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LEBANON: In Muslim Middle East, Jehovah's Witnesses congregate in secret


An elegantly dressed Lebanese woman in a black and white Chanel suit stood up and offered her seat to a Philippine domestic worker, "Please sit, I'll go look for more chairs."

The unusual scene in Lebanon, where wealthy locals more often than not abuse and exploit migrant workers from Asia, was at an undercover Jehovah's Witnesses congregation just outside of Beirut.

Recently, more than 200 Jehovah's Witnesses gathered in the basement of a posh building north of the capital. They divided up into two rooms, one for the English-speaking and one for the Sinhalese-translated session for Sri Lankans.

Unlike other parts of the Arab world, Lebanon is known for its tolerance of multiple religious confessions. But even that has a limit, especially for faiths like Jehovah's Witnesses that are not registered or officially recognized by the government.

It is estimated that there are over 15 "Kingdom Halls," or prayer gatherings, in Lebanon, which for now appear to be tolerated despite fears that participants could be harassed or deported. "My employer is Greek Orthodox, but she likes that I am a Witness," a young Philippine woman explained. "She knows that she can trust me. She lets me come to the meetings."

Unlike in the West, however, she does not go door-to-door preaching. Proselytizing to Muslims is a punishable offense in most Arab countries. Though the Lebanese constitution guarantees freedom of religion, the government relies on a confessional system in which each state-sanctioned religious community holds an independent civil court to adjudicate personal status matters, namely marriage, divorce and child custody. 

Jehovah's Witnesses say they feel like an oppressed and silenced minority. They say that the Maronite community in particular vilifies them. "They spread lies about us, claiming that we are Jews," said an Armenian convert.

Jehovah's Witnesses is a relatively young faith. In the late 19th century, an American named Charles Taze Russell led a Bible study group after the publication of his "Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society." The group dubbed itself Jehovah's Witnesses in 1931. 

Followers believe that the End of Days began in 1914 with Armageddon approaching. They observe only one holiday: The Last Supper of Jesus, or the Memorial Service as they call it. An estimated 18 million adherents regularly attend Kingdom Halls or proselytize worldwide, including in the Arab world. The Council of Elders, based in Brooklyn, oversees the activities of the group, publishes religious materials and disseminates doctrinal interpretations.

The Beirut service began with a warm welcome from one of the "brothers," who then summoned another member to deliver the sermon. He discussed their beliefs, reading from the New Testament and arguing that, after Armageddon, only 144,000 true believers will accompany Jesus as he rules from heaven. 

The witnesses listened solemnly, rising and praying when called to do so. Finally, the preacher concluded, offering to dispatch learned members to the homes of newcomers.

Two Lebanese and two African members walked to the front of the hall to collect a plate of unleavened bread and a glass of red wine. 

Once the memorial concluded, they rose from their seats and chatted quietly with one another. The Ghanaian and Philippine couple rushed their daughter home "to finish homework." A Lebanese man carried his young son on his shoulders; the Lebanese women giggled with their Philippine sisters and most of them gave a smile and a handshake to all new faces.

"I hope to see you Thursday so we can talk next time," a young Liberian man said kindly to an American newcomer. "You are always welcome here."

-- Becky Lee Katz in Beirut

Photo: The front cover of an Arabic-language Jehovah's Witnesses pamphlet. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (169)

Blood transfusion to Jehovah Witness is like psychiatry to Scientologist
Reg;Bovine Cow blood derived HEMOPURE
The Watchtower has approved the use of Hemopure (bovine hg g - 250/HBOC -201). This is directly in opposition to the Watchtowers abstaining from blood as taught by them.

The followers of the Watchtower are taught one thing and the Watchtower practices another to release itself from responsibility so they publicly state the use of blood is a conscientious matter.
The deeply controlled followers seek approval from the leadership which means approval from God to them so they rather let a child die than suffer from disapproval, congregational social repercussions, disfellowshipping, and shunning.

250,000 Jehovah's Witnesses have died since 1945 due to the No blood transfusion ban of "whole blood".
Jehovah Witness blood policy reform site

"Danny Haszard Jehovah's Witness for 33 years and 3rd generation" -- Does this statement somehow mean your opinion is "the" opinion of the majority of JWs or somehow - having such a long history with them - you are an authority?

Wow, you seem to have wasted your time for 33 years as your comments are very negative. It makes me wonder why you would stick around a group you distrusted so much. Maybe being a JW was just a habit for you. Maybe you need to get a hobby or maybe bashing the group your family belongs to is your hobby. You seem to be a very angry person, maybe even a cowardly person. To be so "informed" about this group, as you seem to be, and yet so negative and destructive makes me wonder just how much of a JW you really are/were. Your comments just sound like sour grapes to me. Maybe you should just quit the group. Actually, it sounds to me like you did that mentally some time ago but just cannot quit beating on them. Give it up. Time will prove the truth of all things.

Oh, BTW, how is what you posted a comment on the article? It seems more like a platform for you to spew about all the "secrets and lies" you think are hiding behind closed doors. You sound a bit paranoid to me.

Poor Danny, there does that make you feel better??

Fact is, world conquest is what their whole Jehovah's Witnesses creed is based on:

They don't use heaven and hell like other religions do, but rather the promise of a "new system" on earth in which God rules and people live forever.
Sounds great, huh? How do we get there? Why, Armageddon of course. everybody dies. Except for them, practitioners of the one true religion. And they really expect to see this happen in their lifetime - it's not some far-off abstraction.

When that smiley man or woman knocks on your door proffering a magazine, you don't realize they are saying "join our religion OR DIE." But that's the deal. That's why they are so smug about it - it's no skin off their back when you decline. Their whole belief system is a giant revenge fantasy - you had your chance, and soon you're gonna pay.

You have to respect Jehovah witnesses dedication, but it seems they are more interested in getting a person to join their group then they are in convincing a person as to the reality's of God.

Danny, it sounds like you should change your signature to "former/disgruntled Jehovah's Witness" because you are obviously a bitter ex-congregant. Besides that, much of what you posted is lies.

This is right to denounce persecution but you may not realize that the Watchtower Society over Jehovah's Witnesses has JW themselves name-call those who quit the organization, even when those are decent humans not into immorality or any badness, "apostates;" plus some JW elders stalk, harass and/or spy on ExJWs as well as their own members, for exampe:

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that their Watchtower (Jehovah's) organization is the only true Christian faith.
They believe that the truths of scripture were lost through a great apostasy centuries ago until God used JW founder Charles Russell to restore the Gospel.

Jehovah Witness share some doctrinal beliefs with Christianity,but many of their beliefs either completely contradict,or at least pervert Biblical truths.
Some of these are as follows:
Only 144,000 go to heaven,two classes of Christians,Michael Archangel is Jesus,works based salvation by door to door 'placement' of Watchtower literature,ban on whole blood transfusions but permitted to use components as fractions..

Oh, for crying out loud!

Jehovah's Witnesses practice a serious version of Christianity, that's all, and today's world is fundamentally out of sync with serious Christianity. Otherwise, one would expect to find far better conditions worldwide than is the reality today.


The central core doctrine of the Watchtower,the reason they came into existence was to proclaim Jesus Christ second coming in 1914.They will now deny that they ever made this claim,that's called *bait & switch*

The Watchtower is big money, being one of the top 40 New York City Corporations making nearly one billion dollars a year.That’s just from one of their many corporations.They pay no municipal taxes on their buildings,without even one charity to compensate the community.
Most Church's don't pay taxes either,but most mainstream churches are abundant in humanitarian charities.Think if you have ever seen a Jehovah Witness food pantry or soup kitchen for the needy?

For 50 plus years the masthead of the Watchtower,viewed when you opened up to the inside front cover would read as follows:
"This magazine(Watchtower) builds up confidence in the Creators PROMISE of a peaceful and secure *new world* before the generation *that witnessed" the events of 1914 passes away*.
By their own admission the Watchtowers has published this dogma in hundreds of millions of pieces of their own literature.
They deleted this false adventist millerite derived prophecy in 1995 because it had FAILED.
The Watchtower leadership has *purged* hundreds of thousands of followers over the years for failing to uphold the 1914 (Jesus came to power) loyalty oath to this now defunct dogma.The Bible clearly warns to turn away from false prophets.

Jehovah's Witnesses and *persecution*.

Unlike in the case of Christians who are persecuted in other lands for talking about Jesus Christ, Jehovah’s Witnesses are largely persecuted for following the teachings begun during the second presidency of the Watchtower, when Joseph F. Rutherford took over in a corporate flap and began changing doctrines quickly in the Watchtower belief system.

He claimed that angels directly conveyed *truth* to some of those in leadership. He coined the name *Jehovah’s Witnesses* to make them stand out from being witnesses of Jesus, a typical evangelical expression (and a Biblical one).
Rutherford dumped holidays, birthdays and the 1874 date for the invisible return on Christ, and invented an *earthly class* of Witnesses, since only 144,000 can go to heaven in their teaching. The rest, meaning all 99.9% of Witnesses still alive, will live forever on a cleansed earth, under the rule of the Watchtower leaders in heaven, who will keep them in line by local elders known as *Princes.*

If you have been *witnessed to* by Jehovah’s Witnesses and you reject their message, you will likely die *shortly* at Armageddon with all the other non-Witnesses, since theirs is the only true religion, and (if they can live up to all the rules) they are the only ones to inhabit this *new earth.*

To even vocally question the teachings of the Watchtower will result in complete cutting off, with family and friends usually being forbidden to talk to them. The Watchtower is a truly Orwellian world, in a time when Orwellian societies are nearly obsolete.

Witnesses are shrinking in number in many Western countries,as the internet facilitates the spread of information,much of it critical of the Witnesses.

The Watchtower strives hard to control the flow of information to the individual Witness, and prefers that all instruction come through the magazines they carry door-to-door. Without this form of control, even as they themselves admit, they would believe just the same as other Bible believers.
Danny Haszard Jehovah's Witness for 33 years and 3rd generation.

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