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Voting - Malawi

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www.Quotes-Watchtower.co.uk

Voting - Malawi

The watchtower has always been very explicit about voting and has always stated that Jehovah’s Witnesses should abstain and have nothing to do with politics.  That was, however, until the late 1990s when voting became a matter of choice.  This may not sound like too much of an issue, but, when we consider the Malawi crisis in the 60s and early 70s when Jehovah’s Witnesses were experiencing large scale persecution, violence, rape and even murder, it is very important.

Why were the Witnesses facing such hardships?  They faced such hardships because they refused to obtain a voting card. 

Why were the Witnesses willing to take such a potentially life threatening stance?  The Witnesses took such a stance because the Watchtower insisted that they specifically refrain from obtaining a ”party card” from the ruling political party.  The Watchtower society was well aware of the dangers in Malawi as it was reported to their head office by the local branch.  Despite this though, the Watchtower Society, refused to alter its stance.

The party card itself was fairly irrelevant as only one political party was allowed in Malawi at the time and they were in power for the lifetime of their president Dr. H. Kamuzu Banda. In addition, the fact that you had a party card did not actually class as voting.  Did the Watchtower want to make unnecessary martyrs of their loyal followers?

How did the Brothers and Sisters in Malawi feel when the Watchtower changed its stance in the 90s, 25 years too late, and and made voting a personal choice.

Does the Watchtower have blood on its hands? Please see Blood Guilt.       

Watchtower 1968, 1st February 2/1/68, pp 17-19

Yes, it is in this new nation of some four million inhabitants, formerly known as Nyasaland, that this shocking religious persecution is taking place. At Lilongwe in central Malawi, 170 homes of these Christians were burned down in three nights. In the Fort Johnston district, slightly to the south, 34 homes and 18 food storage places were burned down toward the end of October. At Mbalame on October 27 the Christians of two congregations all had their homes burned down while they, including the women, were stripped of their clothes and brutally beaten. In some of these places persecutors used trucks to haul away the confiscated household furnishings of these Christians before destroying their homes.

A traveling minister in the country wrote: “On October 27 I was robbed of all my possessions. . . . My wife and I were badly beaten up. Hundreds of our Christian brothers have had their homes destroyed. Many places of worship have been demolished.”

In one place a number of these Christians were beaten unconscious and one of them placed on top of a pile of wood, which was then set afire, all at the instigation of a member of Malawi’s parliament. But then this politician began to have second thoughts about the matter and so had the unconscious Christian hurriedly pulled off the pile.

In another place one night a group of these Christians was awakened by Congress Party officials. The men were beaten and slashed with sticks and pangas [machetes] and then were forced to look on while ten of their women were raped. Two of the women were pregnant, one of whom later had a miscarriage as a result.

Late in October a large number of Christian women from the Mlanje area were assaulted and raped, and on October 25, 1967, a fifteen-year-old girl at Mkuwila Village, because of refusing to compromise her religious convictions, was tied to a tree and raped six times. How sadistic these persecutors were can be seen from the fact that they even forced a wooden plug into one Christian woman.

This shocking persecution has sent many of these Christians to hospitals, and at least five of them were killed up to the end of November 1967. Hundreds have fled to the bush wilderness for safety while literally thousands of others have taken refuge in the neighboring Portuguese province of Mozambique, where they have been provided with food and shelter.

The Times, of Blantyre, Malawi’s chief industrial city, situated in the southern part of the country, in its issue of November 9 told of 3,000 of these Christians appearing in court at Lilongwe, charged with being members of an unlawful society. Checking this report, two missionaries visited Lilongwe. There they found 2,400 of them in prison and learned that five babies had been born there and that 800 Christians were being held at the police station. Although most of these had spent the night sleeping under an open sky and it had rained, they were in good spirits, determined to stand firm. Truly, such faith is commendable, but is not a government that treats them so harshly making itself an object of shame before the world?

Who Are the Victims?
These persecuted victims belong to a religious minority group known as the Christian witnesses of Jehovah, who are noted world wide for their strong Bible-based faith. No doubt you know some of Jehovah’s witnesses in your community and have observed that they put their religion first in their lives, even as Jesus commanded his followers to do when he said: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness.” (Matt. 6:33) The same is true of Jehovah’s witnesses in Malawi.

These Christians have been found in Malawi ever since World War I and have been organized for the preaching of “this good news of the kingdom” since 1933 by the Watch Tower Society. (Matt. 24:14) By August 1967 there were 18,519 Christian witnesses of Jehovah in Malawi actively carrying on their educational work with comparatively little interference. When they held their “Disciple-making” District Assemblies in the summer of 1967, a total of 25,830 persons, or upward of 7,000 more than there were Witnesses in the country, attended and listened with interest. Among those present were government observers who could not help but be impressed by the love, unity and peacefulness manifested by the Witnesses, as many thousands of persons from differing tribes mingled together just like one big family.

Why the Persecution?
Since this is the way the witnesses of Jehovah conduct themselves, why, then, all this violent persecution of them in Malawi? One of the main reasons is that the Witnesses refuse to buy membership cards in Malawi’s Congress Party as well as refuse to buy and wear badges with the picture of the President of Malawi, Dr. H. Kamuzu Banda. Other religious organizations, Catholic, Protestant and Moslem, have all yielded to pressure in these respects, but Jehovah’s witnesses have not. Why? Because of their strictly adhering to the Word of God.

As Christian witnesses of Jehovah they follow the example of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who kept free from the politics of his day. He said that his followers were “no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:16) And before the Roman political ruler of Judea, Pontius Pilate, he testified: “My kingdom is no part of this world. If my kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought that I should not be delivered up to the Jews. But, as it is, my kingdom is not from this source.” (John 18:36) Previously, when the Jews wanted to seize him to make him king, he eluded them and retreated alone into a mountain.—John 6:15.

Yes, Jesus preached and gave his allegiance to “the kingdom of the heavens,” “the kingdom of God.” Following Jesus’ footsteps as sincerely dedicated Christians, Jehovah’s witnesses have no alternative but to keep separate, “without spot from the world.” Since they can give their allegiance only to Jehovah God and his kingdom, they feel obligated to refrain from participating in any action that gives such devotion to political leaders. So they remain neutral as to the political affairs of
Malawi, even as they do regarding the political affairs of every other land in which they happen to live. It is because of this Christian neutrality that they are being persecuted in Malawi.—Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:15; Jas. 1:27.
 

[Emphasis added]

Watchtower 1950 November 15 pp.445-6 Subjection to the Higher Powers

22 In some countries today the legislature wants to make all the adult citizens responsible for the government. To enforce the democratic way upon them they are required by law to vote in the national elections. Under such circumstances what are Christians to do, since they are under divine command to keep themselves unspotted from this world? By dedicating themselves wholly to God through Christ they have vowed their unswerving allegiance to the kingdom of God, and they cannot divide their allegiance. So how are they now to proceed? Can they register as qualified voters? Yes. The apostle Paul held onto his Roman citizenship and fought for its rights, even appealing to Caesar in defending his right to preach the gospel. In lands where military conscription is in force Jehovah's witnesses register the same as all others within the age limits, and they write down their relationship to the matter. They remember how Joseph and Mary complied with Caesar's decree and traveled to Bethlehem-Judah in order to be registered at their home town. (Luke 2:1-5, NW) But it is when these ministers of Jehovah's Word are called up for induction into the army that then they present themselves and take their stand according to God's Word and pay to him what belongs to him. Likewise where Caesar makes it compulsory for citizens to vote. After they have registered and when election day comes, they can go to the polls and enter the voting booths. It is here that they are called upon to mark the ballot or write in what they stand for. The voters do what they will with their ballots. So here in the presence of God is where his witnesses must act in harmony with his commandments and in accordance with their faith.

23 It is not our responsibility to instruct them what to do with the ballot. They must act in accord with their conscience as enlightened by the study of God's Word. In lands where voting is not compulsory, the ministers of Jehovah's Word remember that his people are theocratically organized. According to the divine law under which they are organized the popular vote of the majority does not put servants in office, but all appointments in the theocratic organization are from God and through those whom he puts in authority in his organization. Even in his visible organization the individual members of the congregation do not vote democratically and put qualified men into positions of overseers and ministerial servants by majority vote. No, but the appointments to all official positions of service are made by the spirit of God and through the governing body according to the Scriptural requirements. Even the governing body which make the appointments are under instructions from the "superior authorities", God and his Christ. To them it is written: "Never lay your hands hastily upon any man; neither be a sharer in the sins of others; preserve yourself pure." (1 Tim. 3:1-13 and 1Ti 5:22, NW) So the ministers of Jehovah's Word do not possess the vote within his organization. As for the governing body, it does not lay its hands hastily upon a consecrated person, lest it should become responsible for his sins in office due to a hasty appointment of an undependable, unqualified person.

24 Since they do not exercise the popular vote to put even consecrated servants into office even within the theocratic organization, they consider it improper to exercise the democratic vote by which unconsecrated persons are put into worldly political offices. They do not choose to share in the responsibility for the sins of such worldlings in governmental offices. They want to preserve themselves pure from this world. They abide by God's appointments through his theocratic organization, and they accept his appointment of Jesus Christ to the kingship of the righteous new world.

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1964 May 15 p.308 Maintaining Unity in Difficult Times

20 To mature Christians, the question of what attitude should be taken in the matter of political elections presents no issue. In totalitarian countries oftentimes people are forced by law to go to the election polls and sometimes persons are even picked up at home and brought to the polls. Even in certain democracies the law makes it compulsory for the citizens to go to the election places. In no country do Jehovah's witnesses take part in politics. They are not of this world. (John 17:14) Therefore they do not take part in voting at elections. They do not compromise their neutral standing in matters of politics, however, if they go to the polls and make the ballot void in some manner, either by crossing it out or by putting down, for example, the words "For God's Kingdom." That is telling what he is for. By doing this their ballot will become void; it will not count in the election of a man. They have complied with the law and gone to the polls and likely avoided punishment. Remember Jesus' counsel: "Look! I am sending you forth as sheep amidst wolves; therefore prove yourselves cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves." (Matt. 10:16) No one should be condemned for acting so. "But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you also look down on your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God."—Rom. 14:10.

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1973 October 15 p.627 Why People of All Kinds Are Becoming Jehovah's Witnesses

While calling on people at their homes, one of Jehovah's witnesses in the state of New York met a friendly man who said: "I have two questions to ask, and your answers will determine whether our conversation will go further or whether you will leave. The first question is, Do you believe in anything other than the Bible as truth?" The Witness assured him that Jehovah's witnesses believe only in the Bible as inspired truth and not in man-made traditions or creeds. "You gave me the right answer to the first question," said the man, "but you probably won't answer the next one right. I am looking for a religion which has absolutely nothing to do with politics. Do you have anything to do with politics?" Informed that Jehovah's witnesses keep separate from all politics, not even voting, the man was indeed surprised. Eventually a Bible study was started with him and his wife. Now both of them are baptized witnesses of Jehovah.

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1977 November 15 p.686 Why Persecution of Christians?

The Witnesses are neutral as to warfare and strife between the nations, as well as being clean from all political involvement, not even voting, because they fulfill Jesus' description of them as being "no part of the world." (John 17:14) For the same reason they do not salute the flag or emblem of any nation. For a Christian witness of Jehovah to give devotion, worship or service to, or to bow to or salute any image or idol is a grave sin in the eyes of God.—1 John 5:21; Acts 15:29; compare Exodus 20:4, 5; Deuteronomy 5:8, 9.

[Emphasis Added]

Pay Attention to Yourselves And To All the Flock, Unit 5(c) p.140

[This secret book is available only to active elders]

Jehovah's Witnesses maintain neutrality with regard to the political and military affairs of the nations. (John 17:16; rs pp. 269-76)

They do not interfere with what others do as to voting in political elections, running for or campaigning for political offices, joining nonneutral organizations, shouting political slogans, and so forth. (w86 9/1 pp. 19-20; w68 6/1 pp. 351-2)

Since true dedicated Christians are "no part of the world," if a member of the congregation unrepentantly pursues a course in violation of his Christian neutrality, he thereby disassociates himself from the neutral Christian congregation. (John 15:19; 17:14-16; w82 1/15 p. 31)

Elders should talk to one known to be contemplating taking such a course, since he may be doing so in ignorance. (Ps. 119:67; Gal. 6:1; 1 Tim. 1:13)

If he disregards the help proffered and pursues a course in violation of Christian neutrality, a committee should send the facts substantiating the disassociation to the branch office on the S-77 and S-79 forms.

An announcement is usually made that the individual has disassociated himself from the congregation, and the person should be told orally about his position. If for some extenuating reasons no announcement is made, persons in the congregation who might be visited by the disassociated person may be informed privately. The individual should be treated as one who is disfellowshipped. See Unit 5 (a), pages 101-2.

[Emphasis Added]

Reasoning from the Scriptures (1985, 1989) pp.269-76 Neutrality

Neutrality

Definition: The position of those who do not take sides with or give support to either of two or more contending parties. It is a fact of ancient and modern-day history that in every nation and under all circumstances true Christians have endeavored to maintain complete neutrality as to conflicts between factions of the world. They do not interfere with what others do about sharing in patriotic ceremonies, serving in the armed forces, joining a political party, running for a political office, or voting. But they themselves worship only Jehovah, the God of the Bible; they have dedicated their lives unreservedly to him and give their full support to his Kingdom.

[…]

What scriptures have always had a bearing on the attitude of true Christians toward involvement in political issues and activities?

John 17:16: "They are no part of the world, just as I [Jesus] am no part of the world."

John 6:15: "Jesus, knowing they [the Jews] were about to come and seize him to make him king, withdrew again into the mountain all alone." Later, he told the Roman governor: "My kingdom is no part of this world. If my kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought that I should not be delivered up to the Jews. But, as it is, my kingdom is not from this source."-John 18:36.

Jas. 4:4: "Adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God." (Why is the matter so serious? Because, as 1 John 5:19 says, "the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one." At John 14:30, Jesus referred to Satan as being "the ruler of the world." So, no matter what worldly faction a person might support, under whose control would he really come?)

Regarding political involvement, what do secular historians report as being the attitude of those known as early Christians?

"Early Christianity was little understood and was regarded with little favor by those who ruled the pagan world. . . . Christians refused to share certain duties of Roman citizens. . . . They would not hold political office."-On the Road to Civilization, A World History (Philadelphia, 1937), A. Heckel and J. Sigman, pp. 237, 238.

"The Christians stood aloof and distinct from the state, as a priestly and spiritual race, and Christianity seemed able to influence civil life only in that manner which, it must be confessed, is the purest, by practically endeavouring to instil more and more of holy feeling into the citizens of the state."-The History of the Christian Religion and Church, During the Three First Centuries (New York, 1848), Augustus Neander, translated from German by H. J. Rose, p. 168.

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1982 January 15 p.31 Questions from Readers

Questions from Readers

[…]

It is quite a different matter with a former Christian who is "disassociated." This designation is applied basically in two situations:

First, though it is uncommon, a person might decide that he absolutely no longer wants to be a Witness. We do not mean a person such as is described above, a spiritually weak or discouraged Christian who may express some doubts. Rather, we mean someone who resolutely declares that he absolutely is no longer one of Jehovah's Witnesses. Since in the past he voluntarily became a baptized member of the congregation, it would now be proper for him to inform the congregation that he is ending this relationship. It would be best if he did this in a brief letter to the elders, but even if he unequivocally states orally that he is renouncing his standing as a Witness, the elders can deal with the matter.-1 John 2:19.

The second situation involves a person who renounces his standing in the congregation by joining a secular organization whose purpose is contrary to counsel such as that found at Isaiah 2:4, where we read concerning God's servants: "They will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore." Also, as stated at John 17:16, "they are no part of the world, just as I [Jesus] am no part of the world."-Compare Revelation 19:17-21.

In either of these two situations, the person by word and/or actions has clearly terminated his status as one of Jehovah's Witnesses, disassociating himself. Hence, the elders will announce briefly to the congregation that this individual has disassociated himself. Those in the congregation will accept the person's decision and thereafter will view him as a former brother with whom they would not fellowship, in harmony with what we read at 1 Corinthians 5:11 and 2 John 9-11.

[Emphasis Added]

School Brochure (1983) pp.12-16 Flag Salute, Anthems and Voting

Flag Salute, Anthems and Voting

Perhaps one of the most sensitive areas of our children's interaction with the schools involves patriotic observances. We realize that deep feelings may be involved, and we appreciate very much those teachers who handle the various situations with sensitivity and understanding. An explanation of why Jehovah's Witnesses do not participate in patriotic observances may be helpful.

[…]

As you may appreciate, following a similar course of neutrality today affects our young people's participation in a number of school exercises and activities. What conscientious position on these matters have Jehovah's Witnesses taken earth wide?

[…]

Elective Offices and Positions

In many schools, students are voted into an office or a position, such as class president. Some schools have small-scale political campaigns, including campaign buttons and posters advertising candidates. The purpose is to familiarize young people with the machinery of politics. However, Witness youths do not mix in school politics, either by accepting an elective office or by voting others into office. So if either nominated for or elected to an office, they tactfully decline. In this way they follow the example of Jesus who withdrew when the people wanted to make him king.-John 6:15.

However, we consider an appointment by the teacher as something different. So if Witness youths are appointed to help in traffic direction or some other such activity, they are encouraged to cooperate to the extent possible.

Of course, our young ones realize that not all voting is political. Sometimes students are called on by the teacher to give their opinions. There may be no violation of Bible principles to express one's preference for certain activities or to provide one's appraisal of a talk or composition. When persons express opinions by a show of hands as to the quality of something, this is not the same as electing another politically to an office.

[…]

[Picture on page 16]

Witness youths do not mix in school politics

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1999 November 1 pp.28-9 Questions From Readers

Questions From Readers

How do Jehovah's Witnesses view voting?

There are clear principles set out in the Bible that enable servants of God to take a proper view of this matter. However, there appears to be no principle against the practice of voting itself. For example, there is no reason why a board of directors should not take a vote in order to arrive at decisions affecting their corporation. Congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses often make decisions about meeting times and the use of congregation funds by voting with a show of hands.

What, though, of voting in political elections? Of course, in some democratic lands, as many as 50 percent of the population do not turn out to vote on election day. As for Jehovah's Witnesses, they do not interfere with the right of others to vote; neither do they in any way campaign against political elections. They respect and cooperate with the authorities who are duly elected in such elections. (Romans 13:1-7) As to whether they will personally vote for someone running in an election, each one of Jehovah's Witnesses makes a decision based on his Bible-trained conscience and an understanding of his responsibility to God and to the State. (Matthew 22:21; 1 Peter 3:16) In making this personal decision, the Witnesses consider a number of factors.

First, Jesus Christ said of his followers: "They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world." (John 17:14) Jehovah's Witnesses take this principle seriously. Being "no part of the world," they are neutral in the political affairs of the world.—John 18:36.

Second, the apostle Paul referred to himself as an "ambassador" representing Christ to the people of his day. (Ephesians 6:20; 2 Corinthians 5:20) Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Christ Jesus is now the enthroned King of God's heavenly Kingdom, and they, like ambassadors, must announce this to the nations. (Matthew 24:14; Revelation 11:15) Ambassadors are expected to be neutral and not to interfere in the internal affairs of the countries to which they are sent. As representatives of God's heavenly Kingdom, Jehovah's Witnesses feel a similar obligation not to interfere in the politics of the countries where they reside.

A third factor to consider is that those who have a part in voting a person into office may become responsible for what he does. (Compare 1 Timothy 5:22, The New English Bible.) Christians have to consider carefully whether they want to shoulder that responsibility.

Fourth, Jehovah's Witnesses greatly value their Christian unity. (Colossians 3:14) When religions get involved in politics, the result is often division among their members. In imitation of Jesus Christ, Jehovah's Witnesses avoid becoming involved in politics and thus maintain their Christian unity.—Matthew 12:25; John 6:15; 18:36, 37.

Fifth and finally, their keeping out of politics gives Jehovah's Witnesses freeness of speech to approach people of all political persuasions with the important message of the Kingdom.—Hebrews 10:35.

In view of the Scriptural principles outlined above, in many lands Jehovah's Witnesses make a personal decision not to vote in political elections, and their freedom to make that decision is supported by the law of the land. What, though, if the law requires citizens to vote? In such a case, each Witness is responsible to make a conscientious, Bible-based decision about how to handle the situation. If someone decides to go to the polling booth, that is his decision. What he does in the polling booth is between him and his Creator.

The November 15, 1950, issue of The Watchtower, on pages 445 and 446, said: "Where Caesar makes it compulsory for citizens to vote . . . [Witnesses] can go to the polls and enter the voting booths. It is here that they are called upon to mark the ballot or write in what they stand for. The voters do what they will with their ballots. So here in the presence of God is where his witnesses must act in harmony with his commandments and in accordance with their faith. It is not our responsibility to instruct them what to do with the ballot."

What if a Christian woman's unbelieving husband insists that she present herself to vote? Well, she is subject to her husband, just as Christians are subject to the superior authorities. (Ephesians 5:22; 1 Peter 2:13-17) If she obeys her husband and goes to the polling booth, that is her personal decision. No one should criticize her.—Compare Romans 14:4.

What of a country where voting is not mandated by law but feelings run high against those who do not go to the voting booth—perhaps they are exposed to physical danger? Or what if individuals, while not legally obliged to vote, are severely penalized in some way if they do not go to the polling booth? In these and similar situations, a Christian has to make his own decision. "Each one will carry his own load."—Galatians 6:5.

There may be people who are stumbled when they observe that during an election in their country, some Witnesses of Jehovah go to the polling booth and others do not. They may say, 'Jehovah's Witnesses are not consistent.' People should recognize, though, that in matters of individual conscience such as this, each Christian has to make his own decision before Jehovah God.—Romans 14:12.

Whatever personal decisions Jehovah's Witnesses make in the face of different situations, they take care to preserve their Christian neutrality and freeness of speech. In all things, they rely on Jehovah God to strengthen them, give them wisdom, and help them avoid compromising their faith in any way. Thus they show confidence in the words of the psalmist: "You are my crag and my stronghold; and for the sake of your name you will lead me and conduct me."—Psalm 31:3.

[Emphasis Added]

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