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Jehovah’s Witnesses: Balanced and informed

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I read with great amazement, the article titled “Fanatical witnesses”, published in The Guardian of January 28, 2020, written by Mr. Ray Ekpu. Of course, I read his articles, especially for his knowledge of subject matters. But more so, I believe I can learn more from his experience, despite putting 15 years already in the field of journalism myself.
 
But this time, I beg to differ from your understanding and approach of the matter in question, particularly your use of words like fanatics, outlaws, extremists, sect, idiocy and stupidity. Granted that you were expressing your concerns, but it was on a matter of personal belief (faith), which you do not wholly understand or at best, agree with. You ended up veering off course. It is a hasty generalisation and profiling, to describe Jehovah’s Witnesses the way you did. You also chose to use derogatory descriptions for their dress and grooming and at another point, you associated witnesses with illiteracy. It appears to me, Sir, that indeed, you know little about Jehovah’s Witnesses. Around the world, there are over eight million Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are active in 240 lands. These are organised into almost 120,000 local congregations. Over 90% of these congregations hold their weekend Bible Studies on Sundays, not Saturdays, as you wrongly claimed. Why not visit a Kingdom Hall near you this Sunday to verify? In your article, you claimed, without any evidence, that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not respect national symbols and live as outlaws. This is simply, false.   

 
The Nova Svoboda Newspaper in the Czech Republic said this of Witnesses:“[Jehovah’s Witnesses] have tremendous moral strength. We could use such unselfish people even in the highest political functions. . . . They recognize governmental authorities, but believe that only God’s Kingdom is capable of solving all human problems.”Closer home, Dr. Luke Onyekankeya of The Guardian Newspaper had written of his encounter with Jehovah’s Witnesses, although he is not one them.
 
In any case, I see it that you are entitled to your opinion, but it is more of expression of personal hatred and misgivings for Jehovah’s Witnesses than the subject matter and that is below the part of your estimated self. These personal fangs are also not necessary as a discourse in the national newspapers, except the prompt of harboured animosity. Your narration of the story of the Onokpise family’s rejection of blood transfusion for their baby could have been more accurate had you taken the time to research the facts.

This has already been reported by the Punch Newspaper the Nation and others. Given your experience and reputation, a simple interview with a Jehovah’s Witness, or even online research on their website from your desk, would have provided ample ink for your pen to be more accurate. I also know that expressions like these against Jehovah’s Witnesses are more of personal perceptions and hearsay, than knowledge and detailed findings about them. Regarding your views on blood transfusion, I wish to bring to your notice, Sir, that Medicine has gone beyond blood transfusion as a first option, to effective alternatives. This is a global trend and riding on the back of the witnesses’ informed refusal to accept blood transfusion. The successes are on the increase and on record.

   
Do you know that many who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses are no longer accepting transfusion? Are you aware that the medical world now advocates bloodless medicine, even for children?  For example, check out the following websites, which do not belong to Jehovah’s Witnesses, among many others: John Hopkins’ Center for Bloodless Medicine and Surgery: and Stanford Children’s Health and The Punch Newspaper, January 15 2017   You may also want to log on to the Witnesses’ multilingual website www.jw.org for success stories, documentary on successful complicated medical issues (videos), as well as trends in international medicine, not religious ideas, to see what renowned surgeons and accomplished international medical experts have to say on the topic of transfusion alternatives/bloodless medicine. 

After a review of the contents, judge for you if these are mere cooked up stories or realities. While you have the right to hold your opinion and interpretation of Biblical injunctions regarding blood do you not also agree that others, Jehovah’s Witnesses inclusive, have the right to an alternative opinion? Would it not be hypocritical to opine that you disagree with their views, but insist that they accept yours? Does the fact that progressive medical science has since come to agree, according to Dr. Charles Huggins, the director of blood transfusion service at a Massachusetts Hospital, that blood has become “the most dangerous substance we use in medicine”, not lend any credence to the Witnesses acceptance of the Bible’s injunction to “abstain from blood”? You were, therefore, expressing a very narrow view in your article that it is unreasonable to deprive a patient of the life-saving option of blood transfusion.

As any reasonable doctor will attest, when it comes to treatment, no physician can realistically guarantee that a certain approach would definitely save life. We have seen medical news reports of patients who died after blood transfusion and ones who survived without it in treating similar conditions, witnesses and non-witnesses alike. It will interest you to know that many have died out of complications of transfusion, while others have also died despite being transfused. What is more, majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses have also recuperated with the alternatives, all to God’s glory. Sir, while the health issue in question is rare among Jehovah’s Witnesses, compared with non-witnesses, decisions are neither mere ritual nor goaded, but by personal conviction of the Bible words and its principles, which is an aspect of faith that is not a possession of all men.

It was a surprise to read your article deriding the style of dress of Jehovah’s Witnesses, real or imaginary, that sought to discuss the Bible’s message with you. On their website, Jehovah’s Witnesses have provided a Newsroom for journalists like you’re very self to easily find secularly available information on their Bible Educational Work. Officials in many countries have commended the volunteer work of witnesses, which is carried out in 240 lands.

This link,  https://www.jw.org/en/search/?q=Jehovah%27s+Witnesses+and+the+community contains commendation of witnesses from public functionaries in Thailand, Sweden, Canada, Russia, United States and Ukraine. Of course, you are also entitled to disagree with this consensus. If you are a Christian, would you call God’s insistence that Jesus would die painfully for our sins rigidity, even though he can decide to forgive everyone? Wouldn’t Jesus have begged off, perhaps suggesting alternative action, rather than dying? Please, know that upholding godly principles involves submission to Him, not when you are comfortable. Jesus Christ admitted so. (Read Mark 8:35) Christianity is not by human dictate, but the way God wants it.

There are several examples in the Holy Scriptures of men and women of faith who adopted positions that would not only have been labeled strange during their time, but would definitely have been described as lunatic in the year 2020, if your article is adopted as a standard of thought. But major religions of the world have come to accept these individuals as exemplary. Would you call Abraham’s obedience idiotic or irrational for readiness to sacrifice Isaac on a mere directive of someone he does not see physically, especially knowing the circumstances around Isaac’s birth?  Would you say Daniel’s steadfastness and his loyalty was stupidity by continuing to pray, even visibly, when Nebuchadnezzar had decreed that such was forbidden? What of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

Would you describe these as extremists, outlaws, mad, fanatics, unreasonable and stupid for refusing to bow before national images, when they were looking at the blazing fire that was their next destination? Would you call Stephen an idiot for confessing his faith in the midst of men with grinding stones pounding him? Would you call Paul and other apostle’s outlaws for telling off the authorities that they will obey God as ruler rather than them, knowing fully well the consequences? Jehovah’s Witnesses are not outlaws, but conscientious objectors. This is a global norm, except in states where individual rights are grossly violated. They seek peace and pay their taxes, which is the meaning of Jesus words to pay back Caesar’s things. I would have expected a father and respected senior colleague of your honour to dig deep into the matter beyond face-reading and personal grievances before being frivolous with words, name calling, baring of fangs and possible display of hatred for a people, their faith and belief.
   
It is judgmental, an overkill and defamation of character, to slam unprintable words on a peaceful people who love their family and provide for them; a people who can go to any length to have the best available medical care for their families and themselves, within the limits of God’s law; and a people who labour to help others adopt positive attitude and become reconciled to God.
Nelson wrote from Lagos.


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