating, as the newspaper reported:
“Don’t use the Bible! To you the Bible is what counts; to the court it is the law that counts. The Bible does not govern civil activity. Do not invoke it; each one interprets it his own way and according to his interests. The Bible is not the constitution of the State. The court does not have to accept the Bible as the political constitution of the Portuguese Republic as it is interpreted by some American man.”
On the second day of the trial the defense presented considerable evidence to prove that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not advise or encourage anyone to break a law of any government. At the final session, on July 7, 1966, the defense lawyer, Dr. Vasco de Almeida e Silva, fearlessly exposed the government brief as being void of facts. Forcefully he pointed out that not a shred of evidence had been submitted showing that the Witnesses “constitute a political movement” and encourage “agitation and subversion of the popular masses.”
He concluded his bold defense with a masterful appeal that the court respectfully consider the advice of first-century law teacher, Gamaliel. Quoting him, he looked at the judges and kindly entreated: “Do not meddle with these men, but let them alone, (because, if this scheme or this work is from men, it will be overthrown; but if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them;) otherwise you may perhaps be found fighters actually against God.”—Acts 5:38, 39.
The public prosecutor did not produce one witness during the entire three days of the trial, nor did he attempt to cross-examine any defendant or witness for the defense. In fact, he had only spoken once during the trial, and now, at the conclusion, his only words were: “I ask for justice.”
Two days later the Plenary Court sentenced all 49 Witnesses to prison terms ranging from 45 days to five and a half months. Portuguese lawyers called the trial “a mockery,” “a sham,” a “miscarriage of justice.” Although the decision was immediately appealed to the Supreme Court, it seemed clearer than ever that the battle for true worship lay ahead.
A NEED FOR CAUTION
No sooner had the trial ended than it was time to leave for France to attend the “God’s Sons of Liberty” District Assembly. The animosity of the authorities against the Witnesses once more came to the surface. This time some one hundred and fifty brothers had their request for collective passports denied just as they were preparing to make the journey.
An interesting experience in relation to the 1966 convention in France shows how protection sometimes comes in remarkable ways. The branch overseer, Paul Hundertmark, had written by memo to the Paris branch, explaining his travel arrangements by plane. He intended to take some important documents out of the country with him. Since the branch address was secret he used Manuel Almeida’s address as the sender. Shortly afterward the P.I.D.E. raided Manuel’s home and searched it for literature, without success. The police inspector threatened Manuel with the loss of his job unless he revealed where the literature was hidden. To back it up he asked him for his employer’s address and wrote it down on a piece of paper he had in his hand. In the course of the search the inspector left the paper on the table. Later, when he left the house, he forgot his note. Manuel quickly retrieved it and saw, on the reverse side, a strange message that simply said: “Correspondence. L. Pontes, Paris.” It meant nothing to him.
A few days later Brother Hundertmark visited him and Manuel showed him the paper. He immediately knew what it meant! The P.I.D.E. had intercepted his anonymous memo to the Paris branch overseer, L. Jontes (they had misspelled it), and they obviously knew all his travel plans to get to Paris. Needless to say, he canceled his trip to the convention, and both the branch overseer and confidential documents were safe once again.
The Lisbon newspaper Diário da Manha, of July 14, 1966, published a front-page story that truly alerted the brothers and taught them a valuable lesson. Somehow a confidential letter giving instructions on traveling to the district convention in France fell into the hands of the authorities, its entire contents being published in the newspaper. Now the brothers would have to give closer attention to Jesus’ counsel to “prove yourselves cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16) About four hundred and thirty brothers, however, succeeded in attending the district convention and still remember the first Bible dramas, such as the one about Joseph in Egypt and his firm rejection of seduction by Potiphar’s wife.
The value of these timely dramas is demonstrated by the experience of a brother in Angola. Working as a truck driver on a large plantation, he was often ridiculed because of refusing to eat meals prepared with blood and not enjoying the company of prostitutes. One day after a special dinner, with the workers present, he gave a fine witness exposing magical arts as being against God’s will. This greatly irritated a spiritist, who, along with other workers, decided to test the brother’s resistance to sexual opportunities. After he had left for night work, a prostitute was hired to seduce him. Returning to his quarters, he was astonished to find a woman in his bed. When he ordered her out of his room, there was an uproar of laughter in the adjoining room. But their trick had failed.
THE TRUTH SPREADS UNDER PERSECUTION
In Angola, however, the main test continued to be fierce persecution. At the penal colony near Serpa Pinto, Brother Mancoca faced repeated offers to sign papers renouncing his faith. The small amount of literature he was able to obtain was again confiscated, but the camp administrator presented him with two gifts to read—books written by opposers of the Witnesses. Recalls Mancoca: “After giving me these books, they encouraged me time and again to follow the course of these persons who wrote against the Witnesses. I was promised complete freedom if I would cooperate with the authorities. Although I was to be released after serving a sentence of five years, they refused to release me since I did not cooperate in the manner they wished.”
As a consequence Mancoca was transferred in 1966 to the isolated São Nicolau work camp in the Mossâmedes province. He shuddered when he saw the face of his new camp administrator; it was none other than the corporal who had almost beaten him to death in Luanda in 1961, when he was first arrested. Mancoca was told he would learn very shortly who was right, the Witnesses or the State. Remembering those days, Mancoca says: “Here also, in spite of constant interrogations to coerce me to change my mind, I just didn’t cross my arms and wait for freedom. I knew that inactivity is synonymous with death. I was not yet dead, so I would continue to use my breath of life to praise Jehovah.”
Mancoca sought opportunities to give an informal witness to prisoners, using great caution. The ministry of this faithful brother was richly blessed, since a group of 12 interested persons developed. At times some of these, the more trustworthy prisoners, were sent on missions to Mossâmedes and thus succeeded in bringing into the camp precious magazines, hidden inside their shoes.
The brothers carried on the work in Angola under the greatest of difficulties, with relentless police surveillance. In 1967, in Mossâmedes, Brothers João Pedro Ginga and António Sequeira were walking down the street, caring for routine matters of life, when the police suddenly appeared and arrested them. They were turned over to an administrative board and, without trial, condemned to two years of forced labor. Both these brothers had previously served three-year prison terms.
As a result of the brothers’ zealous efforts to spread the Kingdom message, groups of prisoners in every penal work camp learned the truth. Prisoners would write to Lisbon for help. We quote part of one such letter received from Mossâmedes: “We have asked Jehovah to send a qualified brother to help us. A good number of us are ready to symbolize our dedication. Although the opposition is great, we have been more than protected. Some literature was received at the port here with the help of a friendly policeman. Truly God’s power to sustain us is great.”
A DIFFERENT APPROACH
The enemies of pure worship never tire in their attempts to slander or entrap Jehovah’s servants. Portuguese authorities devised a bold plan, during October 1966, to provoke Jehovah’s Witnesses to hold a mass demonstration against the government. Early in the month several overseers in Lisbon received the following note, signed with the name of a local overseer:
“Due to the decision of the Congregations of the United States to support Our Great Campaign of protest toward the government, it is asked that all possible publicity be given to a concentration of all Jehovah’s witnesses to appear in a SILENT MANIFESTATION of protest at the Ministry of the Interior, Praça do Comercio [a Lisbon square], on the 15th of the current month, at one o’clock in the afternoon [Saturday].
For Our God Jehovah,
The branch immediately sent out a note, dated October 12, 1966, to the Lisbon congregations, informing them of this trap that was set.
Needless to say, these wolves in sheep’s clothing had their plan completely thwarted. Not a soul turned up for the demonstration. Two brothers were sent to check the situation and saw police and military riot squads with water cannons and blue dye ready and waiting to pounce on any prospective protesters!
PRESSURE INCREASES IN THE AZORES
Meanwhile, in the Azores, pioneer Manuel Leal was speaking with his neighbor on October 12, 1966, when a P.I.D.E. agent arrested him. During the automobile ride to police headquarters the agent asked Manuel several times to give the names and addresses of individuals to whom he had witnessed. To the utter dismay of the secret policeman, the pioneer answered, “Your father!” Leal had indeed spoken to the agent’s father several times. Leal reports: “Well, when I said the name of his father he became so upset he told me, ‘Never mention my father’s name again!’ For the remainder of the trip he asked no more questions.”
At police headquarters the P.I.D.E. agents spoke to Leal, using the most abusive language. They ordered him to leave Terceira Island. His reaction? “I explained that I had lived on this island for more than sixteen years, that my children were born here and that I was not interested in moving. They threatened me with 80 days in prison if I was found preaching again. They told me that to remain on the island I would have to find a local citizen in good standing to post bond for me and assume responsibility for my residence. With this they ordered me to return home. Since they had taken away all my belongings, including my money, I asked them for at least the money needed to make the 12-mile (19-km) trip home. The chief of police refused, ordering me to walk the distance.”
Brother Leal managed to find an influential citizen who offered to post bond and assume responsibility for his residence despite threats from the police. Now with the tacit approval of the police, the clergy began to incite youths of the Catholic Action Group to harass the Witnesses. Several times in 1966 mobs stoned the brothers. Vicious dogs were released on them. Some Witnesses were pushed and shoved around, while pursuers chased others with hoes raised as weapons! During these difficult times our brothers did not feel sad and pessimistic. What was their attitude? Leal reports: “Our spirit was that of 2 Corinthians 6:10, ‘as sorrowing but ever rejoicing, as poor but making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing all things.’”
SUPREME COURT RENDERS ITS DECISION
On February 22, 1967, the Supreme Court rendered its decision on the appeal we had lodged in the Feijó case. It upheld the Plenary Court’s decision to sentence 49 members of the congregation to prison terms. All 49 had their political rights suspended for a period of four years. Ten interested persons, not baptized Witnesses, received suspended sentences. Prison terms ranged from a minimum of one and a half months to five and a half months. The court also fined each Witness a sum varying from 1,350 escudos ($47 U.S.) to 5,000 escudos ($175 U.S.) and requiring court costs of 1,000 escudos ($35 U.S.) each.
Since a number of husbands were not in the truth and desired to put up the necessary funds to keep their wives out of prison, a total of 24 Witnesses were finally imprisoned. The youngest was 20 years of age and the oldest, 70. In some cases both husband and wife were imprisoned, thus creating a problem for their children. Twenty children, ranging from 15 months to 16 years of age, were separated from their Christian parents. Other brothers and sisters, however, manifested love by offering to care for these youngsters. Why, more homes were offered than necessary! Generous contributions were also received to take care of these children. From the United States alone came the equivalent of 130,000 escudos ($4,600 U.S.). What marvelous evidence of care and loving concern!
On May 18, 1967, the convicted Witnesses presented themselves at the Plenary Court for imprisonment. The sisters were assigned to Mónicas Prison and the brothers to Limoeiro Prison, both some twenty minutes on foot from the courthouse. A truly unprecedented spectacle followed. The brothers were told to walk over to prison unescorted and to turn themselves in. Imagine! Here were these “dangerous citizens,” husbands and wives—condemned to prison for being a risk to “the security of the State”—with complete liberty to walk to prison! The lawyer who defended our brothers, Dr. Vasco de Almeida e Silva, personally bade farewell to each one. He made the following observation: “There was no shouting or screaming. No emotional outbursts on the part of the sisters. They were admirably calm and dignified and conducted themselves as I would think real Witnesses of the Most High God should. One thing you can be sure of: There will be a lot of witnessing done in those prisons.” No words could have been truer.
CONDUCT GIVES WITNESS
The prison matron singled out special pioneer Alda Vidal Antunes, 55 years of age, for special treatment. When the matron ordered her to embroider a tablecloth for the altar of the Catholic church, Sister Antunes politely made known her reason for refusing but mentioned that she would gladly accept other work. For this she was locked in a chapel for several hours; finally, she was transferred to Tires Prison, supervised by Catholic nuns.
When the Witness arrived, the mother superior tried to force her to attend Mass, but she adamantly refused. The nuns then put her in solitary confinement in a cold cement cell for over a month. The Christian conduct of our sister gradually influenced other prisoners to behave better, with much less shouting and banging on cell doors. Regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses, the mother superior finally admitted: “You know, these people really believe the Bible. Their whole personality seems to be different. When I look at people of my own religion, I see such a contrast.”
While Afonso Costa Mendes, a brother with four children, was in prison, his foreman, who greatly disliked the Witnesses, saw an opportunity to have him fired by submitting an unfavorable report on his work. Brother Mendes had nearly thirty years’ seniority with retirement benefits at stake, but he knew the matter had to be left in Jehovah’s hands. Prison authorities assigned him to work with the social director who observed the brother’s fine conduct. Then, one day near the end of his term, the social director called him into his office. What a surprise to face his factory’s personnel manager who was then told that our brother was an excellent worker, one who merited the finest confidence of any employer! The social director recommended that he be reinstated, with full benefits, to his previous job. This was done.
While the brothers were serving their prison sentences, arrests continued throughout Portugal and Angola. On February 28, 1967, in Luanda, Angola, a group of seven brothers, while meeting in a private home, was surrounded by seven P.S.P. agents with rifles and machine guns. They confiscated all literature, including Bibles, and marched the group off to police headquarters for questioning that lasted until two o’clock in the morning. The chief of police concluded the incident by saying he had some good advice to offer the group: “My warning is to stop this business of studying the Bible and use your time more wisely, like dedicating yourselves to seducing young girls. If you really want to know something about the Bible, then go to the priest, who knows what he is talking about.”
During this time William Roberts and his wife, Dorothy, had been doing missionary work since 1959 in northern Portugal. The police finally spotted him in the country’s most Catholic city, Braga, during a circuit visit in April 1967. The authorities confiscated their residence papers and shortly afterward this zealous evangelizing couple left Portugal to serve in Ireland.
The “Disciple-Making” District Assembly for Portugal was held in the summer of 1967 in Marseilles, France. On their return to Portugal in nine chartered buses the brothers were met by an unexpected special reception committee. P.I.D.E. agents, along with customs officials, confiscated some forty cartons of literature on the first six buses that arrived at the frontier near Elvas. When tourists asked what was being confiscated in the dozens of cartons piled high, they could hardly believe their ears when told: “Bibles and Bible literature.”
One alert brother, speaking with a tourist leaving for Spain, remarked: “And this is not all! There are three more buses coming this way with more of the same.” This complete stranger then suggested: “Let me get out of here as quick as I can. Maybe I can stop the other buses and tell them what’s happening.” True to his word, he did so. The precious literature was stored temporarily in a rented room in Badajoz, Spain. Evidence exists showing someone tipped off the authorities about the literature the brothers were bringing back from France.
Isabel Vargas, a good-natured, heavyset sister from Lisbon, tells us how, on another occasion, she managed to keep some of her literature: “The police entered our bus and told us to give them all the Bible literature or they would take it anyway. They stacked it on the seat directly in front of me. My personal Bible, containing notes made over the years, was on top. I just couldn’t resist: When they turned their heads, I took a deep breath and quickly dropped it down the front of my dress. Several other books followed. It went unnoticed that I suddenly became heftier!”
Harsh action was taken against sister Emília Afonso Gonçalves of Lisbon. Although she was born in Spain and married to a Spaniard, her father was Portuguese. She had lived in Lisbon for 40 years. Now this humble widow, 52 years old, received only 48 hours’ notice to leave the country. The Spanish consul in Lisbon was unable to extend this short period and showed her the official notice from the P.I.D.E., which explicitly stated she was being deported for belonging to the “sect of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” On September 16, 1967, she left for Spain.
Jehovah’s people have nothing to fear when called before the authorities. Rather than cringe and tremble, they display the attitude mentioned at Hebrews 13:6: “So that we may be of good courage and say: ‘Jehovah is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’ “ This is illustrated by the experience of Brother Joaquim Freitas. He had been a Catholic and had a business employing many persons. When he received a summons to appear at P.I.D.E. headquarters, it became obvious the authorities did not know how to begin. What happened is best related by Brother Freitas:
“They were extremely polite and told me it was too bad they had to call me in, since my time was valuable. As they seemed embarrassed to say why they wanted to speak to me, I said, ‘Yes, my time is valuable and so is yours. You gentlemen must certainly want to know something. Perhaps you want to know if I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Well, I am! Now is there anything else you would like to know?’
“This straightforward approach broke the ice, so to speak, and they told me how bad the organization was and why I should leave it and become a good Catholic again. I was then granted permission to speak. I told them I had been raised a Catholic and even had a friend who was a priest whom I had seen drunk. I had been immoral, like so many others, but since studying the Bible with the Witnesses, I cleaned up my life and now live as a Christian husband should—with one wife. So, ‘Gentlemen, I have a question to ask you: Shall I return to being a Catholic or remain one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?’ “ Needless to say, he was quickly dismissed.
PROGRESS IN CAPE VERDE
Since the expulsion of the missionary in 1963, things had moved slowly in Cape Verde. But the year 1966 brought a special visitor: A brother living in the United States returned to his native islands, placing much literature and giving a Kingdom witness on the islands of São Vicente and Santo Antão.
On São Tiago Island the isolated interested man who had learned the truth by himself in 1958 by reading the book “Let God Be True,” which he had found at the home of a photographer friend, continued corresponding with the Lisbon branch. By 1965 he assembled eight persons to celebrate the Memorial. In writing to the branch about this happy occasion, he stated:
“I regret to inform you that only six of the eight present partook of the emblems. This is no doubt because the other two are still immature.” It was evident that they needed help. What joy they had on receiving their first visit from a traveling overseer in 1968! At Memorial time three publishers reported and a total of 31 gathered together. This time no one partook of the emblems.
During the summer of 1968 there was to be a district assembly in France. This required several months of preparation, since the entire program, including dramas, had to be translated, rehearsed and taped. The Ruas family had an experience in this regard. Celeste tells what happened:
“We finally finished making the tape of the drama on Jephthah’s daughter, and it was left at our home for the next rehearsal. In the morning, at seven o’clock, the doorbell rang. When we asked ‘Who’s there?’ the callers identified themselves as P.I.D.E. agents. I told them to wait a minute until I got dressed. Having already been visited several times by the police, we had little literature in the home, but I immediately remembered the tape. I hurriedly took it to the kitchen, lifted the top part of the gas stove and slipped the tape underneath, putting the top back into place.
“The police entered and began searching the house from top to bottom, finally coming to the kitchen. They were just finishing their search when our daughter Dina walked in, saying: ‘Mother, I’m going to make some coffee,’ and went off to light the stove. What could I do? If I said anything, the tape would be discovered and confiscated. I had visions of seeing hours and hours of preparation go up in smoke. Happily, our daughter lit the burner on the opposite side! The coffee was made and the police never did find the tape.”
Several days later the P.I.D.E. agents came close to seizing travel documents for 100 convention delegates. Brother Diamantino Fernandes tells what happened:
“Along with my wife and the district overseer, we went to Brother Almeida’s home to deliver complete documentation and funds for two chartered buses. We had just entered the building where he was janitor and placed the envelopes on the entrance table when three P.I.D.E. agents suddenly appeared to search Brother Almeida’s apartment. Two agents went downstairs with Brother Almeida while the third one started to examine the envelopes on the table. We held our breath and prayed to Jehovah to blind his eyes. Without a word, he put the envelopes back on the table and went downstairs to join his fellow agents. As soon as he was out of sight we picked up the precious documents and left. Once again Jehovah’s protection was so manifest.”
Jesus’ instructions to his disciples at Matthew 10:17, “Be on your guard against men; for they will deliver you up,” proves to be wise counsel, as seen from the following experience:
“We planned a ‘picnic’ for the congregation on a holiday, Mother’s Day, since this would be a fine occasion to justify a gathering in the Monsanto woods. We posted guards at strategic points and the brothers brought along their lunch baskets, wine, soccer ball and record player. It was nearing the noon hour. The public talk had been given, and we were on the last paragraphs of the Watchtower Study when our guards gave the danger signal. Everyone went into action, and within a few minutes the lunch baskets were open, wine was being served, the record player was playing and the boys were kicking the soccer ball around. A policeman then appeared. After sizing up the situation, he asked: ‘What’s going on here? Is this a religious meeting of some sort?’ The brother appointed to be spokesman on these occasions replied: ‘You can see for yourself what’s going on here. We’re having a picnic.’ Without a word the policeman left.
“As a precautionary measure an announcement was made to gather up all the literature and Bibles and put them in one of the cars well down the road. No sooner was this done than the policeman returned, accompanied by 15 G.N.R. soldiers, rifles in hand. They carefully searched through the lunch baskets but couldn’t find one piece of literature or even a Bible. With a sour smile the sergeant and his men departed empty-handed, saying: ‘OK, you fooled us this time, but we know what you were doing!’”
Early in September 1968 Prime Minister Salazar had a stroke. A new government was formed with Professor Marcello Caetano appointed as the president of the council. Salazar remained unaware of the change up until his death in 1970. The transition of power was considerably more peaceful than many had expected.
By early 1969 we observed a definite letup in police interference. When police arrested brothers, they treated them with a marked improvement in politeness and courtesy. One brother had this fact drawn to his attention by a P.I.D.E. agent who said: “Don’t you observe how kindly you are being treated? Are you being abused in any way? Are you not sitting on a comfortable chair?” It was indeed encouraging to see more humane treatment. Reports were even being received indicating police protection, rather than abuse.
One such report tells what happened at a Lisbon meeting when two policemen rang the doorbell about ten o’clock in the evening. When the sister answered the door, they identified themselves, saying they had come to check on a complaint that a meeting was being held. Discreetly the sister replied, “Well, I fully appreciate you are doing your duty, but my husband has given me strict orders never to let in strange men when he is not at home. So I trust you understand my situation. If you would like, I could come to the police station first thing in the morning to answer any questions.” The police accepted her proposal. Next morning she was pleasantly greeted by the policemen. The following conversation developed:
“Good morning. How did your meeting go last night?”
“Very well, thank you,” replied the sister.
“How many were present?”
“Oh, I really don’t know, about twenty-five.”
“No, there were more—32 to be exact, because we counted them as they came out of the building,” the officer said. He added: “You know, you have some pretty bad neighbors in that building. They are always getting into trouble and complaining about something. Our visit last night was just a routine call because of a complaint. But we have known for some time that meetings are held there. We suggest you tell your people to be as quiet as possible when entering the building, so no one will have reason to complain. It might also be good to use some other homes once in a while.”
Another unprecedented turn of events took place in Vila Nova de Gaia, across the river from Oporto. Two sisters were making one of their last calls before lunch when a housewife accepted the Truth book. Telling the sisters to wait until she got the money, she quickly phoned the police. When the police arrived, it came as unexpected news that she, too, would have to go to the police station. Although she protested, since she was preparing a meal for her husband who would soon be arriving, the police insisted.
At the police station a full report was made about the incident with the householder becoming more and more anxious. The police advised her that this was just the beginning, because if the matter went to court, she could expect to lose a lot more of her time. Distraught, the lady replied: “Oh, my! The only reason I phoned was because our priest said the best way to handle Jehovah’s Witnesses was immediately to call the police. If I had known what I was getting into, I never would have done so!” At the suggestion of the police she most gladly dropped the charges.
The big event for 1969 was the “Peace on Earth” International Assembly at Paris, France, from August 5-10, at Colombes Stadium. Everyone was thrilled to see a total of 2,731 on hand at the Portuguese session, which was more than triple the attendance at Toulouse just a year earlier. We were especially happy to have representatives present from Madeira, the Azores, Cape Verde Islands and far-distant Angola. For many it was their first convention.
The branch overseer had an interesting experience at this convention. For security reasons the Portuguese sessions were isolated. Only those with a special pass could enter. When he arrived with Brother Knorr, who was to give a talk, the guard, not recognizing them, would not let them in. Well, at least security was functioning!
CHURCH MEDDLES IN POLITICS
Evidently certain factions of the Catholic Church were not content. On September 27, 1970, Prime Minister Marcello Caetano gave a strong public rebuke to restless clergy on a nationwide radio and TV broadcast. As reported in Lisbon’s newspaper O Século, September 28, 1970, he stated:
“Certain sections of the Catholic Church manifest tendencies that cannot but perturb the civil authorities. . . . Those who govern cannot remain indifferent to the fact that certain members of the clergy, under pretense, take advantage of their priestly character and the traditional respect they inspire, as well as the freedom of worship and indoctrination they enjoy, to engage in a political action that is antisocial and antipatriotic.”
PROPOSED “RELIGIOUS LIBERTY” LAW
Especially interesting to Jehovah’s Witnesses was the government’s intention to submit to the Corporative Chamber, on October 6, 1970, a proposed law entitled “Religious Liberty.” The law would broaden the scope of religious liberty. What was the reaction to this proposed law? The Catholic Church was notably critical. Concerned about losing their favored position, the Catholic bishops spoke out against it.
Particularly disconcerting to the Catholic Church was Article IV of the proposed law, which says: “(1) The State has no particular religion and its relations with the corresponding organizations representing different religious groups are based on the principle of separation. (2) Religious confessions have the right to equal treatment.”
TOTALITARIAN WAYS DIE HARD
Police-state mentality, however, continued, as can be seen from the following dispatch marked “Confidential” concerning Jehovah’s Witnesses and signed by the Minister of the Interior:
“(1) By means of Circular No. S.I.—981/70, Prec. 21088 of 1st Sec/2nd Division of G. Command, dated October 21, 1970, there have been compiled instructions as to the illegality of the sect under consideration and especially about its propaganda.
“(2) The press recently published the terms of a proposed law on ‘Religious Liberty,’ which by its very nature could lead to a different interpretation as to its objective, especially by some young men who pretend to exempt themselves from military service.
“(3) In view of what is stated in Clause 2, these facts were presented to His Excellency the Minister of the Interior who deemed it well to formulate the following dispatch:
“ ‘The proposed law of Religious Liberty in no way alters the conditions imposed upon Jehovah’s Witnesses for reasons of the highest national interest, and their activities should continue to be prevented.’”
PERSECUTION CONTINUES IN ANGOLA
Meanwhile, in Angola, a new wave of persecution took form. On March 16, 1970, in Nova Lisboa, seven interested persons were arrested for studying the Bible, along with publications of the Society. All seven received sentences from two to five years. A letter from one of the seven describes how they were treated: “On June 10 we were transferred to the District of Huíla, Sá da Bandeira. Here we stayed for four days, sleeping on boards, without blankets and kept in a cell without light. The only food received was a spoonful of soup at four o’clock each afternoon.”
There was good reason to believe that Angolan colonial authorities thought it was time to “stop and destroy” the Witness work. Brother João Mancoca had finally been granted freedom in August 1970, after serving more than nine years in penal work camps; but as of April 1971, he was back in prison, together with more than thirty other faithful Witnesses.
PERSECUTION STIMULATES PROGRESS
Despite a new offensive against Jehovah’s Witnesses in Angola, the message of God’s Kingdom continued to reach the hearts of those rightly disposed for everlasting life. Among the more than five million inhabitants of this vast land—larger than France, Germany and Italy combined—hundreds of people were coming to learn the truth. In 1971 there was a peak of 487 publishers, an 88-percent increase over the previous year’s average, and 1,311 attended the Memorial.
In 1961, at the very outbreak of difficulties, there were some one thousand publishers in Portugal; 10 years later the all-time peak was 9,086 publishers! The Memorial celebration the same year was attended by a record 20,824 persons!
WINDS OF CHANGE
On June 15, 1971, the National Assembly, comprised of 120 deputies, assembled to discuss the proposed law on religious liberty. Newspapers and magazines were now publishing editorials that many never dreamed could pass government censorship. For example, the following appeared in the country’s leading weekly newsmagazine, Vida Mundial, March 26, 1971, under the heading “Catholicism and Nationality”:
“A number of assertions have recently been made with the intention of gaining privileges under disguise [for the Catholic Church] that in no way harmonize with the real situation of the Portuguese Nation as to its religious life. We are not a Catholic Nation. We are a nation in which the majority say they are Catholic, and we are, above all, multiracial and multireligious. We cannot deny this. . . . However enticing it may seem, it is not proper for the civil authorities to lean in favor of a certain religion . . . If one religion is recognized then all religions should be recognized in the name of the soundest principles of liberty.”
DEPUTIES RECEIVE A WITNESS
The time had come to inform the nation’s legislators about Jehovah’s Witnesses. Interviews were arranged with 14 members of the National Assembly known to be in favor of religious liberty. For the first time, Jehovah’s Witnesses succeeded in speaking with members of the country’s highest legislative body. In some cases they were invited into the homes of these deputies, having friendly conversations that lasted for hours. A 12-page statement regarding our beliefs along with several publications were given to each deputy.
Brother Armando Monteiro in Oporto had the opportunity to speak with a deputy who had been a fellow high school student, Dr. Sá Carneiro. He now had the reputation of being the country’s spokesman on civil liberties. He told Brother Monteiro: “You will have a hard battle to gain recognition, especially due to the war in Angola and your noninvolvement in such conflicts. However, I am in favor of religious liberty for all and will do everything in my power to have a law passed guaranteeing religious liberty.” Interestingly, this man later became the country’s prime minister and remained such until his death in 1980.
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY LAW
Portugal reached a milestone in the chapter of civil liberties on August 21, 1971, when law 4/71, granting religious liberty, was adopted. This law required that a religion seeking recognition must file a formal petition signed by 500 members, to be submitted along with much detailed information as to beliefs, meetings, publications, and so forth.
The following year, much to everyone’s surprise, another law appeared, requiring that every signature in the petition be notarized. In November 1972 a two-inch thick document was presented to the Ministry of Justice. Jehovah’s Witnesses thus became the first religious group to seek legal recognition under the new law. From remarks by officials it became evident that no early reply should be expected.
1971 DISTRICT ASSEMBLY CANCELED
Since conventions continued to be forbidden in Portugal, the annual trip to France was the big event of the year. The thirty-five hundred brothers eagerly anticipating the “Divine Name” District Assembly in Toulouse were shocked to learn, just one week before departure time, that it was canceled due to the threat of a cholera epidemic. What could be done? The brothers in Lisbon discovered that a convention in London, England, would be held on the same dates. Whirlwind arrangements were made to renegotiate contracts with bus companies. The final hurdle was passed when the government, in record time, issued travel permits for 10 chartered buses!
After the long journey the brothers were awed at the size of London and at what seemed to be endless wandering around to find the Twickenham convention grounds. Some, hopelessly lost, could only plead in broken English: “Me Jehovah’s Witness. Where Twickenham?” The British police were most helpful, and some of our brothers were escorted to the convention grounds. Several buses finally turned up at Mill Hill Bethel in the wee hours of the morning. The brothers will never forget the warm welcome they received as the London Bethel Kingdom Hall was hastily transformed into a dormitory.
DEAF BROTHERS ARRESTED
In October 1971 a zealous group of deaf brothers was regularly holding meetings in Lisbon. The police suddenly appeared at their Congregation Book Study, but no one answered the door, as they could not hear the knocking. Perplexed, the police waited until the meeting was over and, as the brothers left the home, arrested them. It seemed strange to the policemen that no one answered their questions or even said a single word!
As the brothers calmly made motions and gestures showing they could not speak or hear, the police became increasingly suspicious. It was rather comical to see the policemen in confusion as some thought it was a trick. The owner of the home was found nearby and taken along with the 17 deaf brothers to police headquarters. The police made tests to prove that those arrested were in fact deaf-mutes. When the authorities were convinced they dropped the charges.
Strange as it may seem, in view of the trend toward religious liberty, the spring of 1972 brought rumors of a revival of repressive measures. A Republican National Guard (G.N.R.) Bulletin came into our hands through a policeman who showed interest in the truth. It was “Bulletin No. 1441/3a. Republican General Headquarters,” dated March 9, 1972, and entitled “ACTIVITIES OF THE JEHOVAH’S WITNESS SECT.” It said in part:
“With regard to the above subject, the General and Commanding Officer has charged me to give notice that efforts should be intensified to uncover their activities and act accordingly. It is clear this sect is of a subversive nature and the present laws in force permit the restraint of its activity.”
Thus it came as no surprise on Memorial night, March 29, 1972, that police broke into three meeting places in Lisbon and took everyone to the police station. They demanded no funds for bail, however, and soon released all the brothers. No other incidents were reported, thus indicating that the rank and file of this special police force were not inclined to launch a nationwide campaign against Jehovah’s Witnesses.
HELPFUL POLICE CHIEFS
Indeed, many policemen manifested a tolerant attitude toward the Witnesses. Two sisters relate this experience: “In the house-to-house ministry, an angry man came to the door dressed in pajamas. We politely left and continued witnessing. As we were leaving the building the man in pajamas was waiting for us. He was a policeman and insisted that we accompany him. We suggested that he put on a coat and assured him we would not run away. In the few minutes he went to get his coat, we hid our literature in a nearby garbage can.
“Upon entering the police station, our captor arrogantly boasted: ‘Here are two Witnesses I caught preaching. Arrest them!’ What a shock he got when the chief of police reprimanded him, saying: ‘You should be ashamed of yourself, a policeman out in the streets in his pajamas. Go home and get properly dressed!’ With that he dismissed us and we returned to pick up our literature.”
On another occasion when two brothers who were arrested in the field ministry arrived at the police station, the proud officer stated: “Here are two more Witnesses. Throw them in jail!” The chief of police replied: “What’s the matter with you? I don’t want any more Witnesses brought in here. The next thing I know you’ll be bringing in my own mother!” The chief of police released the brothers without further ado.
BACK TO THE COURTS
Since the March 1972 bulletin issued by the Republican National Guard (G.N.R.) failed to curb the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses, in November 1972 a law was passed that became a tool of the Public Security Police (P.S.P.) to stop our meetings. A wave of arrests broke out against our brothers in places such as Gondomar, Torres Vedras, Parede, Lisbon, and Funchal on Madeira. A series of court cases resulted in which courageous judges rendered decisions acquitting the Witnesses and boldly speaking out in favor of religious liberty.
The court trial at Peso da Régua, in a northern province, a traditional stronghold of Catholicism, was viewed with great expectation. This isolated territory had only recently been opened up, and here was a group of 18 newly interested persons on trial for studying the Bible in a private home. Brother Agostinho Valente, the special pioneer caring for the group, tells what happened:
“As it turned out, the finest testimony was given by two interested ladies of very humble origin. The normally frightening atmosphere of austere courtrooms had no effect on them. They explained in such a natural, clear and forceful manner their joy at learning so many wonderful things from the Bible that the judge himself became visibly impressed.” He rendered a favorable decision.
FAITH OF CHRISTIAN NEUTRALS TESTED
Brother Fernando Silva from Oporto vividly recalls the ordeal he faced to maintain integrity for refusing to do military service for reasons of Christian conscience: “I was arrested in December 1972 and put in prison for 15 months. Repeated efforts, including physical ‘persuasion,’ failed to make me compromise. I was transferred to the Trafaria Prison near Lisbon and my ‘treatment’ began to include whippings. Finally, I was put on a plane and taken to Angola.
“I quickly realized an ominous future was ahead of me. I ended up at Nova Lisboa under a military captain who was famous for cruelty. Beatings now became a regular part of my life, increasing in number and severity. I was getting weaker day by day as they often deprived me of food. Constantly I prayed to Jehovah and I can say that he did not abandon me. The more they beat me, the less I felt it. Friendly soldiers brought me bread and fruit.
“One night the captain came to my cell with some paper and a pen. He told me to write a farewell letter to my parents, since I was to be shot. Pleading to Jehovah for strength to bear up, I wrote the letter, believing I would surely die. Then I learned it was a trick! I was finally tried in a military court and sentenced to two years and four months imprisonment.”
A doctor from a prominent family took his stand on the neutrality issue even before his baptism. His brother had been decorated for bravery in the colonial war, and it was fully expected that he too would reflect the same patriotic spirit. However, having made his decision not to share in the colonial conflict in Africa, he chose an appropriate moment to explain his Bible-based position at a family reunion. Unable to resign herself to her son’s decision, his mother arranged an interview at military headquarters. What happened at this encounter is best related by José Manuel Paiva himself:
“From the outset it was obvious that my mother was emotionally disturbed because of my being ‘the black sheep’ of the family, so I asked if I could explain the reason for my decision. While the officer listened attentively, my mother interrupted the conversation, saying: ‘It’s those Jehovah’s Witnesses. They’ve brainwashed my son. They are fanatics!’ Surprisingly, the official replied: ‘No, I don’t think they are fanatics. I have listened to your son explain his beliefs. He knows what he is doing and why he is doing it. Of course, I cannot agree with him as I am a career soldier. But I respect these people. I have heard other Witnesses explain their reasons for not participating in the war, and I have found that they can all intelligently explain their faith. The fanatics are those who go to Fátima [a Catholic shrine in Portugal], without knowing why and what they believe.’
“Then he said to me: ‘You are a doctor, so why not arrange an affidavit signed by two of your colleagues, saying you have some sickness. We will file this with your papers, and you will be exempted from military service.’ I thanked him for his consideration but told him I could not do such a thing, as this would be false. To my surprise he looked at my mother and said: ‘Did you hear that? I did that on purpose because I knew Jehovah’s Witnesses do not even lie. That is the caliber of your son. You should be proud to have a son like this!’ “ This brother is now serving as an elder.
The close of the 1972 service year saw the theocratic organization moving ahead vigorously. There were six consecutive publisher peaks with over a thousand baptized for the third consecutive year. More than ten thousand Bible studies were being conducted, and a grand total of 23,092 attended the Memorial. With Lisbon now having a ratio of one Witness to 226 inhabitants, the branch encouraged the brothers to move out and serve where the need was greater.
Even large cities needed help. A case in point is Setúbal, with a population of sixty thousand and situated only 25 miles (40 km) south of Lisbon. In 1968 the congregation had only 27 publishers. The branch assigned five special pioneers there, and by 1972 the congregation had grown to a peak of 140 publishers with 375 attending the Memorial. Today Setúbal has three congregations.
1973 INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION
As growth continued, a record crowd of 8,150 attended the Portuguese sessions of the “Divine Victory” Assembly held at the Brussels World’s Fair Grounds. There were thousands more of the Spanish and Belgian brothers, bringing total peak attendance to over fifty thousand. It is amazing that so many Portuguese delegates attended, as the majority of them had no passport nor would the government issue one. A special “collective passport” was issued to Witnesses who guaranteed that their group of 25 travelers would return to Portugal. Transportation arrangements included four special trains with 1,000 conventioners on each, six chartered airplanes and scores of buses. It was a faith-strengthening occasion for these Portuguese brothers to be united again from such faraway places as Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde, Madeira and the Azores.
Love speaks and is heard in all languages. This was once again demonstrated by the rooming arrangements made for the Brussels convention. Imagine, one congregation in Brussels with 50 publishers arranged accommodations for 350 visiting brothers! Many brothers gladly offered their own beds to their visitors. Some had as many as 25 persons in their homes. One brother who had 15 delegates assigned to his home wanted to do more. So he rented all the rooms in a small hotel near the convention location for the entire assembly period and told the brother caring for the rooming department: “You can assign these rooms to those who are in real need.”
The farewell scene at the train station was a never-to-be-forgotten sight. The memorable send-off was full of hugs and kisses, as well as the giving of flowers and souvenirs. A policeman was so moved at this display of Christian love that he decided to offer a gift himself!
What an impact this convention had on our brothers! The police escort leading a convoy of delegates through the city caused one brother to remark: “What a difference! Here the police are out in front, guiding us. In Portugal they are always behind us, chasing us.”
Brother Knorr’s concluding words to the Portuguese assembly were: “Keep on faithfully serving Jehovah. You never know what Jehovah will allow. Who knows, you may be attending your next international convention in Portugal!”
A COUP D’ETAT
Within the ranks of the military establishment, a swift revolution was planned and executed on April 25, 1974. Discontentment had been developing due to the long colonial war in Africa. No military victory could be envisioned in Angola, Mozambique or Guinea-Bissau. In view of the unbending political policy of the government toward the colonies, the soldiers themselves decided it was time to end the war.
The population in general fully supported the almost bloodless revolution. It was a source of amazement to see powerful institutions that held the country in a viselike grip collapse overnight. Hundreds of P.I.D.E. agents were arrested. It was quite a turn of events to see soldiers taking away P.I.D.E. agents at gunpoint!
PERIOD OF TRANSITION
The new regime quickly declared freedom of speech and the restoration of civil liberties. Shortly afterward, the Ministry of Justice informed our lawyer that all court cases pending against Jehovah’s Witnesses had been dropped.
We also learned that the previous government had shelved our request for legal recognition. Now we were having weekly contacts with the authorities, who were in favor of seeing our work legally established.
LAST CONVENTION HELD ABROAD
During the summer of 1974 a total of 12,102 Portuguese attended the “Divine Purpose” District Assembly in Toulouse, France. Never in the history of this country had such mass transportation been utilized for a convention abroad. One railway inspector observed the brothers cleaning a coach and remarked: “In all my 25 years of work with the railway I have never seen such a sight. This is most unusual. You are different from any other people that travel these trains.”
This was the grand climax to what had become an annual sojourn abroad. The brothers made every sacrifice to attend the district assembly and gave rapt attention from the opening words of welcome to the last word of prayer. The efforts of all those who served as our hosts over the years will always be deeply treasured.
A HISTORIC OCCASION
On December 18, 1974, Jehovah’s Witnesses gained legal recognition. Just three days later, two unforgettable meetings were held with Brothers N. H. Knorr and F. W. Franz present, one in Oporto with 7,586 and the other in Lisbon with 39,284.
The significance of the occasion was summed up by Lisbon’s newspaper Diário Popular of December 26, 1974: “To be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses up until April 25th was dangerous and even subversive. But times have changed. Now it is possible not only to be a Witness in Portugal but also to assemble publicly. This happened in Lisbon, at the Tapadinha Stadium where thousands gathered freely. . . . The theme of peace under the unique ‘government by God’ echoed through the loudspeakers. And all of this took place in a soccer stadium where we have attended gatherings much less edifying.”
SPIRITUAL FOOD PROVIDED
During the years of the ban, Jehovah, through his organization, kept us supplied with spiritual food. Many branches regularly mailed us small packages of literature, but as the years went by more and more of these were being confiscated. Brothers coming to spend their vacation in Portugal brought in valuable quantities of publications over the years. We gratefully acknowledge the courageous spirit shown by these brothers and thank everyone who so willingly shared in this activity.—2 Tim. 1:7.
DEPOTS UNDER THE BAN
As the organization grew we needed places to work from, and in several cities we found convenient locations. One such spot was dubbed “the hole.” As it had no access to natural light, a hole had to be made in a wall for fresh air. One brother faithfully worked in this place for eight years. He recalls: “I have always had a special aversion to rats and mosquitoes. Unfortunately, ‘the hole’ had an abundance of both. At first I had to jump over the rats as I entered ‘the hole’ and they ran for cover. After they became accustomed to my presence they would slowly pass by me as I worked. It was strange, but under these special circumstances I was able to put up with them.”
By using our brothers working with commercial firms, we were able to import a special edition of The Watchtower, and customs officials obviously were “blinded” to what they were authorizing. This was successful for a number of years, until our needs became too great. Even during the paper crisis of the early 1970’s Jehovah maneuvered matters so that tons of newsprint came into our hands.
Over the years a number of faithful elders worked hard and long hours, after a full day’s secular work, to make sure the essential publications were available on time. The records show that more than one million four hundred thousand books were produced through commercial printers, in addition to millions of booklets, magazines and tracts. Jehovah’s protection and blessing were so evident.
However, since the work was now legally recognized, we could import literature from headquarters. What a thrill it was to receive our first 14-ton container shipment in 1975, bringing the new 416-page release, God’s Kingdom of a Thousand Years Has Approached!
GEARING FOR EXPANSION
Having freedom of worship, we took steps to streamline the organization on every level. We found facilities that could serve as a branch at Estoril, a Lisbon suburb. The owner of a modern, three-floor building was hesitant about renting to the Witnesses. All doubts were removed after he consulted his lawyer, who said: “You couldn’t have finer tenants. Jehovah’s Witnesses will take care of the place as though it belonged to them.” We purchased this building in 1976 and built an extension in 1977, allowing for literature storage, as well as a small offset printery.
A new privilege the brothers joyfully seized was organizing their own circuit assemblies and district conventions. This was no small challenge as the circuits possessed no equipment whatsoever—not even a pot or a pan. The branch organized a series of meetings to guarantee standardization in the construction of all equipment for the 12 circuits. Compatible cafeteria and sound equipment was then pooled for smooth operation at district conventions. All this equipment was ready and put to fine use during the summer of 1975 when the first three district conventions were held in Portugal with a combined attendance of 34,529 attending the public talk.
REOPENING KINGDOM HALLS
In January 1975 the branch informed the congregations that they could open Kingdom Halls. With great joy they seized the opportunity, and before the year ended more than a hundred halls had been opened. Since real estate is expensive, the only solution was to rent halls. Many a Kingdom Hall is one of the finest auditoriums in the local community. How commendable to see Kingdom Halls, in many cases, having carpeting, drapes or other items that the brothers could not even afford for their own homes! Rents were becoming exorbitant, in some cases being over $600 (U.S.) monthly. To overcome this, in most cities four or five congregations use the same hall.
Timor is an island of the East Indies, north of Australia. The eastern half of the island became a territory of Portugal in the early 16th century. In 1975 the Timorese people demanded independence from Portugal. About this time the Society’s headquarters asked the branch in Portugal to look for an experienced special pioneer couple who could go to the capital of Timor, Dili, and develop some interest that had been found by a visiting Australian brother.
Brother and Sister Gabriel Santos gladly accepted the missionary assignment. They arrived in Dili in April 1975, but their ministry there proved to be a short one. Early in August of that year a civil war broke out between the two rival political parties. Brother Santos describes what happened:
“Just two days before the shooting began, I had purchased two weeks’ supply of food, little realizing we would soon be virtual prisoners in our apartment. When bullets began hitting our building, we realized that worrying would not help matters and so prayed to Jehovah, placing our life in his hands. After close to two weeks, with food supplies nearly exhausted, we were all alone in the building, since the other seven families had fled to the refugee camp. Just when we were wondering what to do, the captain of a boat knocked at our door. We had been studying the Bible with his wife, and now he had come under heavy fire to get us out. For some reason, as we left for the refugee camp, the shooting stopped for the first time in two weeks. Strange as it may sound, as soon as we entered the camp it began again. After we spent three days in the camp, this captain took us out to a Norwegian ship that transported us, along with 1,157 other refugees, to Darwin, Australia. Having felt Jehovah’s hand of protection, we are more desirous than ever to continue serving him faithfully.”
These pioneers placed 567 books in just three months, and some of those who started attending meetings in Dili were finally baptized after returning to Portugal. Indonesia is now administering this territory, and it remains to be seen what future developments will bring.
A SIGN OF GREATER THINGS TO COME
At the close of the 1975 service year it was interesting to look back and see how many outstanding events took place in just one year of religious liberty. There had been publisher peaks for nine consecutive months, resulting in a peak of 16,183 publishers. This was a 23-percent increase over the previous year’s average. A total of 3,925 were baptized, and Memorial attendance rose to 41,416! Everything was pointing to yet greater expansion.
LIBERTY BRINGS NEW TESTS
The 1974 revolution brought great changes to Portuguese society. A period of unrest followed with radical forces agitating the population. “Neighborhood cell” groups were organized along with “factory committees” that frequently dismissed personnel in kangaroo-court proceedings. On the streets, posters and large paintings on walls appeared of Stalin, Lenin, Marx and Mao. The hammer and sickle became a common sight with Communist newspapers on sale.
Ironically, the highly condemned oppression practiced by the ousted right-wing regime now became the tool of the left-wing powers. This can be seen from an experience related by Olegário Virginio: “The government invited everyone to work on a given Sunday as a volunteer demonstration of mass support. All citizens were called upon to go forth into the fields, the factories, the offices in a ‘festive day of work celebrating the armed forces’ victory.’ Since I decided not to volunteer, I received a phone call that very Sunday, trying to intimidate me to appear or else face serious difficulties. Going to work the following day, I saw an effigy hung on a large tree at the factory entrance with the words ‘hang the Jehovahs.’
“Then a plenary session of all workers was convened. About 400 were present when I was summoned before this audience, and a full board of 17 committee members sat as judges. As I started to defend my neutrality in relation to the revolutionary cause Communist members interrupted, attacking my religious beliefs. They accused Jehovah’s Witnesses of being murderers for refusing blood transfusions and charged that we were nonpatriotic; they demanded my dismissal. Other members did not share this viewpoint. One spoke up, saying the meeting was not called to judge a person’s religious convictions, but to consider the worthiness of an employee. A favorable report was presented regarding my work record, and the session concluded with my being retained as an employee due to exemplary conduct. Interestingly, the man responsible for putting up the effigy later committed suicide.”
ANOTHER KIND OF TEST
During this time it became common for people to show reverence for dead revolutionary leaders, such as Salvador Allende, by observing a five-minute silence. During one such occasion, involving the death of a Portuguese soldier, this is what happened to Mário Neto:
“Since I did not participate in this ceremony, Communist fellow workers seized the occasion to accuse me. On the day of the plenary session 250 employees assembled in the auditorium. At the long table sat nine judges, representing different sections of the office staff. I set out the following conditions for my defense, which were accepted: (1) I would not be interrupted while speaking; (2) Anyone could ask questions at the conclusion of my defense; (3) I would be allowed to use the Bible.
“Since the accusation concerned reverence for the dead, I was able to explain what the Bible shows to be the condition of the dead. I outlined the Kingdom hope as the only solution to the problems of restless, exploited mankind. This meeting lasted three hours, and I consider it to be the most important public talk I have been privileged to give. After the session fellow office workers approached me and made favorable comments. For example, a Communist said: ‘I’ve always been afraid of death and especially what those who are dead can do to me. What you explained makes sense, and I want to thank you very much.’ A Catholic woman said: ‘Congratulations! I felt I was in the presence of a real Christian, like a modern Saint Paul. You stood your ground brilliantly. It was a privilege to hear you speak.’ The unanimous decision, announced a week later, was to retain my services on the staff.”
A LARGE DOOR OPENS
The work was now growing by leaps and bounds. The three-year period from 1975 to 1977 saw an average of one new congregation being formed each week! Consider these figures: In the two-year period of 1976-1977 over one hundred and ten thousand Bibles were distributed, making Jehovah’s Witnesses the largest Bible distributor in Portugal! During this same period the branch shipped out to congregations more than one million books! Peak publishers in 1977 were 20,335 and Memorial attendance reached an all-time high of 47,787.
During this period we organized a large-scale campaign to bring the good news to all unassigned territory. Scores of temporary special pioneers headed out in car groups. The branch received phone calls asking for express shipments of 1,000 additional books! Yes, it was common for a car group of four pioneers to place over two thousand books a month. A mighty witness was being given!
PIONEERS TO GUINEA-BISSAU
Guinea-Bissau is located on Africa’s west coast, between Senegal and Guinea, and has a population of five hundred and thirty thousand. It is one of Africa’s new republics, declaring independence unilaterally in 1973 and gaining it in the complete sense after Portugal’s revolution in 1974. Much of the population is of the Muslim faith.
Over the years several publishers visited this land and did what they could to sow the seeds of Kingdom truth. However, April 1976 saw the beginning of organized activity by two special pioneers sent from Portugal. They accomplished a truly amazing work in the next 14 months, as reported by Manuel Silvestre: “The people manifest a receptive attitude toward the truth, and between my partner and me a total of 67 Bible studies are now being conducted.”
They made plans to preach in outlying cities during the circuit overseer’s visit in May 1977. Brother Rodrigo Guerreiro’s report shows the results: “A car could be rented for only a short time, so we loaded it down with all the literature we could. Along with the two special pioneers and my wife, we set out for Mansôa, Bafatá and Nova Lamego. We found it a common experience to place five or six books with one householder. In just two and a half days we distributed a total of 774 books and Bibles.”
Plans were being made to send in more preachers of the good news, but the Catholic Church was not happy with the presence of the pioneers. One day a priest told Brother Manuel Silvestre in a sneering tone: “We made it difficult for you in Portugal because you would not fight in Africa, so you had better get ready for opposition to your work here!”
Shortly afterward the two special pioneers were given a 48-hour notice to leave the country under the pretext that their “activities affected the internal security of the State.” In September 1977 we had an interview with the ambassador in Lisbon in an effort to determine what the expelled pioneers had done to affect the internal security of the State, but he gave no explanation.
Time will tell what Jehovah has in store for this country, but while the special pioneers served there, they personally gave a witness to many government ministers, including the president.
PROGRESS IN CAPE VERDE
In 1968 Cape Verde had three publishers. By 1974, the year Portugal’s colonies won independence, there was a peak of 14 publishers. The archipelago was in the grip of its seventh consecutive year of drought. In contrast great spiritual blessings were on the horizon.
Four special pioneers from Portugal were assigned to two different islands. They did splendid work, and at the close of the 1976 service year there was a peak of 60 publishers, or a 130-percent increase over the previous year. More than three thousand Bibles and books were placed that year by a zealous group, which now included 10 pioneers. Memorial was attended by a record 130 persons.
A truly outstanding event was the first full-scale district convention held at the capital city, Praia, in 1977. The brothers rented the principal cinema for the four-day convention and presented three complete Bible dramas. A total of 284 attended the public talk.
An unexpected event took place in January 1978 when the four Portuguese special pioneers were expelled as personae non gratae. This action only spurred the brothers on to greater activity. By 1982 we had a total of 21 pioneers in the Cape Verde field and a peak of 147 publishers. Memorial attendance in 1982 reached 470. Kingdom preaching is now being carried on in five islands. Indeed, a greater harvest can yet be expected from this territory.
GOOD NEWS SPREADS IN AZORES ARCHIPELAGO
A steady flow of emigration has marked the recent history of these islanders. At the same time, a steady influx of sheeplike persons has been gathered in unity, ‘like a flock in a pen,’ into congregations of Jehovah’s people. The voice of these Kingdom praisers has now reached every island.—Mic. 2:12.
Consider this example: The congregation in Santa Cruz das Flores was formed in 1975. Brother José Lima returned to his native island from the United States with the purpose of bringing the good news to his relatives and fellow countrymen. When the circuit overseer visited them, a stylish banquet hall was offered for the public talk and 33 persons attended. After the meeting the owner remarked: “By the way, this hall is yours once a month, free of charge, for any special meeting.”
December 1981 saw a peak of 12 publishers on this small island, and that year 50 attended the Memorial. They have recently finished construction of a fine Kingdom Hall.
The earthquake of January 1, 1980, brought destruction to much of Terceira Island, killing 56 persons and making some 15,000 homeless. Happily, no brothers lost their lives, although many of their homes were damaged. The Kingdom Hall in the main city, Angra do Heroísmo, was the only religious building not damaged, and it was used to offer temporary accommodations for our brothers. The branch in Portugal sent over a thousand pounds of food, along with other emergency items with the first government shipments. A district overseer sent to investigate the situation reported: “The complaining and downhearted spirit that seized so many earthquake victims was not present among our brothers. The genuine concern shown by brothers who were sent immediately from other islands to appraise each one’s situation was a source of great encouragement.”
The crescendo of praise to Jehovah on these mid-Atlantic islands increases year by year, presently sung by a peak of 303 loyal publishers.
MADEIRA MOVES AHEAD
The 100 mark in Kingdom publishers on this island was reached in the early 1970’s after nearly twenty years of preaching. No one could have imagined that within a few years the peak would be in excess of 300 preachers of the good news. The peak publisher figure is now 396, and in 1981, for the first time, the Memorial was attended by over a thousand persons.
In 1973 a bandleader performed in the luxury hotels of Funchal, Madeira’s capital city. He relates his experience: “I was worldly to the extreme, frequently getting drunk and leading an immoral life. After my wife left me, an ex-player of my band started talking to me about his newfound Bible-based hope. While reading the first publications he gave me, I saw that the Kingdom hope was my hope too. After the second Bible study I went to the Kingdom Hall but felt out of place with my straggly hair and unkempt beard. Even as I cleaned up my appearance I knew I would have to make further changes if I was to please God.
“I had a burning desire to tell others what I was learning but was under contract to play in the Azores. Before leaving, I picked up about seventy back issues of the magazines to study. After reading all of them, I wanted to pass them on to others. So after playing until 3 a.m., I went from door to door, putting a magazine under each door with a personal note to accompany each magazine. At the end of my second month of Bible study I dedicated my life to Jehovah.
“My mother, who was a staunch Catholic, was amazed to see my new way of life. One day she said to me: ‘I had often prayed to God to free you from that wayward life. How happy I am to see Jehovah is that God and he has answered my prayers.’ After studying six months, my 73-year-old mother was baptized.” Today Brother John Vieira is serving as an elder.
Many brothers could hardly believe their ears when it was announced that the Estádio dos Barreiros (Barreiros Stadium) was engaged for the 1981 “Kingdom Loyalty” District Convention. Funchal city hall made a generous gift of lumber valued at $2,000 (U.S.) for convention use. The press, radio and television gave excellent publicity. Attendance for the public talk was a record 832.
THRILLING EVENTS IN ANGOLA
January 1974 brought exciting news to Angola. The Overseas Ministry announced that the religious liberty laws adopted in Portugal would apply in the colonies. Then a sequence of events unfolded, having a tremendous impact on the Kingdom work. By March 1975 the brothers submitted all necessary papers for legal recognition with the names and addresses of 500 publishers. Since the right to assemble freely had been restored, they lost no time in seizing the opportunity to hold their first public circuit assembly. Where? In Luanda’s finest sports pavilion, Cidadela Desportiva, on the weekends of March 16 and 23.
What happened is fondly remembered by Octacílio Figueiredo: “The first assembly was restricted to publishers and those regularly attending meetings. We were thrilled to see 2,888 in attendance for the public talk. Since everything went smoothly we went ahead with the second assembly. This time we invited all interested persons. It is hard to convey the utter amazement at seeing 7,713 for the second public talk! Some of those present had spent more than fifteen years in colonial prisons and work camps. Tears of joy rolled down their faces as they sang the last song.” What a poignant moment in the lives of these faithful brothers!
Brother Luis Sabino tells an experience that took place at this circuit assembly: “Since much strife was now surfacing among the three political movements that had fought the Portuguese, policemen were dispatched to protect the assembly. The previous week a riot had broken out at this same pavilion during a political rally. One policeman made it a point to get inside the pavilion to listen to what was being said, as he had heard so many controversial things about the Witnesses. He was so impressed that he hurried home and brought back his wife and children. As a result a Bible study was started with him and his family.”
On September 5, 1975, the Official Government Bulletin declared Jehovah’s Witnesses to be an “authorized religion.” Correspondence revealed the presence of hundreds of interested persons in every province. When a circuit overseer made a visit to a remote isolated group, how surprised he was to have 583 persons show up for the public talk!
WORK BANNED IN ANGOLA
Civil war broke out in this land so desperately seeking independence. Although November 11, 1975, officially marked the end of colonial rule and the founding of the new republic, a difficult period followed, with many internal problems. Suddenly, on March 14, 1978, Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned. They continue, however, to lead an exemplary life and pray that those who are in high governmental station will examine the facts. These speak for themselves and fully vindicate Jehovah’s Witnesses as being a peace-loving people. The Witnesses in Angola are determined to “go on leading a calm and quiet life with full godly devotion and seriousness.”—1 Tim. 2:1, 2.
PORTUGAL’S FIRST INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION
Meanwhile, back in Portugal, it was announced that Lisbon would be the site of a 1978 “Victorious Faith” International Convention. This caused immense expectation. Instead of being guests in another country the Portuguese brothers would, for the first time, be privileged to be the hosts.
The ideal location for this convention proved to be Restelo Stadium, overlooking the Tagus River and Europe’s longest suspension bridge. Delegates came from more than a dozen countries, and peak attendance was 37,567, with a total of 1,130 being baptized. Some six thousand conventioners shared in field service, many doing street witnessing for the first time. They converged on railway and bus stations, public parks and marketplaces, distributing 250,000 handbills and 25,000 magazines.
About this time a Filipino brother was on an oil tanker approaching Portugal. He had desperately wanted to attend an international convention but here he was at sea. Nevertheless, he persisted in praying about the matter. When his tanker moved up the Tagus River, he focused his binoculars on the coastline. Lo and behold, a huge billboard announcing the public talk of the international convention in Lisbon! The tanker was scheduled to be in port for just a few hours, but, surprisingly, the captain announced that a minor repair would force them to stay for several days. Our brother gave thanks to Jehovah to be among the happy convention delegates.
This convention resulted in a happy reunion. Years earlier Maria and Elisa were close friends. Maria, however, emigrated to the Netherlands. In the meantime Elisa became a Witness. In July 1974 she was prepared to attend a district convention in France when her doorbell rang. It was Maria, who came from the Netherlands to spend a few days’ vacation in Portugal with her. Noticing the suitcases, Maria inquired, “Where are you going?”
“We are off to Toulouse to attend an assembly.”
“Why, you never used to travel anywhere—what kind of assembly is it anyway?”
“It’s an assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
“Oh, no—how could you associate with such a terrible group?”
An annoyed Maria left hastily. But now where would she spend her vacation? One thing was sure: not in the home of a Witness! She visited another friend, and on being invited in, she again noticed suitcases all over the place. Hesitantly she inquired, “Where are you going with all these suitcases?”
The answer: “I’m leaving for France tomorrow!”
“Not Toulouse, I hope!”
“Exactly! I’m going to attend a convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but how did you know?”
“Never mind about that—it’s frightening—I’m leaving immediately.”
Years passed, and neither of our two sisters heard another word from Maria. Then, just before the international convention, Elisa received a letter from Maria, asking for forgiveness for her harsh words and impolite manners. Her one request was: “Could you spare your sister a bed in your home during the international assembly in Lisbon?” Imagine the joy of these once-close friends—now united as sisters by their victorious faith!
Reporting on the convention, the newsmagazine Opção of August 10-16, 1978, stated: “For anyone who has been at Fátima during pilgrimage time, this in reality is very different. . . . The religious atmosphere is different. Here the mysticism disappears giving way to the holding of a meeting where believers in common accord discuss their problems, their faith and their spiritual outlook. Their conduct toward one another gives the distinctive mark of a caring relationship.”
In September 1981 the branch sent out word that the brothers could once again have personal subscriptions for the Watchtower and Awake! magazines. These had been suspended since the outbreak of persecution in 1961.
In February 1982 the newly constructed Lisbon Assembly Hall was dedicated by Brother F. W. Franz. The occasion was like a family reunion, as he was the first member of the Governing Body to visit Portugal after the second world war back in 1947. This fine facility, seating 1,315, was built by the brothers and serves nine circuits in the greater Lisbon area.
RESULTS THROUGH GOD’S POWER
Back in 1947, when the first field service report was sent to Brooklyn, no one conceived the vastness of the present theocratic organization in Portugal. Zealous brothers and sisters, too numerous to mention by name in this report, ventured forth in His power to preach the good news in every corner of the land. Pioneers have gone to Madeira, the Azores, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Timor and Macao. As the apostle Paul said, “according to his power which is operating in us,” God has done “more than superabundantly beyond all the things we ask or conceive,” and a magnificent witness has been given.—Eph. 3:20.
Some of the first pioneers are still active in their assignments. The ranks of the special pioneers have increased to 202. How do they feel? Sister Maria José Henriques, who has served as a special pioneer for more than 20 years, says: “I am 60 years old, but still have the same joy in the service and the same desire to help others. It has been my privilege to assist 89 persons to baptism and to leave many others well on their way to dedication when I changed to new assignments. I thank Jehovah for all of his care and undeserved kindness.”
Another sister, Graciete Andrade, who has served for 18 years as a special pioneer, comments: “It has been thrilling to help 106 persons to learn the truth, as well as to lay the groundwork for three congregations. To see mature men take the lead in congregations as elders and know that I had the privilege to help them brings me deep satisfaction.”
The work continues to grow, and the 1982 service year peak has swelled to 22,515 Kingdom publishers in 393 congregations and isolated groups. Although the overall ratio is one Witness to 413 inhabitants, there is still much work to be done, as 10 percent of the population live in unassigned territory. The latest Memorial attendance was 58,003, which reveals a splendid potential for future growth.
Jehovah’s organization has guided and directed the work in Portugal during times of difficulty and rapid expansion. Jehovah himself, the Great Shepherd of his flock, is truly fulfilling his grand promise as recorded at Jeremiah 23:3: “And I myself shall collect together the remnant of my sheep out of all the lands to which I had dispersed them, and I will bring them back to their pasture ground, and they will certainly be fruitful and become many.” Our Portuguese brothers happily move forward to the final completion of the Kingdom-preaching work, helping many more sheeplike persons to take advantage of this day of salvation.
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Increase in Publishers
Thousands of publishers
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Peso da Régua
Vila Nova de Gaia
Caldas da Rainha
Angra do Heroísmo
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CAPE VERDE IS.
Cape Verde Is.
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[Picture on page 138]
Virgílio Ferguson, assigned in 1926 to care for Kingdom interests in Portugal, and João Feliciano, who returned to his homeland in 1929 to spread the good news
[Picture on page 143]
As a youth Eliseu Garrido took an interest in the truth and helped spearhead the work in Portugal
[Picture on page 146]
Delmira M. S. Figueiredo and Deolinda P. Costa, zealous sisters who organized the Almada Bible study group
[Picture on page 151]
John Cooke was the first Witness missionary in Portugal and he played a key role in organizing the work. He is here seen with his wife, Kathleen
[Picture on page 153]
The ground-floor apartment of this Lisbon building served as Portugal’s first Kingdom Hall
[Picture on page 159]
The house where the first public talks in the Azores were delivered when A. Nunes returned to his native Pico Island
[Picture on page 167]
António Manuel Cordeiro, who became one of Portugal’s first auxiliary pioneers, and his wife, Odete, both still pioneering
[Picture on page 169]
One of the “picnics” held for the purpose of spiritual refreshment
[Picture on page 191]
D. Piccone, Portugal’s first full-time circuit overseer, and his wife, Elsa, (couple at the left) and Joaquim Martins, a zealous preacher of the good news, and his family
[Picture on page 240]
Branch office at Estoril
[Picture on page 255]
Lisbon Assembly Hall