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A rare glimpse into the secretive world of Jehovah's Witnesses in Jordan

A rare glimpse into the secretive world of Jehovah's Witnesses in Jordan

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Thursday 17 November 202206:02 pm
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In the midst of a society that does not recognize them, authorities that prohibit their activities, and Christian denominations that warn against them, none of this was able to hinder the members of the Jehovah's Witnesses community from spreading and establishing unofficial centers, or practicing their proselytizing, or intensive 'witnessing' efforts — one of the most important foundations their activities are based on. Through the official website of Jehovah's Witnesses, anyone can request a visit, and within just two days they would contact the sender and get to him/her in any location within Jordan.

The Jehovah's Witnesses denomination originated in the late seventies of the 19th century in the state of Pennsylvania in the United States. Created by Charles Russell, it was initially known as the Bible Student Association movement, then as Jehovah's Witnesses in 1931 in relation to the God of the Israelites, according to the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament.

There are no official figures or statistics for the number of followers of Jehovah's Witnesses in Jordan, but according to the official website of the sect, the number of its members around the world reaches up to 8.5 million people, spread over 240 countries, including several Arab countries such as Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan, and Tunisia.

There are no official statistics for the number of Jehovah's Witnesses followers in Jordan, but its official website says it has 8.5 million members spread over 240 countries, including Arab countries like Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan, and Tunisia

Blocks and bans

Randa, a pseudonym for one of the members of the sect, tells Raseef22, "We have been present in Jordan since the sixties of the last century, and despite this, we are not allowed to practice our activities in an official manner in Jordan. We cannot preach publicly or display our magazines and publications, but we try and practice our activities within our narrow circle."

She adds, "Our main goal is to preach to people about our sect, our principles, and what our calling is. We know that there are religious groups that fight us and are behind our suffering, and that there are sects that reject us. They do not like us and do not accept us because we are too different from them, but we believe that what we are calling for is the truth."

Regarding their ban in Jordan, Randa says, "We are not looking for anyone to solve our problems. We carry out our activities through our official website, and we can talk to everyone," adding, "We don't have associations in Jordan like other denominations and sects, but we belong to an association outside of Jordan".

"There are doctrinal differences between us and the rest of the Christian denominations. We do not believe in the Trinity like them, and the Bible is the only book for us. Jesus is the son of God and a prophet sent by God"

Jehovah's Witnesses face clear and explicit opposition from the rest of the Christian denominations over practicing its activities in Jordan. The Catholic Center for Studies and Media issued a warning of "the danger of dealing with missionary parties and movements that seek to destabilize the Christian faith and harm the fabric of Jordanian society," as they described it.

According to the 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom in Jordan issued by the US State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom, it cited Jordan's refusal to officially recognize other religious groups, including Jehovah's Witnesses. According to the report, some unrecognized religious groups reported that they have continued to run schools and hospitals and were able to hold services and meetings if they were out of sight. In addition, some unregistered Christian denominations have stated that, "although all religious groups were equal in the eyes of the constitution, the government has practiced nepotism toward certain Christian groups with greater political power, which has increased tensions between these religious groups."

Who are Jehovah's Witnesses?

According to their official website, members of the sect define themselves as people from hundreds of ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, united under a common goal — to honor Jehovah, the "God of the Bible and Creator of all things". They make an effort to follow Jesus Christ, and pride themselves on being Christians, with each member regularly spending time helping people learn about the Bible and the Kingdom of God.

Saeda, a member of the community, answers the question and tells Raseef22, "There are doctrinal differences between us and the rest of the Christian denominations. We do not believe in the Trinity like them, and the Bible is the only book for us. Jesus is the son of God and a prophet sent by God".

She adds, "Jehovah's Witnesses mean God's Witnesses. 'Jehovah' is a Hebrew word, and, while it comes from a Hebrew verb that means 'to become', it translates to 'He Causes To Become', and sometimes 'I am the one who is', or, more simply, 'I am'." She goes on to say, "When practicing our religious rituals, we do not use the cross because we do not believe in it, and we do not sanctify it. Jesus is the only symbol we recognize. We also do not celebrate Easter, Christmas, birthdays, or any other holidays and customs because the Bible does not mention those holidays. For us, holidays are a pagan custom."

The countries of the Arab world do not recognize this sect and ban its activities. Christian sects fight it and accuse it of "Zionism". But this hasn't affected its activities, continuing to expand in the world and believing in their ability to reach everyone

One of the ideas taken from Jehovah's Witnesses is that they believe that the Jews will rule the earth, but Saeda states that, "The current Jews are rejected by God and cursed because they rejected Jesus, and this is what's taught to the followers of the sect."

Smoking and blood transfusion are among the forbidden practices in the sect, because "the soul is blood", and it represents life, "and the soul that eats blood, cuts that soul". They do not believe in the immortality of the soul or in any form of punishment after death. The members of the denomination also do not join the army and do not salute the flag, as they do not believe in current governments, according to Saeda, who justifies this by saying, "We are not against the governments of the earth. We respect the laws of the countries we live in, but in the final days when the Day of Judgment comes, human governments will disappear because they have proven that they are incapable of preventing disease, crime, death, and injustice. And a Messiah appointed by God will come to rule the kingdom of God."

According to their official website, the Bible warns: "Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of (mortal) man, in whom there is no salvation" (Psalm 146:3). This warning implies that the world's diplomats have neither the capacity nor the power to come up with radical solutions, regardless of their motivations.

Legal absence

Lawyer Khaldoun al-Salaita tells Raseef22, "A part of the churches in Jordan are recognized under the 'Law for Councils of Christian Denominations', and they even have their own ecclesiastic church courts. There are denominations and sects that exist legally in Jordan and are recognized and registered with the Ministry of Interior. They have a legal license but do not have an ecclesiastic court. Meanwhile Jehovah's Witnesses do not have any legal representation from any official body in Jordan, and therefore cannot carry out their activities."

Regarding proselytizing, Salaita says, "There is no legal text or provision that prevents anyone from speaking about their faith and beliefs if they are licensed. However, due to security reasons, the authorities prohibit some religious activities in order not to stir up sectarian strife. However there are some cases where some people have been harassed, even though they were practicing their religious activity within the limits of the law."

The countries of the Arab world do not recognize this sect and impose bans on its activities. Many Christian sects even fight it and accuse it of "Zionism". However, they say this has not affected their activities, as the sect continues to expand and spread throughout the Arab world, believing in their ability to reach everyone.

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