The Bible foretold that persecution of true Christians would reach a climax during the last days. (Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. ) Romania is a land where that prophecy has seen striking fulfillment. Yet, as this account will show, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Romania have let nothing extinguish the flame of truth that burns brightly in the hearts of God’s people. (Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. )
Rather, they have recommended themselves “as God’s ministers, by the endurance of much, by tribulations, by cases of need, by difficulties, by beatings, by prisons.” (Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. ) May their record of integrity encourage all who desire to walk with God during these difficult times.
A Romanian named Emanoil Chinţa was arrested during World War I and sent to a military prison in Italy, far from home. There he met some Bible Students who had been imprisoned because they refused to take up arms. Emanoil took to heart their Scriptural message. When he was released in 1919, he returned home to Baia-Mare, in Maramureş County, and zealously preached the good news and contributed to the formation of yet another group of Bible Students.
Thanks to the zeal and self-sacrificing spirit of the early pioneers of the good news and of those who listened to their message, the number of disciples multiplied and small groups of Bible Students mushroomed in the land. In fact, by 1919—just eight years after Károly Szabó and József Kiss returned to Romania—over 1,700 Kingdom publishers and interested ones were organized into 150 Bible study classes, now called groups or congregations. Brother Kiss served as a pioneer in his homeland until his death at 86 years of age. Brother Szabó returned to the United States in 1924 to coordinate the work in the Hungarian field there.
Fired up by nationalism and egged on by the clergy, the political authorities had no sympathy for those who would not rally to the flag and kill for the country. Hence, when the first world war broke out, many brothers were arrested and sentenced. Some were even executed, including Ioan Rus, a newly married man from the village of Petreştii de Mijloc, south of Cluj-Napoca.
In response to the clergy’s barrage of complaints, the Ministry of Religions approved the use of “public force” to hinder both the preaching and the meetings of Jehovah’s people. Thus, the police became an arm of the churches, arresting brothers on the false charge that they were disturbing the peace. The law, however, was not clearly defined, so sentences varied. The brothers’ good conduct also presented a problem. “The Bible Students cannot be condemned,” said one judge, “because they are often the most peaceable of men.”
Nevertheless, persecution intensified, and at the end of 1926, The Watch Tower was banned. But that did not stop the flow of spiritual food—the brothers simply changed the name of the magazine! Starting with the January 1, 1927, issue, the Romanian-language edition became The Harvest, then later The Light of the Bible, and finally Daybreak. Its Hungarian counterpart was renamed Christian Pilgrim, then Gospel, and lastly The Magazine of Those Who Believe in Christ’s Blood.
Yes, despite the clergy’s hate campaign, many honesthearted individuals wanted to hear the good news. They included a town mayor who devoured several brochures and later declared that he eagerly awaited the new world. In another town, a man asked for a number of copies of the publications, promising to distribute them to all who were willing to read them.
What is more, persecution sometimes had an effect opposite to that intended. For example, all the Witnesses in one area decided as a group to make their separation from “Babylon the Great” a matter of public record. (Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. ) For five consecutive days, these courageous brothers and sisters streamed into the local town hall to draw up documents of withdrawal from their former church.
Community leaders were shocked, and the local priest was horrified. First he ran to the police station for help, but that proved futile. So he rushed back to the town hall and accused the notary of being a Communist for helping the people with their documents. Offended, the notary retorted that if the whole community came to him, he would help them draw up certificates of withdrawal. Thus the priest was stopped in his tracks, and the brothers were able to complete their paperwork.
In another instance, an elderly brother gave a fine witness in a court of law. The judge held in his hand two books published by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Waving them in front of the brother, the judge accused him of distributing religious propaganda.
“If you sentence me because I proclaim the truth of God’s Word,” replied the brother, “I would view this, not as a punishment, but as a badge of honor. The Lord Jesus told his followers to rejoice when persecuted for righteousness’ sake because this is how the prophets of old were treated. In fact, Jesus himself was persecuted and even impaled, not for wrongdoing, but for speaking the truth that he had received from God.”
The brother continued: “So if this court sentences me for proclaiming Jesus’ message about the Kingdom by means of those two books, it would be sentencing a man who has committed no crime.” The judge dismissed the charges.
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