By Jack Ryan
The Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses of Namibia has asserted its right to be EXEMPT as an "Employer" for purposes of payment to those who work on its behalf, nor are they responsible (they claim) for filing any Social Security documents as to wages, hours worked, withholding, etc.
In 2014, the Congregation asked to be de-registered as such.
It didn't go so well.
On the 16 June 2014, authorities replied to the JW's request by confirming that the appellant is considered an employer in terms of the SS Act and consequently should be registered with the Employees’ Compensation Fund established by the Employees’ Compensation Act, 1941, as well as having the Order register its members with the Maternity, Sick Leave and Death Benefit established by the SS Act
A ping-pong protest and response commenced with multiple requests for clarification by the Dubs and protestations and requests for appeal, etc.
Authorities decided this matter was best handled by visiting the premises and investigating for themselves what goes on.
After the "visit" by authorities, nothing was offered by the Dubs to change any minds.
The JW's continued to whine and protest and appeal, etc.
The authorities examined the Congregation's Appeal and made the following evaluation:
== In the respondent’s listed grounds of opposition, it noted that the appeal filed by the appellant is not proper as it failed to complete the Form 11 as contemplated in Rule 17(2)(a) of the Rules of this Court==
JW's protested and appealed the appeal response which didn't appeal to them.
Arguments continued until the following finding was released:
The Labour Amendment Act stipulates that:18 ‘For the purposes of this Act or any other employment law, until the contrary is proved, an individual who works for or renders services to any other person, is presumed to be an employee of that other person, regardless of the form of the contract or the designation of the individual, if any one or more of the following factors is present:
(List of factors attached)
The SS Act does not provide for de-registration of employers. Accordingly, logic follows that once an employer has been registered under this Act, the obligations created in terms of this Act ceases to exist only where the employer (who is a natural person) dies or becomes insolvent or is sequestrated or is liquidated or wound up (where an employer is a juristic person). Employees may be ‘de-registered’ under that employer in the event they die or their services have been terminated.
Cut to the chase:
Accordingly, the appellant cannot pick and choose which laws should apply to them and which not. This court finds an employment relationship evident between the parties for the reasons stated above. In the result and for reasons and conclusions stated hereinbefore the court makes the following order: 1. The respondent’s application for condonation for the late filing of its heads of argument is hereby granted. 2. The appeal is dismissed. 3. There is no order made as to costs
By Guest Nicole
The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., is now home to some of Ethiopia’s most important religious manuscripts after they were recently donated to the university by Chicago-based collectors Gerald and Barbara Weiner. The couple gave out the handmade leather manuscripts with the hope of allowing Ethiopians in the U.S. to use them for prayers and study, according to Catholic News Agency.
Dr. Aaron M. Butts, a professor of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literature at the university, put up a statement saying the collection “provides unparalleled primary sources for the study of Eastern Christianity.”
What’s In the Collection?
In total, the collection is comprised of 125 Christian manuscripts, including liturgical books, hagiographies, psalters, and 215 Islamic manuscripts, including the Quran and commentaries on Quran.
According to the Catholic News Agency, it’s the largest collection of Ethiopian Islamic manuscripts outside of Ethiopia.
More than 600 manuscripts were handmade using hides from calves, sheep, and goats, and are estimated to date back to the 18th and 19th century.
In the collection, there are over 350 “magic” scrolls, which are traditional Christian prayer talismans, and each was handwritten by a “debtera,” or a cleric in the Ethiopian church, and includes the name of the person it was written for.
Pieces of the manuscripts were worn around the neck for purposes of helping people with different kinds of ailments, including headaches, painful menstruation, and complicated childbirth.
Butts suggests that some of these scrolls, which were predominantly worn by women, may have been passed down through many generations, mainly from mother to daughter.
He added that the prayer jewels haven’t been studied much due to the personal nature of their use.
Washington, D.C., hosts one of the largest Ethiopian communities outside Ethiopia, and has several Ethiopian Orthodox and Catholic churches and cultural centers, making it the best location to donate the manuscripts.
Ethiopia is predominantly a Christian country, with the majority of Christians belonging to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.
However, there are other small religious communities in the country, including Muslims, Judaists, and Pagans. There is also a minority section of Christians who are Roman Catholics or Protestants.
Many Ethiopians still use the prayer scrolls for protection and healing. They are often inscribed with prayers, spells, and charms to offer protection to their specific owner.
The text on these “magic” scrolls is often derived from the bible, which is why the majority of churches in the country tolerate despite their connection to magic.
By Guest Nicole
The Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses of Namibia might have to start compensating its employees as stipulated by the country’s labour law after it lost a labour case in the High Court yesterday.
The congregation dragged the Social Security Commission to court in May 2016 after the Commission refused to deregister the church as a company and employer.
“The congregation is trying to evade its obligations under the SSC Act and this court cannot allow employees to be unprotected in the event they fall ill, become pregnant or die,” explained Judge Petrus Unengu.
The congregation approached the High Court, stating that its followers are not employees and thus the congregation cannot be regarded as an employer and it does not regard itself as one.
Furthermore there is no employment contract between the congregation and its followers even though they take a vow of obedience and poverty to serve as full-time servants of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
According to SSC, the followers are regarded as employees as the congregation registered the church itself as a company. Based on the investigations conducted by SSC, the followers carry out duties for a fixed period between 07h45 to 16h45, Mondays to Fridays.
Each follower receives a non-negotiated allowance of N$940 per month for the work or time spent performing duties. The investigations further revealed that the followers are mandated to give a one-month notice should they wish to terminate their services with the church. The church has 2,448 registered members from their 44 branches countrywide.
“The court agrees with SSC that the allowances comply with Section 1 of the Labour Act,” said the judge.
Section 1 of the Labour Act states that any person performing duties and rendering services is entitled to receive a remuneration.
However, the church argued that there is no employment relationship as the members have voluntarily devoted their lives to serving God, and carrying out their duties is merely a lifestyle and not a job, even though they failed to explain why they registered themselves as an employer.
“The congregation cannot pick and choose which laws should apply to them and which may not … it is evident that an employment relationship exists between the two parties,” explained Unengu, adding that the church cannot get a free card just because it is doing the work of God.
Johannesburg, South Africa: Special preaching campaign by the brothers of the Hospital Information ServicesBy Queen Esther
Johannesburg, South-Africa - special preaching in the underground....
Brothers from committee, a link to the hospitals, by a Congress and for Anästhesiologie. CLINICAL STRATEGIES !
By Guest Nicole
From Ugandan camp to Lowell, a Congolese family starts again
HARDSHIP, AND HOPE: Sendegeya Bayavuge joins his family, newly arrived from Africa, on the porch of their apartment in Lowell. With him, from left, are Dusenge Tuyishime, 14, Maria Uwimana, 16, Nyirakabanza Muhawenimana, 20, Sarah Nyiramana Bayavuge, 6, their mother, Vanisi Uzamukunda, 43, and Lea Nyiramahoro, 11. See a slide show at lowellsun.com. (SUN / JOHN LOVE)
LOWELL -- The Congolese family's home in Lowell is sparsely decorated, a sign of their recent arrival.
There's no art on the walls, no photos of smiling faces, no toys cluttering the floors. However, there is furniture and food and the basic necessities for a fresh start in the United States.
The family of seven -- father Sendegeya Bayavuge, 52, mother Vanisi Uzamukunda, 43, and five children ages 6-20 -- arrived in early February with help from a resettlement agency. The family had spent the past two decades at a Ugandan refugee camp after fleeing violent unrest in their native Democratic Republic of Congo, a country located in Central Africa.
"I see America as good and I can live in America," said Sendegeya through an
interpreter on a recent Monday afternoon, his hands clasped together as he sat in the corner of the living room. "I see here they have security. The way I was (living in Uganda), I was always in fear ... with security, I find everything good."
Maria Uwimana, 16, sat on a carpet beside her father in the family's second-floor apartment. Three of her siblings, sisters Nyirakabanza Muhawenimana, 20, and Lea Nyiramahoro, 11, and brother Dusenge Tuyishime, 14, sat across the room on a worn, cream-colored couch. The family's "princess," 6-year-old Sarah Nyiramana Bayavuge, nestled onto her mother's lap.
The family was spared in late January from President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration, which in part suspended the refugee admissions program for 120 days. Vanisi recalled hearing about the order as she waited with her family in a hotel for their flight to the United States.
"He said he don't want the guests. We lost the hope to come," Vanisi said through the interpreter. "After the situation changed and we came here, we were happy.
"I'm really grateful that they were not immediately impacted by the proposed suspension of the resettlement program," said Cheryl Hamilton, director of the Lowell site of the International Institute of New England, the agency assigned to resettle the family in partnership with the State Department.
A refugee is someone who has fled from his or her country and cannot return due to fears of persecution based on religion, race, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular group and, according to the State Department. Since 1975 the U.S. has welcomed over 3 million refugees from all over the world. The city of Lowell has received 508 Iraqis, 220 Somalis, 31 Syrians, and 7 Sudanese during the 10-year period from 2007 through January 2017, according to federal data analyzed by the Associated Press.
Hamilton said about half of her staff's cases are refugees from the Congo since the U.S. government committed to accepting 25,000 of them across the country. According to 2009-2013 data on Massachusetts refugee arrivals from the Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants, 25 percent of 11,155 refugees admitted in the state hailed from the Congo.
Journey to a new life
It took over 24 hours for Sendegeya, Vanisi and their family to arrive in Lowell. They first stopped in Manchester, N.H. before being brought by resettlement workers to the light yellow multi-family house they now call home.
"In the beginning, we had a fear to fly because it was our first time to go on the airplane," Sendegeya said.
daughters, Maria Uwimana, 16. (SUN / JOHN LOVE)
"After that, we realized we are with other people."
He and Vanisi are bracing for the long road ahead. The children are still waiting to be enrolled in school, and the family as a whole is still struggling with having left their eldest child behind in Uganda. They don't have immediate family here and don't speak English. The language barrier, both parents admit, is a big obstacle they hope to overcome so they can have a better chance at finding jobs to support their family. Back in Uganda, Sendegeya worked as a farmer.
"I think that anybody moving into a new community, you're having to rebuild your entire social network and, with that, obviously being less familiar with employment opportunities or navigating transportation," Hamilton said. "Essentially, you are rebuilding every area of your life."
The United States allocates $925 per individual for the first three months in the country, according to Hamilton. Like with other refugee families the International Institute of New England helps resettle, Sendegeya and Vanisi's family will have access to integration services for the first year and be eligible to come back to the organization for employment services for up to a year and benefit from citizenship services for five years. Hamilton said her staff also offers other programs, such as after-school homework help.
"Obviously, the federal financial assistance is lean and it's remarkable the resiliency and the ability of families to navigate and overcome these challenges," Hamilton said.
Vanisi said her greatest fear involves protecting her children. Recently, while the children played outside, the mother said a neighbor warned them to be quiet and threatened to call the police.
"We saw our neighbor just coming to give us a warning without saying 'Good morning' or 'Welcome,'" Vanisi recalled. "It was just a warning -- 'Kids, shut up!'"
The incident was traumatic for Vanisi, who said her family now spends most of their time inside their home.
"In Uganda, it's different because in Uganda you can play and dance," she said. "Not that kind of warning."
There have been tiny victories through the murkiness. The family found a market with familiar foods and established a friendship with fellow Jehovah's Witnesses in nearby Chelmsford. Twice a week, members of the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses pick up the family for meetings.
The four daughters later walked up a flight of stairs to proudly show off their rooms -- Nyirakabanza and Maria in one, and Lea and Sarah in the other. Both rooms are bare except for neatly made twin-sized beds. In Lea and Sarah's closet, there are clothes and several pairs of shoes. The family's only son, Dusenge, has his own room. He remained quiet for the duration of the family's interview and smiled shyly when asked about his thoughts on his new home.
"Right now, what I like and what I have desired, I have found it," he said through the interpreter, his hands fiddling with a pale pink throw. "Everything is OK for me."
Ask the eldest, Nyirakabanza and Maria, what they dream of becoming someday and their eyes light up. Both said they hope to become nurses to help others.
"I'm happy here, but not yet," Nyirakabanza said, later clarifying that she is still sorting out her feelings about the family's new life in America. "I will be happy and confirm the happiness when I see my achievement. My goal is to go to school to continue my education -- to become someone self-sufficient. If I achieve that, I will be very very happy."
SWEET HOME: Sarah Nyiramana Bayavuge, 6, and her sister Lea Nyiramahoro, 11, in their new bedroom. The family was spared in late January from President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration. (SUN / JOHN LOVE)
Paynesville — The Jehovah Witnesses Congregation in Liberia has denied reports in the public that they have condemned the voters registration exercise.
In an interview with FrontPage Africa on Wednesday, March 1, 2017, Thomas Nyain, communications officer, of the Jehovah Witnesses Congregation in Liberia said at no time did the organization condemn the exercise since it began.
"We teach the Bible and we encourage people to apply Bible principles to better their lives," he said.
"We don't get involved in political activities so anybody that who say that witnesses in Liberia condemned the voters registration exercise, then I don't know where do they get their information from, because I speak for Jehovah witnesses in Liberia and since I don't utter these words, it means that I am not aware of such information. The witnesses in Liberia have a central media outlet, and I am the one that speak for them.
According to Thomas Nyain the information is misleading and far from the truth, something he described as fabrication to mark the image of his noble institution.
He said one of the major challenges being faced by the organization is reaching the gospel out to Liberians in the remotest part of the country.
"One of our major challenges is to get to the deeper part of Liberia, where people haven't heard anything about the Bible, not sitting and worrying about fabrication from people who are not aware of activities. We will be happy if everyone in Liberia accepts the truth about the Bible through our teaching.
He called on every Liberian to take interest in reading their biblical materials that have been translated in the various dialects.
By The Librarian
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Nairobi, Kenya at a recent convention
I’m pretty sure the white guys use these clothes in daily life as well. It’s not just to play dress up at a convention.
At our next convention in New England I plan to go dressed up as a Pilgrim who literally just walked off the Mayflower. ;-)
Why is it we only play dress up in other countries? Shouldn’t someone in New York show up dressed like George Washington?
It’s only fair to all of us in the USA.
just sayin’ ;-)
Update: I just found some photos of other actual Kenyans attending the assembly in their normal suits.
I think that the 1958 Yankee stadium convention was different because people came to NY dressed in their normal public attire from around the world.
Now New Yorkers go around the world dressing up in folkloric attire.
So… the morale of the story is…..
Wear whatever clothing you want nowadays. ;-)
From exploring the wilds of Namibia to finding a new heaven in Nicaragua, the best outdoor adventure holidays to take in 2017By Guest Nicole
There's fresh impetus to explore Namibia's startling landscapes this year CREDIT:FOTOLIA
6 JANUARY 2017 • 12:31PM
If your ambition this year is to try new things and explore new places, you're in luck. From Nicaragua to Tajikistan, a number of hitherto "undiscovered" destinations are increasingly catering to discerning holidaymakers, with a host of new resorts opening and experiences launching over the year to come. Read below for more on the most exciting outdoor adventures to be enjoyed around the world in 2017, or for something more sedate see our guides to 2017's best wellness and fitness breaks; 2017's best luxury beach holidays; the year's best yachting and sailing holidays; and the best cities to visit over the next 12 months.
The Desert Circuit: Namibia Exclusive Lodges
The four new luxury lodges on the Namibia Exclusive circuit are located in some of the most remote and beautiful northern parts of the country, each designed by architect Greg Scott and built of local materials that reflect the region’s landscapes and cultural traditions.
Sorris Sorris Lodge in Damaraland has been built into huge granite boulders scattered across the desert landscape, its modern African rammed-earth structures and pool offering views over the Ugab River and the mountains of the Brandberg Massif.
Sorris Sorris Lodge
Omatandeka Lodge is surrounded by vast plains inhabited by the Himba people, table-top mountains and a vital wildlife corridor used by mountain zebra, oryx and endangered black rhino, while Sheya Shuushona Lodge, on the northern boundary of Etosha National Park, is surrounded by photogenic salt pans that change colour with the seasons and turn into a lake in the rainy season.
Finally, Xaudum Lodge, the most recent addition, is surrounded by the sand dunes of the Kalahari, home to some 3,000 elephants. All four lodges are located in areas with indigenous communities and contribute funds so these people can continue to live in traditional ways on their ancestors’ land.
The Explorations Company offers a nine-night safari, staying at three Namibia Exclusive lodges, from £8,985 per person including flights, air transfers, full board and guiding.
The Italian Castle: Castello di Ugento, Puglia
There are few buildings in Europe in which guests can stay above a Norman keep, dine beneath 17th-century Baroque frescoes and wander around a garden in which Bronze Age artefacts have been found. In April, on the southern heel of Italy, the (rather wonderfully named) d’Amore family will open their restored thousand-year-old Castello di Ugento to paying guests for the first time (doubles from £260).
Visitors can relax within walled gardens, in which more than 100 medicinal and aromatic plants are grown for the kitchen and spa; admire the frescoes painted in 1694 to portray the noble family’s history; sample local wines in an ancient cistern-turned-cellar; and take cookery lessons in a wing turned by the Culinary Institute of America into its first European school.
A maximum of 18 guests will sleep in stone-walled rooms with high, star-vaulted ceilings and views over Ugento’s rooftops, and they will feast on Puglian favourites cooked by Milanese chef Odette Fada, whose refined cuisine at the renowned Rex Il Ristorante in Los Angeles and San Domenico NY made her name as one of America’s finest Italian chefs. The nearest beaches are two miles away and Baroque towns such as Lecce are a short drive from the castle.
The Urban Forest: Aman Shanghai
Aman’s latest property in China (its fourth) must be one of its most anticipated to date. The Shanghai retreat (rates not yet available) is a picture of leafy tranquility – and full of surprises. If a visitor were to drop into the 100-acre property, planted with thousand-year-old camphor trees and interspersed with historic Ming- and Qing-dynasty houses, they’d never believe that they were within easy reach of buzzy downtown Shanghai. Neither the forest nor village are native to this area; both were moved here over the past 10 years from Jiangxi, some 500 miles southwest, by Ma Dadong, a pioneering businessman, when the building of a reservoir threatened their survival.
Now that the painstaking replanting (which took three years) and the building of the hotel are complete, the 37 villas in the new sanctuary are being decorated with original beams, floors, sculptures and carvings from the uplifted village homes. Kerry Hill, the project’s architect, has taken care to reflect traditional Chinese culture while blending in contemporary comforts and natural tones of earth, moss and creamy whites. Guests can take day trips to Shanghai, walk in the forest, sample Eastern cuisine, or relax in the spa, beside the two pools or in the Nan Shu Fang contemplation garden.
The South American Sleeper: The Belmond Andean Explorer, Peru
For the first time in May 2017, travellers will be able not only to traverse the Andes in one of the most luxurious trains on earth, but to sleep overnight on one. The Belmond Andean Explorer has been built to carry up to 68 passengers in en-suite cabins decorated by the South African designer Inge Moore in contemporary light woods and comforting alpaca-wool colours.
Each of the train’s cars is fitted with expansive windows to frame views of the Andean plains, mountains and grand architecture, including the Unesco World Heritage Site of Arequipa. Although another two trains already operate in this area – Belmond’s Hiram Bingham, which offers day trips to Machu Picchu, and the more traditional Inca Princess – this is the first modern luxury train to offer trips from Cusco to Lake Titicaca and Arequipa, on one- and two-night journeys. Chefs from the Hotel Monasterio in Cusco will serve modern Peruvian cuisine in two dining cars; guests can also enjoy spacious lounge and observation cars, and an open deck. Doubles from £738 , all-inclusive, for one night.
The Gorilla Camp: Bisate Lodge, Rwanda
One of the key trends in Africa in 2017 is the growth of camps that offer both sustainable luxury and adventure. Hence Wilderness Safaris’ decision to open Bisate Lodge in June as a luxury base for tracking the 10 habituated gorilla groups in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park (doubles from £1,762 full board, excluding gorilla permits).
The lodge, raised high above the forest floor in the amphitheatre of an eroded volcanic cone, has been designed by architect Nick Plewman to echo the spherical, thatched structures that dot the hills, as well as the layout of traditional Rwandan palaces. The interiors by Caline Williams-Wynn have been inspired by the rich detail of Rwandan textiles, many of which are made using a technique called imigongo, an ancient art form incorporating geometric shapes.
When the first guests arrive, they will be able not only to track gorillas, but to hike to Dian Fossey’s grave and her former research station at Karisoke, to trek to the top of a nearby volcano, and then to relax in the extensively reforested gardens.
The Jungle Retreat: Nekupe Sporting Resort and Retreat, Nicaragua
Nicaragua’s first luxe mountain resort sits in the lush landscape of Nandaime, just 40 minutes’ drive from the pretty colonial city of Granada. Nekupe – or heaven, in the indigenous Chorotega language – was designed with the help of a feng shui architect to have the highest energy flow and least environmental impact possible, and the four freestanding villas and four expansive suites, with king-sized beds, made-for-sharing bathtubs and alfresco showers, are decorated in earth tones and warm woods that echo the serene setting (doubles from £720, full board). Floor-to-ceiling windows frame views over Mombacho volcano’s perfect cone, and wraparound terraces are perfect for sipping daiquiris, before farm-to-table feasts of nuevo-Nicaraguan cuisine.
Nekupe will provide access to Nicaragua's underexplored nature reserves
The surrounding nature reserve, which echoes with the sounds of primates and toucans, can be explored on ATVs, as well as on paths created for hikers, bikers and horseback riders, or on zip wires, which soar above the forest canopy. For those not expending energy on target-shooting, tennis and yoga, there is an infinity pool and a spa.
The Cook Ski Spot: Lech, Austria
Size matters to ski resorts, so the hotly anticipated coronation of Ski Arlberg as Austria’s largest contiguous ski area is big news indeed. Encompassing eight villages, including big hitters St Anton, Lechand Zürs, Ski Arlberg is already one of the best-known ski areas in the Alps. But now its four new lifts are open, linking the entire area to deliver 109 miles of pistes (three more than Val d’Isère), Ski Arlberg will join the ranks of the world’s über resorts.
New developments have given Lech a leg up
The four connected lifts, known as the Flexenbahn, will place Lech at the epicentre of the ski area (stealing some thunder from St Anton). While expanding its lifts, Lech has also been consolidating its position as Austria’s leading town for luxury ski chalets. In December – hot on the heels of properties like the Aurelio Clubhouse, Chalet N, Chalet 1597 and Überhaus, which have raised the luxury bar in recent years – Severin’s Alpine Retreat will open its doors. The nine-suite hotel will be fitted with only the best: Minotti furnishings, a spa with an indoor infinity pool and hypoxic chamber for altitude training, and a ski room with bespoke Indigo kit.
Guests can take over the chalet, for free rein over the suites, restaurant, capacious spa and fire-lit lounges, or plump for The Residence: a sleek four-bedroom private apartment spanning two floors with a professional kitchen, cinema, bar and outdoor hot tub. The Oxford Ski Company offers a week for two people at Severin’s Alpine Retreat from £6,440, including transfers and flights.
The Rugged Destination: Pamir Mountains, Tajikistan
Tajikistan was the second-fastest growing tourist destination in the world in 2015, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). Which is why in 2017 Edge Expeditions will be running a two-week Luxury Tajikistan tour of the country’s spectacular Pamir Mountains: one the most diverse, wild, exhilarating and least-explored corners of the planet.
With a team of expert guides, a maximum of eight guests will traverse the raw wilderness by either four-wheel-drive vehicles, with a driver, or motorbikes. Journeying along the legendary Pamir Highway, travellers will spend days exploring azure mountain lakes, hidden valleys, ancient ruins and high mountain passes that very few outsiders ever get to see.
The trip starts off at a five-star hotel in the capital, Dushanbe, while on the road the ground crew will prepare yurt camps with hot showers, comfortable beds, Egyptian cotton sheets and gourmet meals prepared by the expedition’s private chef. Along the way, both British and Tajik guides will interpret the layered history of the region, while astronomers with telescopes will also be on hand to explore some of the least light-polluted night skies in the world.
Edge Expeditions is offering a 14-day Luxury Tajikistan journey by four-wheel-drive or motorcycle, from £9,495 full board, starting and ending at Dushanbe, including transfers, motorcycle rental or vehicle (with driver), back-up vehicles, guides and medic, but excluding international flights.
By Guest Nicole
Robert Fleming comes from a long line of Sault Jehovah's Witnesses
Robert Fleming travels the deserts, jungles, savannahs, and waters of West Africa hoping people will see what he sees in the Bible.
Fleming is a Sault born-and-raised fourth generation Jehovah’s Witness who left the area when he was 24 and came back for the first time in 20 years last week to visit family and attend a regional annual conference of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In an interview with SooToday Fleming talked a bit about his family’s history and about his life preaching in West Africa.
Fleming’s great grandfather John Fleming came from Scotland to the Sault in the early 1900s and when the Spanish flu hit the area he got a job at the cemetery on Fourth Line.
One day he was literally standing body-deep in a grave he’d just dug out when a Jehovah’s Witness approached him and commented, “you know, that’s hell you’re standing in."
John Fleming was puzzled and, after through conversation learned about how Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in an afterlife in the same way other Christians might imagine it and other interpretations the group has of the Bible.
This meeting led to a full-blown conversion and three generations later John Fleming’s descendants are still practicing Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“My earliest memories are me going door to door as a kingdom preacher,” said Robert Fleming who after his father, grandfather, and great grandfather is continuing the tradition.
“Third Line, Carpin Beach Road, Leighs Bay Road. I don’t know if the old-timers are still there or if I’d even remember them. I was very young,” said Robert Fleming.
Fleming left the Sault in 1985 to preach in Quebec and in 1995 he went to the Jehovah’s Witnesses Missionary School in Paterson, NY.
After five months of training there Fleming flew to West Africa where for the last 20 years he’s been preaching for Jehovah out of Douala, Cameroon, which at 3 million people is the country’s largest city.
“I was nervous to go, boy oh boy. I was there one week and I was checking out the price of airplane tickets to go back. Is that too honest?”
Fleming said that Cameroon is not only immensely diverse geographically — it's often called “Africa in miniature” — but also culturally as the country has roughly 200 tribes and dialects and a range of religions that include indigenous beliefs and assorted versions of Christianity and Islam.
“There’s a hundred times more religions than Canada. Every neighbourhood has its own church because they want to worship God how they think God should be worshipped,” he said.
Fleming said Cameroonians are incredibly religious people and that the Christians among them will often carry a Bible around on their phones and regularly consult it.
Fleming said the more traditional African religions that he’s encountered don’t talk about “God” or “gods” so much as they talk about “forces of nature” but that these forces seem to be roughly equivalent to the idea of “gods”.
Most Africans, regardless of their professed religion he said, continue to follow a tradition of ancestry worship, where they believe that their dead relatives are still influencing the world and helping or harming their living descendants based on how pleased they feel.
“They’ll put out salt or palm oil, things like that, to appease, say, their dead grandfather and if something bad happens in the family they might say it’s their grandfather that has done it to them. The Bamelike Tribe in the west of Cameroon, after the grandfather has been dead for a year, will actually dig up the skull and they’ll have a small alter in the home and when they have to make big decisions they’ll consulate with him.”
In his time there, Fleming has travelled by canoe and bush-bike to get to remote tribes in the jungle, like a tribe of pygmies living in grass huts, or to secluded islands off the coast of the continent, but he never goes more than a days journey.
Fleming said Jehovah’s Witnesses have been in Cameroon since the late 1930s and even though they were banned from 1970 until 1993, largely for not participating in local government because it is against their faith, even tribes like the pygmies are quite familiar with his group when they arrive.
As a preacher, Fleming said he follows the standard Jehovah’s witness preaching technique of basically asking people what they think about a topic, then introducing what the Bible teaches about that topic, and then hopefully getting a person out to a bible study group where they can learn more and potentially feel compelled to join the faith.
But unlike other Christian religions, he said, to be a Jehovah’s Witness a person cannot partially follow their old faith, and in the case of Cameroon, that means locals have to leave their ancestry worship behind — something which can be difficult for many when, like Christmas here, it's not just a religious practice but also a social one.
“When we do preach to them and they read the Bible and realize ‘Hey my grandfather is just sleeping’ that means they have to leave these traditions that obviously contradict what the scriptures say, to serve Jehovah.”
Fleming said that when he arrived in 1996 there were about 20,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in the country and that now there are about 40,000.
He said many people in Cameroon see the positives of the faith, the health benefits it tends to lead to like stopping smoking or reducing AIDS, and actually approach his group to set up Jehovah’s Witnesses centres, or ‘kingdom halls’, in their community.
“Many people in Cameroon make the change. I wouldn’t have stayed there for 20 years if we weren’t having wonderful success,” he said.
By Bible Speaks
REGIONAL CONVENTION IN CAMEROON, AFRICA ASAMBLEA REGIONAL EN CAMERUN, AFRICA
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