I have an essay on my system about the Mexico/Malawi issues that I found a few months ago which explains it very well. It is long, but well worth reading. Unfortunately I don't know the author of this work, but whoever wrote it, did a very good job. I have not personally wrote a letter to the Society on the issue, as I am afraid of showing up my apostasy, but I have read old posts on here of people who did, and the common theme seems to be that they NEVER respond. This is also mentioned in the essay. I guess they see it as an indefensible issue. I have offered Thirdwitness the chance to debate these issues with me, but he has ignored every request. His silence says a lot.
Here is the essay:
In 1964, 1967, 1972 and 1975, waves of intense, cruel and barbaric persecution hit Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs) in the East African country of Malawi which until 1993 had been ruled with an iron fist by Dr Hastings (Kamuzu) Banda for over 30 years - the self styled 'President for Life' - although now currently on trial for murdering 4 cabinet ministers in 1983. He was finally thrown out in 1993 by long overdue free elections.
Witnesses had, in keeping with headquarters policy, refused to buy a 'party card' for Banda's 'Malawi Congress Party' as they felt it compromised political neutrality. [JWs have nothing to do with the military, defence or politics] Some may be puzzled at this because in Malawi then there was no choice and only one party - Banda's. One could logically reason that any citizen anywhere is a member of a country or state or government - the words citizen, state, political, government - all stem from same Latin source. Membership of such was automatic and there was no need to get involved with party politics, especially as there were no other political parties in Malawi!. Romans 13:7 demonstrates the early Christians attitude to secular government.
Anyway, the persecution was nevertheless needless and cruel beyond belief. Thousands of Malawi witnesses had their homes burned and crops destroyed. Thousands of the women and young girls were raped and abused often by gangs of thugs. Many witnesses suffered and died because of their refusal to purchase the party card. Again and again it happened. Accounts of this terrible suffering was regularly and repeatedly reported in the Watchtower and Awake magazines. Millions of letters were sent to Banda from other witnesses all over the world, protesting about this barbaric treatment. And rightly so.
At the same time, many miles away in Mexico, the reports from Malawi were being read with much unease.
In Mexico it was the custom for the brothers to 'make a payment' ( bribe) to government officials in order to obtain a 'Identity Cartilla for Military Service'. This was normally obtained by carrying out military service training on a weekly basis for one year. Bribing officials and obtaining the Cartilla (or certificate) without completing the training, was an illegal, although quite common practice. The Cartilla is needed in order to obtain a passport. The Cartilla puts one effectively in the 'first reserves' of the military. The Mexican branch of the society had previously written to the headquarters in 1960, questioning whether the bribing of officials to obtain the Cartilla was acceptable. The reply was that it was and up to the conscience of the brothers themselves, and that the society should not be worried about it. The society need not get involved.
The reports in the magazines about the abuses in Malawi and the reason for them, caused the Mexican branch to again question headquarters about it in 1970. The reply was that 'there was nothing more to add', and that the Mexican branch were to leave things as they were. A brother in Mexico was free to pay a bribe and would not be punished by the society. (A non JW reader should note that this is not a case of 'general religious tolerance' - the society is quick to rule on a variety of other issues and penalties can be severe. For example - a JW who occasionally smoked or celebrated a birthday or Christmas, would be disfellowshiped (excommunicated) and other JWs including family would not be allowed to associate, with him or her) Consider the situation then:
1..'Alternative service' is where a country's government allows alternative work in lieu of military service (or conscription) for persons who, for religious or other reasons, conscientiously object to it.
The official WTS ruling at that time on 'alternative service' was that it was totally unacceptable for Jehovah's Witnesses, even if the alternative work offered had no military connections . This was still the case in 1980 (and may even still be now) Brothers in lands where there was compulsory conscription were expected to 'serve their time' in prison for refusing such service, like thousands before them. The alternative would be disfellowshipping.
2.. Brothers in Mexico were bribing officials to obtain a military Cartilla, effectively putting them in the first reserves of the army. The headquarters society was fully aware of this
3.Brothers and sisters in Malawi were being murdered, beaten, raped and tortured for their adherence to (the WTS interpretation of) Christian neutrality and the refusal to buy a (single state) party card , involving no bribing or illegality.
Why the double standards with such devastating consequences for the poor brothers and sisters in Malawi? Or what about the brothers in some countries spending years of young lives in prison?
If 'substitutes' are wrong in principle, what about BLOOD substitutes - which witnesses willingly accept? What is the difference? Rules of men?
I hope that the reason is nothing to do with land and property. How so? Consider the wider circumstances that pertained in Mexico.
Relatively recently, in the Watchtower of January 1st 1990, page 7, it was announced that the status of the organisation in Mexico had been changed in 1989.
The brothers and sisters in Mexico could now for the first time have prayers at the meetings, sing songs, and use the Bible when preaching. The article spoke of the 'tears of joy' brought by this 'thrilling change'.
The Yearbook 1990 page 10 also reported this change. It said 'On April 1st a change in the status and organisational procedures of JWs took place in Mexico: Prayer may now be freely offered at all congregation meetings, and the bible may be used in field service. A woman active in a Catholic Bible Study program said about the witnesses new religious freedom: 'If they left us speechless before, now that they are opening the bible at the doors, we are lost!' [emphasis added - note the inference of the word 'freedom']
(The undisputable fact is that Jehovah's Witnesses DID NOT use the NAME of Jehovah, nor Jesus, nor the Bible in their meetings or printed material. Here are two examples of INFORMADOR DE LA TORRE DEL VIGIA, from Kent" 1988 and . Note that Jesus is mentioned as: Maestro Principal and Gran Maestro. The Bible as Tradduccin. I'm not Spanish, so I don't know Superintendente Amoroso :-) But after their "freedom", after the law that denyed religious churches to own property was gone, they suddenly starts using Jehovah, Jesus and the Bible. The last example is from NUESTRO MINISTERIO DEL REINO.
(comments done by ))
Neither of these 1990 articles saw fit to explain what the previous situation in Mexico had been, and why they had previously been denied this religious freedom. A reader would probably conclude that the Mexican authorities must have changed or softened in some way, giving the witnesses a long awaited new religious freedom at last. They would be mistaken.
The Awake 22 November 1993 p28 also had an item - 'Jehovah's Witnesses Given Legal Recognition in Mexico' that was also somewhat economical with the truth - Anyone reading it would get the CLEAR impression that the situation had previously been 'out of the witnesses hands' It said:
'On May 7, Jehovah's Witnesses were granted legal status as a religion in Mexico. A document guaranteeing such recognition was given them by the Subsecretary of the Government Interior Department on May 31. Thus another step forward was taken toward religious freedom in Mexico. It was on April 1, 1989, that Jehovah's Witnesses were first able to offer prayer freely at their congregation meetings and use the Bible in their door-to-door ministry. There are over 370,000 Witnesses in Mexico. The Mexican government reformed its laws last year and began to give legal recognition to religious organizations in the country.'
In 1917 the Mexican Laws of Reformation established full freedom of religion in Mexico. Probably due to extensive foreign mineral and oil land ownership, coupled with a past animosity between state and catholic church (prior to 1859 the catholic church held on third of all property and land) the ownership of mineral rights, property and land by foreign companies was curbed. Religious organisations, although free to worship, could not actually own property. The constitution meant that property was effectively held in custody by the state, but the religion was free to use this property for worship.
The very recent Yearbook of 1995 throws considerably more light on the subject skates round the obvious but uncomfortable conclusions. It has a section devoted to the history of JWs in Mexico. A few sentences, here and there, admit what the situation was. On June 15th 1943 the 'La Torre del Vigia' (Watchtower Society - Mexico) was registered in Mexico by the WTS headquarters as a CULTURAL organisation rather than a religious one. Therefore BIBLES were not used in preaching, SONGS were not sung at meetings and assemblies, and even PRAYERS were not offered publicly. Congregations were called 'Cultural Companies' Baptism was called 'performing the symbol' Surely the society hadn't decided to opt for land and property ownership rather than religious status, prayer, use of Bibles etc. What other reason was there? The 1995 Yearbook does not fully explain this. It does say (on the subject of no public prayer) that 'there is nothing to stop someone silently offering prayer to Jehovah' but how can this possibly be resolved with Daniel's example in Dan 6:6-28 where Daniel prayed publicly, despite the Kings decree, -and landed up in the lions den as a result? Yet the society opted for a 'no public prayer status' voluntarily!
Public Prayer is a primary part of worship for JWs everywhere else. So what changed in April 1989? Surely it had nothing to do with something as worldly as property ownership in 'this doomed old system of things?' The 1995 Yearbook (page 233) says that ' In 1988 after meetings with government representatives (who?) it was concluded that the organisation should operate as a religion even if it meant that meeting places would become federal property '. At last? Well, not quite. A number of pages later (Page 249-50) the Yearbook also says '..Carlos Salinas de Gortari began his term of presidency of the republic in December 1988 - one could see that there would be a change in policy regarding religion and a re-approachment with the Vatican'. Hmm. NB: By 1992 the actual constitution itself had been amended. Religions could own their own land and property. Parochial schools were OK's etc. etc. A timely coincidence?
All this may give a little human insight into why their were double standards applied between Malawi and Mexico. But it does not explain, excuse or justify it. The questions it raises are quite simple. 1.Firstly, Is this all true? Or is it all lies? Did the society's headquarters not object to brothers in Mexico illegally bribing officials in order to obtain a certificate which placed them in the military reserves, whilst at the same time knowing of the brutality, rape, torture and murder going on in Malawi from 1964 - 1975 and later? If so, what was the difference and where is it's precedence or justification in the Bible? 2. Was a 'cultural' rather than religious organisation set up in Mexico, [denying the use of Bibles to preach, public prayer etc] s imply so that land and property could be owned? Or what were the other reason(s)? Was this 'cultural status' and it's voluntary nature fully explained in any publications (outside Mexico) prior to those mentioned here? Why was the change made in 1989? What prompted it, and was any land or property lost as a result? 3. Is there a double standard in all this? If so, is anyone humbly sorry? -enough to apologise and set things right? Surviving relatives of victims in Malawi would be an appropriate place to start. JW publications take every opportunity to rake over any and all unsavoury aspects of all other religions. They claim to be God's sole visible organisation on earth today. If so, there must be a simple explanation. (If there is, then I cant find it, amd letters to the Society on the matter go unanswered)