Usually when tragedy strikes, it brings out the very best in people. We remember our common bond of humanity and how easily the precious gift of life can be snatched away from us, and we show sympathy for those who have suffered loss – remembering that we could just as easily have experienced similar calamity.
However, if you are a high-control religious group that wants its followers to believe they have God’s backing, you might not always show the greatest humanity or sensitivity when disaster strikes. In particular, the Watch Tower Society seems to excel in caring only about the welfare of Jehovah’s Witnesses, repeatedly insinuating that such ones enjoy special protection from Jehovah – especially if they put kingdom interests first. A classic example of such self-interest and lack of empathy can be found in the latest 2013 Yearbook, now available for download from JW.org.
Pages 29 and 30 relate an experience from one Witness family whose home was destroyed when a plane crashed into their building in Lagos, Nigeria – killing all 153 passengers and an unknown number on the ground. The following CNN news report reveals the chaos following the accident, and the difficulty in retrieving the bodies from the wreckage…
A newspaper report of the incident can be found here.
It is clear that the timing and location of this tragic crash were entirely coincidental, caused by either mechanical failure or human error. Local residents interviewed in the above report could count themselves extremely fortunate not to have been in the plane’s trajectory when it slammed into the packed Lagos suburb. Most people who heard of the accident all over the world will have felt overwhelming sympathy for those unfortunate to have lost their lives in this unforeseen catastrophe – not to mention their families and loved ones.
While individual survivors living nearby who are religious may feel inclined to thank God that they survived the incident, it is wholly inappropriate for an organization like the Watch Tower Society to attempt to capitalize on the tragedy by implying that one Witness family’s survival was due to divine protection because they had loyally attended their Sunday meeting. While this is not spelled out in the 2013 Yearbook article, it is unmistakably implied.
The final two paragraphs in the article read as follows…
“‘If we had been at home,’ said Chinyere, ‘we would surely have died. After the disaster, we were left with only our meeting clothes, but we have our lives. The circuit overseer immediately set up a relief committee, and the brothers took good care of us. We are very grateful.’
Collins said: ‘My relatives who had been opposed to my being a Witness have changed their minds. One of them told me: ‘Your Jehovah answers prayers. Hold on to your God because he helps you.’ Another person said: ‘Whatever you have been doing to serve God, continue to do it whole-souled.’ We have truly seen Jehovah’s hand in our case. I am very happy.’” – 2013 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, page 30.
Witnesses reading the above will no doubt point to the article’s title, “The Brothers Took Good Care of Us,” and claim that any sentiments expressed in the experience allude to the gratitude of the family for the way their brothers supported them in the aftermath of the incident. However, when you read the above paragraphs at the end of the article, you notice that the “relief committee” set up for the family by the local Circuit Overseer is just a sidenote in the real purpose of the article, which is to drill home the importance of doing “whatever you have been doing to serve God” – meetings included.
Facebook reaction reveals the true intent
If proof were needed of the true message behind this article, namely that attending meetings will protect you from catastrophic events, this is abundantly supplied by the reaction of ordinary Witnesses in comments made online. When one Facebook group called “Theocratic Ministry School” posted a copy of the experience, the post received over 500 likes. Here are some of the responses from Witnesses…
- Potebele Solomon We should not forsake our christian;s meeting for any reasons.
Ibeh Ndubuisi Godson Our meeting are surely protective
Jennifer Chuka This show dat Jehovah deliver his people in a different ways.
Fayese Olaitan Abayo Jehovah will keep delivering his ppl
Justina Bisade Phillips Jehovah’s name is realy ‘a strong tower’ protecting his people.
Keisha Dj-Bubblelic Ious-Stith This is truly a lesson in obedience. This family clearly understood Jehovah’s instructions about not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together. This clearly served as a protection in more ways than just one!
Huldah Efenudu Jehovah really saves,cares….
Russell Ogbonna Stan firm (in the truth) and see the salvation of Jehovah
Makinde Taiwo Jehovah’s hand is never 2 short 2 help and rescue HIS PPLE.
Glory Festus It is very gud 2 obey Jehovah and nt 2 mis metings 4 any reasons
- Eunice Olanrewaju Jehovah really cares about us and he loves us. may we never miss christian meetings cos nothing can be compare to it.
Cheryl Lebo Chidoba jehovah provides escape for the loyal….his servants will see what a mighty crag is he#singin# song 131
Adaeze Cessa Omoba Jehovah has always been our refuge and he will keep delivering his people
The above comments, which show complete ignorance and lack of empathy for the 150+ non-Witnesses who lost their lives in this tragedy, demonstrate that the true purpose behind the article was achieved. The Society wanted to convey the message that “Jehovah’s hand” protects those who obediently attend meetings, and this is precisely how it was understood by most Witnesses reading it.
In fact, if you are able to view the Facebook page, I would recommend that you take a moment to do so. A few conscientious and sensitive Witnesses actually tried in vain to quell the ignorance of their fellow worshippers by reminding them that “time and unforeseen occurrence befall us all.” (Eccl. 9:11) One poster called Janai Hall was accused of being an apostate simply for trying to be one such voice of reason. Overall, the brainwashed victims of Watchtower propaganda seemingly prevailed against the few who dared to contemplate the incident in context.
Where was Jehovah’s hand in Miami?
Another conscientious poster, Zach Broxton, reminded the Facebook group of a recent tragic accident in Miami on December 1st 2012, in which a bus carrying 32 Jehovah’s Witnesses to an assembly crashed into an overpass, killing two Witnesses and leaving four others severely injured. The JW.org report on the incident is available on this link. An NBC news report of the crash can be viewed below…
The obvious question would be, “where was Jehovah’s hand when this tragedy happened?” Again, you have Witnesses obediently following the Slave’s instructions to “not forsake” gathering together, but through a freak event they end up paying for their loyalty with their lives.
Both the Miami bus crash and the Nigeria plane crash were tragic accidents that could not have been foreseen. Both resulted in the loss of precious human life – one on a much larger scale than the other. In one of those incidents a Witness family survived by attending a meeting – in the other two Witnesses died and four were injured for showing the same loyalty. It is therefore beyond any reasonable doubt that Jehovah does not grant special protection to Jehovah’s Witnesses who obey the Watch Tower Society by congregating at meetings and assemblies, and yet this is what is unmistakably implied in the 2013 Yearbook article, as evidenced by the reaction of Witnesses on Facebook.
A terrible witness
I shudder to think what relatives of the plane’s 153 crew members and passengers (or indeed those on the ground who died when it collided) would make of the Yearbook article after reading it. Imagine yourself reading the article through their eyes, and seeing one Witness family claim to have experienced “Jehovah’s hand” in the incident because they were spared a horrible death. Likely, you would not want to speak to a Jehovah’s Witness again for the rest of your life, and nobody would blame you for feeling that way.
Yes, the Yearbook article is a shocking example of propaganda on the part of the Society. It is a shameless attempt to promote the benefits of being a Witness by exploiting a deadly catastrophe that claimed the lives of many dozens of innocent people. I am only grateful that at least a small number of Witnesses were able to fight the indoctrination, and had the courage and soundness of mind to try to reason with their deluded fellow worshippers who appear to be well and truly under the grip of the Watchtower’s propaganda machine.