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18,000 join together at Norway's biggest Bible convention - double-page picture spread

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An article in Aftenposten, Norway's largest printed newspaper by circulation.

18,000 join together at Norway's biggest Bible convention

Aftenposten (Norway), Monday, July 9, 2018 - front page (via Google Translate)

Tens of thousands gathered at the Bible meeting in the Telenor Arena

Aftenposten (Norway), Monday, July 9, 2018 - pages 26 & 27 (via Google Translate)

PICTURE: It's not every day 18,000 smartly-dressed people vote in the hymn "He's shouting" (??) at the Telenor Arena.

Never before have so many been gathered for Bible teaching in Baerum, according to the organizer.

"Why do not we have to give up when we encounter difficulties?" Asks the leader from the small scene in the middle of Telenor Arena.

From the stand, 18,500 spectators follow the big screens in the hall. One side is set to the English version of the discussion about the Bible.

"It is the highlight of the summer," says Andreas Hansen from Drammen, who is one of 60,000 who visited Jehovah's Witnesses at Fornebu this weekend.

Community feeling

The whole rest of the family has visited Alta to eastern Norway to attend the greatest gathering of Jehovah's Witnesses in Norway.

"It's a party and a holiday, then you're looking forward to dressing up," said Hansen, who has taken the lead for the occasion.

"We have become familiar with people from very many countries, it is a very common sense," says wife Kristin L. Hansen.

In total, nearly 60,000 visitors have been to the Telenor arena just outside Oslo since Friday.

Overall at Ullevål in 1965

Jehovah's Witnesses have more than eight million members in 240 countries. In addition, children and others who are not actively involved are coming. In Norway, there are almost 12,000 so-called "active publishers" distributed in 167 congregations.

"Stevnet is open and free for anyone who wants to participate," says Tom Frisvold, press contact for the event.

Every summer, the witnesses gather together in Norway, but for the first time since 1965 they have gathered for an international joint event in Oslo.

At that time, the stadium was Ullevål stadium, the day after a national match. Thus, the witnesses had to spend the entire night clearing up the 7,000 foreign guests, they wrote on their webpages.

Meeting with packed lunches

3,500 participants were invited from the United States, the UK, the Netherlands, Nepal, Japan, Australia, Sweden and Finland. For the sake of efficiency, the Norwegians have taken a packed lunch, while the foreign delegates receive food packages.

"They take good care of us. I get tears in my eyes, there is so much love, "said Erica Brown from Pennsylvania, USA.

When the congregations were invited to attend the poll in Norway, she submitted an application.

"I've been waiting for this since October," said Brown.

The married couple Sadanori and Kayoko Fujito Nakatsu from Kobe in Japan visit Norway for the first time to attend the poll.

"It's a beautiful country. We are here to meet other witnesses, they say.

But there will also be some time for sightseeing after the event.

"We have been to Holmenkollen, and Monday we will go to the museum," says Sadanori Nakatsu.

BOX: Facts - Jehovah's Witnesses

Established in the United States in the 1870s, first as a Bible study group, then as a religious community led by Charles Taze Russell.

View Jehovah (God) as the Bible's true author and Bible as God's infallible word and the only necessary guide in all the questions of life. The most important activity is Bible studies.

By 2016, Jehovah's Witnesses had 8,340,982 members in 240 countries.

Those who are counted as members are only those who "actively proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God every month. They may be baptized as Jehovah's Witnesses or not baptized but qualified to participate in the preaching work."

In Norway there are 11,652 preachers who provide Biblical teaching in 167 congregations. The members gather twice a week in the assembly houses called "Kingdom Hall".

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