Jehovah s Witnesses in a Catholic Country / Les Témoins de Jéhovah dans un pays catholique - article ; n°1 ; vol.50, pg 89-110
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Jehovah's Witnesses in a Catholic Country / Les Témoins de Jéhovah dans un pays catholique - article ; n°1 ; vol.50, pg 89-110

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Archives des sciences sociales des religions - Année 1980 - Volume 50 - Numéro 1 - Pages 89-110
22 pages
Source : Persée ; Ministère de la jeunesse, de l’éducation nationale et de la recherche, Direction de l’enseignement supérieur, Sous-direction des bibliothèques et de la documentation.



Publié par
Publié le 01 janvier 1980
Nombre de lectures 21
Langue Français
Poids de l'ouvrage 2 Mo


M. Karel Dobbelaere
Bryan R. Wilson
Jehovah's Witnesses in a Catholic Country / Les Témoins de
Jéhovah dans un pays catholique
In: Archives des sciences sociales des religions. N. 50/1, 1980. pp. 89-110.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Dobbelaere Karel, Wilson Bryan R. Jehovah's Witnesses in a Catholic Country / Les Témoins de Jéhovah dans un pays
catholique. In: Archives des sciences sociales des religions. N. 50/1, 1980. pp. 89-110.
doi : 10.3406/assr.1980.2206 Sc soc des Rel. 1980 50/1 juillet-septembre) 89-110
Survey of Nine Belgian Congregations
Le mouvement des Témoins de Jehovah est présent en Belgique
depuis le début du siècle Actuellement il compte dans ce pays
environ vingt mille membres
Dans cet article les exposent la méthode et présentent les
résultats chiffrés une enquête par questionnaire effectuée auprès
de neuf groupes parlant trois langues différentes et situés dans trois
zones géographiques distinctes Des données ont été recueillies
entre autres sur appartenance sociale des Témoins leur niveau
instruction affiliation religieuse précédente le nombre enfants
et de jeunes au sein des groupes ainsi que sur les techniques de
recrutement et le degré intégration des membres la société globale
noter influence particulièrement importante du mouvement parmi
la population italienne immigrée
Since the Second World War three sectarian movements have achieved
considerable growth in continental Europe Of these Witnesses have
received perhaps most attention from scholars 1) and it has become apparent
that this movement has acquired following even in countries in which Protes
tantism has never been particularly successful In Belgium country with
population that is about 85 to 90 Catholic the Witnesses today number
about 20000 people Of this number about 14 have been recruited from among
fimmigrants to Belgium the majority of these converts being Italians Our enquiry
sought to identify Witnesses in conventional sociological terms and paid particular
attention to the participation in the movement of immigrants This paper is
-divided into short section on the history of the Witnesses in Belgium an
indication of research procedures sub-divided presentation of the principal
findings from analysis of questionnaires and concluding comments on the recruit
ment involvement and social integration of Witnesses
The other movements are the Mormons and the Pentecostalists On the Witnesses
in Europe see James BECKFORD 1975) GEBHARD 1971) Q.J MUNTERS 1971) Régis
IDERiCQüEBOURG 1977) and Bryan WILSON 1978a)
The movement today known generally as Witnesses and more
officially as the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society dates from the and
is the most forthright exponent of biblical prophecy in the adventist tradition
The central teachings of Witnesses aver that the end of this dispensation
is at hand that Kingdom is soon to be instituted on earth and that it is
the duty of Witnesses to proclaim this message and to bring it to the
attention of all mankind The complete establishment of Kingdom will be
preceded by Armageddon in which death and destruction will occur on wide
scale but thereafter the survivors of Armageddon will together with the resurrected
dead inherit peaceful and blissful life on earth in preparation for final testing
before the end of the millennium 2)
The Watchtower Society in Brooklyn New York publishes literature to
make men aware of this divine scheme of things Those who accept the duty
of publishing the news of Kingdom hence publishers call themselves
Witnesses and they are organized in congregations at local assembly
halls each of which is known as Kingdom Hall Witnesses meet usually three times
week two of these occasions are each divided into two separate meetings of
an duration each The remaining meeting is an occasion for Bible Study
held privately the home of member The meetings provide occasions for
instruction in the Bible in methods of expounding its teaching and in techniques
of public speaking engaging others in conversation and generally of witnessing
to the Truth Biblical exhortations concerning moral comportment are also
expounded and the ethical principles on which life is to be lived are the subject
of talks and sometimes of question and answer sessions based on articles in
The Watchtower
publisher as an ordinary member of the movement is called is expected
to spend whatever time he can in preaching work that is in door-to-door
canvassing Some members become pioneers in which case the expectation is that
they will undertake this work for 90 hours month Pioneers often take part-time
jobs and live on smaller incomes in order to engage in this work of witnessing
Auxiliary or temporary pioneers may work for shorter periods in which they
undertake to do 60 hours of canvassing month Full-time agents for the Society
known as Special Pioneers live on very small incomes and devote 140 hours
month usually to work of this kind unless they have special assignments in
mission fields or in the branch offices of the organization Local congregation
leaders are elders who rotate in office) and they sometimes called
servants divide among themselves on uniform and instituted basis the work
of maintaining and supervising the congregation and its meetings and organizing
the systematic publishing work in their assigned territory These servants have
usually younger assistants All congregational roles are confined to men but
women undertake witnessing work and may become pioneers or special pioneers
For fuller account of the teachings and organization of the movement see
J.A BECKFORD 1975) see also for historical aspects of the teaching Timothy
WHITE 1967) and the useful if somewhat less neutral study by Allan ROGERSON 1969)
Although Pastor Charles Taze Russell founder of the Watchtower movement
visited Belgium 1891 regular preaching of the Watchtower message began
Belgium in Charleroi only in 1901 Growth was initially slow but by 1912 seven
small study classes existed all of them in the Liege and Charleroi areas with
total attendance of about seventy people The First World War decimated the
movement five members remained in 1918 Ten years later twenty-eight publishers
were at work and branch of the movement opened in Brussels in 1929 The was strongest in Liege and among miners Limburg by 1932
there were 64 publishers in Belgium of whom 22 were pioneers By 1935 thirteen congregations of which notably three were Polish-speaking
The appeal of the movement to immigrants was evident then as now
The movement encountered various difficulties the Minister of Justice
expelled one member of Polish origin in 1934 the Ministry of Economic Affairs
for time asserted that door-to-door canvasser needed license
and in 1938 the movement experienced some hostility from the Catholic Church
perhaps because Witnesses were at that time refusing to undertake military
service and in March 1940 the literature was banned Under
the Nazis Witnesses were persecuted Several were sent to concentration camps
and at least one was executed but mimeographed magazines were circulated and
the members even succeeded in getting 6000 copies of their publication Enfants
printed by Erasme de Bruxelles The movement grew in the war years and in 1945
there were 747 publishers in Belgium
The police surveillance continued until 1952 and the government expelled
more members in the early 1950s but growth continued 3000 publishers in 1952
and 7000 by 1960 In 1976 there were 277 congregations 118 French-speaking
114 Dutch-speaking 28 Italian-speaking Greek Spanish English and
Hungarian Portuguese and Turkish groups in Brussels The growth of immigrant
groups induced the movement to start teaching programme Italian and Greek
immigrants were taught either French or Dutch although this proved difficult for
older people To discover how many Italian publishers there were the movement
organized special assembly in Italian in Charleroi in 1965 and found that there
were so many that separate Italian-speaking congregations were then formed
Subsequently the Society had to face different problem the children of immi
grants were by the mid 1970s learning Dutch or French and were often unable
to follow meetings in their mother tongue which was the only language in which
their parents could follow In consequence some congregations organized schools
for Greek children to learn Greek and encouraged the parents of Italian and
Spanish to teach their children at home with books provided by the
Society so that parents and children should not be separated in attending Kingdom
Hall meetings In general the Society has been pleased by the result of these
language-teaching policies and some young people have since become public
speakers in the lang

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