Friday, March 10, 2023

In a nutshell: Jehovah's Witness beliefs and history in Germany

At a glance: Jehovah's Witness beliefs, history in Germany


Officials reported that shots were fired inside a Jehovah's Witness meeting building in the northern German city of Hamburg on Thursday night, resulting in the deaths of several individuals.

Germany has been the home of the international Christian denomination that was founded in the United States. According to the denomination's website, the European nation has approximately 170,000 members at present.

The name itself was given in the 19th century. Charles Taze Russell, a minister from Pittsburgh, started it. It claims to have approximately 8.7 million members worldwide and has its current headquarters in Warwick, New York. The members are well-known for their evangelistic efforts, which include knocking on doors and handing out literature in public places.

A quick look at the beliefs and history of the international denomination in Germany can be found here:

There are approximately 2,020 Jehovah's Witness congregations and 170,491 ministers in Germany. According to the denomination's website, the faith is practiced by one in 498 Germans.

The Jehovah's Witnesses refer to their place of worship as "Kingdom Hall," not "church." This is due to their belief that the Bible refers to worshippers as the church, not the building. "Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses" is the name of the building or hall where members gather to worship Jehovah, the God of the Bible and His Kingdom.

According to the denomination's website, Jehovah's Witnesses do not worship the cross because they believe that the Bible indicates that Jesus did not die on a cross but rather on a simple stake. Additionally, the Bible "strongly warns Christians to flee from idolatry, which would mean not using the cross in worship."

A group of elders oversees each congregation. A circuit is made up of about 20 congregations and is occasionally visited by traveling elders who are called circuit overseers.

The Jehovah's Witnesses' brave resistance to Nazi abuse was commemorated by the German State Parliament on January 27, 2021. More than 37,000 people from Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland watched the ceremony online because of the coronavirus pandemic.

During the Holocaust, approximately 1,500 of the approximately 35,000 Jehovah's Witnesses who lived in Germany and other countries under Nazi occupation perished. Prisons and ghettos resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 people. Because they remained politically neutral, members of the faith were subjected to persecution by the Nazi regime. They also disobeyed the orders of the regime by continuing to meet for worship, carrying out public ministry, and being kind to Jews. They also refused to sign a document in which they renounced their beliefs.

- On January 27, 2017, Jehovah's Witnesses were given the same legal status as major religions in Germany, making them look like one religious organization. Their national headquarters in Germany and thousands of congregations throughout the country were regarded as independent religious associations prior to obtaining this status.

In the early days of the pandemic in the United States, Jehovah's Witnesses stopped knocking on doors, and much of the rest of society went into lockdown as well. In addition, the organization canceled 5,600 annual gatherings and all public meetings at its 13,000 congregations nationwide, an unprecedented move that was not taken even during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, which killed 50 million people worldwide.

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