(Video included, with witnessing of Israel Flórez Lopez, abused as a child)
The parallel justice of the Jehovah's Witnesses
Former members of the organization denounce that this religious entity recognized by the State conceals cases of abuse of minors and other crimes after judging them internally
Officially, according to the register of religious entities of the Ministry of Justice, there are 110,000. They have been registered since 1970. Their own estimates raise the figure to 200,000. Jehovah's Witnesses are known, above all, for two stereotypes: their cold-blooded preachers and their refusal to receive blood transfusions. A third and delicate feature is returning, in the last days, to the present. They face, in Spain and other countries, multiple police and judicial denunciations for not acting against cases of sexual abuse within the congregations. They deny it, but internal documents show that the organization has a kind of parallel justice, governed by biblical principles and in which, without going to the authorities, it is judged, supervised and sentenced (or acquitted) to the members who have committed Some sin. Although this sin is also a crime.
"Documents relating to an allegation of sexual abuse of children ... should be stored in an envelope that will be kept indefinitely in the confidential file of the congregation," says one of the confidential documents of Jehovah's Witnesses to which EL PAIS and shows what procedures are followed in this organization when they encounter cases of this type.
The circular, dated August 1, 2016, was drafted by the Governing Body, the leading leadership of Jehovah's Witnesses in New York, and sent last summer to the headquarters of all countries. From there, the leaders of the Spanish congregations (known as the Elderly Corps) were sent to them, who were ordered to follow the guidelines described in the letter and then file it in absolute confidentiality. This is how the Witnesses work: the leadership of the leadership drafts the guidelines to follow, the internal rules, and each congregation must scrupulously observe them.
"In all cases, the victim has the absolute right to report abuse to the authorities," the document states. But, from there, the circular does not return to refer to the law and bases all the instructions and orders in internal protocols of action. "When an indictment of child abuse arrives in the ears of the Body of Elders, two of them must immediately call the Department of Legal Affairs to receive legal advice. (...) After receiving advice from the branch, the Body of Elders will name two of its Members to conduct a Bible-based investigation of any allegations of sexual abuse of a minor. They must scrupulously follow the procedures laid down in the Scriptures ... If the Body of Elders determines that there is sufficient biblical evidence for the formation of a judicial committee, the coordinator will communicate it."
The document also refers to the sentence received by a pederast, which will at most be permanently expelled from the order, although in most of these cases the expulsion is temporary until it shows repentance, as can be read in the same documents . That is to say: a pederast would not only be denounced in the Jehovah's Witnesses, but, with repentance, he will be absolved and pardoned.
The Civil Guard investigates complaints
Israel Flórez Pérez belonged to Jehovah's Witnesses until 2008. He currently resides in Toledo and is 43 years old. When he was five he was sexually abused by a relative, also a member of the confession. He put it in front of a mirror, undressed him and made him contemplate a scene that Israel only understood years later. It was not until 1999 when he decided to tell it. "I did it because I realized that it had happened to many more companions when they were children", he says sitting in the cafeteria of an avenue of Toledo. "I then went to some leaders of the congregation. And they did absolutely nothing. They hid it. Two years later, another Witness abused my wife and, again, they stopped him. That's when we realized we had to get out of there. "
Flórez decided, along with other ex-members of the Witnesses such as Juan Bourgon, Miguel García, to found the group 'AbusosTJ' to share experiences. "In total, we have already filed some 20 complaints of abuse and abuse, but almost all of them have been prescribed." Some of them reported their case a few days ago in El Periódico de Cataluña, currently the Civil Guard investigates these complaints and the Barcelona court has opened And in the case of Noelia.
Manuel is the fictitious name of another member of AbusosTJ who for many years was in the dome of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Spain. He is the leader in the shadow of this rebellion against the excesses of the organization. It ensures that Jehovah's Witnesses have registered in Spain more than a hundred cases of sexual abuse of minors within the confession. All of them would have been tried domestically and filed away from the reach of the authorities.
Where they are coming to light is in Australia. There, the government announced last July that it is investigating 1,006 cases of sexual abuse that would have been hidden by the organization. Manuel takes this research as an example. "There are about 66,000 members in Australia and more than 1,000 cases are being investigated. In Spain there are almost 200,000. A little math and logic can give a staggering figure. " There have also been dozens of complaints in the United States in recent years.
They deny that they have hidden cases of child abuse. Aníbal Matos is the spokesman for the Office of Institutional Relations of Jehovah's Witnesses in Spain. We are received with kindness at the organization's headquarters, a group of low and spacious buildings located in Ajalvir, outside Madrid. With a quiet voice and security, Matos asserts that they only judge "what is considered a sin, never a crime." And he adds: "If any brother incurs a case of pederasty, the first thing we do is urge the victim and his If they refuse, out of shame, because this sometimes happens, we have a moral and even legal obligation to go to the authorities. "
The reality is that, since Jehovah's Witnesses in Spain, a single abuse of minors has never been reported, as confirmed by the order's own spokesman. The members of 'AbusosTJ' contradict Matos' explanation. "They never go to the police. They submit the case to an internal tribunal, they impose the sentences - which consist of temporary expulsions of the confession - and forgive, "Manuel says.
Florez adds: "Jehovah's Witnesses have hidden several hundred criminal offenses and abuses. They encourage the victims to hide them. Victims of sexual abuse have had to listen that to go to the worldly law would be to betray Jehovah. We received a lot of pressure to keep quiet. " Matos retorts again: "We are based on biblical laws, but this does not justify or protect against breaking the law." And he attacks: "The ex-members sometimes distort reality, reinterpret the facts because something has bothered them and that is why they are gone."
Diego Hidalgo, a resident of Lleida, was a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses for many years and served as a congregation leader and internal judge of the organization. He says that "there is a record where they keep cases of sexual abuse." "They are stored in cane envelopes, where the case reports are stored under seven keys," he says. "Do not be surprised that they are being emptied right now if they suspect that we are talking about this. Do not believe in the justice of the State because there is a phrase in the Bible of St. Paul that says: 'Dare any man take his brother before The justice of a man? "They will never go to the police, they will discourage it whatever the crime, they say that if you do, you will stain the name of Jehovah.
Flórez, who was abused as a child and asked not to go to the police, smiles bitterly: "As the Police some day in the headquarters or in the congregations and get these envelopes ... It is going to put together a fat good ".
Jehovah's Witnesses define themselves as a Christian, millenarian, antitrinitarian and anti-ecumenical confession. They carry out a heterodox interpretation of the Bible and were founded by Charles Taze Russell in 1881, in the United States. Its central legal seat is in Brooklyn (New York), in an enclosure called the Watch Tower (Torre de Vigilancia).
According to their own data, they are present in more than 150 countries and have about 8 million members worldwide. In Spain they are distributed in about 1,400 congregations. 'Shepherd God's flock' is the title of the book - edited by the organization itself and only accessible to the leaders of the order - which serves as jurisprudence for Jehovah's Witnesses. It explains the procedure for forming judicial committees, appeals and convictions that consist of the exclusion of the guilty.
This parallel justice has consequences. "People suffer because they can not express their problems. It is a vicious circle: those who hurt you take care of your justice and offer you support. It is traumatic. Brutal, "explains Flórez. His own sister, Naomi, suffered one of these trials. When the process had been going on for several months, Naomi committed suicide.
It happened on August 21, 2015. Five years earlier, he had decided to leave the Jehovah's Witnesses. In doing so, the congregation stopped interacting with her. Together with the divorce, Noemi finished alone, with 3 small children and a pension of 400 euros per month. The stage, seasoned by the pressure of his parents, made him return to confession last year. As she had been divorced - something considered a sin - she was submitted to a Justice Committee. Noemí entered into depression and the support that received was of spiritual type. "The Committee gave him the help of a Witness who was neither a psychiatrist nor had a basic education. My sister stopped eating. They made a mental cocoa. He felt guilty, he depended on the Committee, he had no one to go to ... He could not get up from that, "says Israel in a choked voice. "I do not say that Naomi would commit suicide for that, but what I have clear is that it was fatal."
The organization's own jurisprudence, the book 'Pastoreen el herba de Dios', collects what should be done when there is a risk of suicide. He does this on page 89: "On occasions when the accused threatens to commit suicide, it is best to suspend the hearing and focus on helping the person to regain his or her balance. They must assure him that the desire of the committee is to help her, and then to deal with the subject of depression and suicide using the Scriptures. "
The same book, on page 85, makes it clear that this judicial system, apart from the rule of law, must be preserved in secret. He says: "If a journalist or a lawyer representing the accused communicates with the Elders, they should not provide any information about the case or confirm the existence of a judicial committee. Rather, they will give the following explanation: 'The physical and spiritual well-being of the Jehovah's Witnesses is of primary importance to the Elders, who have been appointed to shepherd the flock. This pastoral work is done in a confidential way. "
A page later, the book adds, "If the authorities demand reserved documents or ask the Elders to testify about confidential matters of the congregation, you should call the branch right away."
Diego Hidalgo, after passing through the organization and his work as an internal judge, now devotes himself to "deprogramming" Witnesses, as he explains sitting in the living room of his small apartment in Almacelles, Lleida. "My first case was with a woman from Galicia who refused to receive a blood transfusion. Jehovah's Witnesses consider it a sin to receive blood from others. Her health worsened, so the family called me and I had several talks with that woman until I convinced her. " The family offered Diego a generous sum for his work, but he refused. "I do not do it for money, I do it to help."
Since that first meeting, in 2008, Diego has helped about 40 people get away from Jehovah's skirts. A few years ago he decided to give shape to his work in the form of an association, which he called 'Liberados', and which he presides over today. The process is often repeated in each performance: the family calls Liberados, Diego meets with the Witness and makes him hesitate. "A person abducted, fanatic, does not attend to reasons. So my first encounter is always in biblical terms. Debate with the person using biblical arguments to make him understand that his religion is not true, that his beliefs are not found in the Bible as they have led him to believe. Once inoculated the doubt already begin to attend reasons ".
Arantxa Martínez, a 22-year-old from Madrid, was "deprogrammed" by Diego two years ago. "I thought about leaving the race, because the Witnesses are asking you not to study, that it takes time to read the Bible. So my parents worried and took me to talk to him." Arantxa remembers that he did not attend to reasons, but Diego made him think things over. "He used the Bible to show me that they deceive us with interpretations. I am a very believer, but from that day on, I went away from them."
Sometimes, Diego has to send these people to the psychologist or even to the psychiatrist. "The State is supposed to act against this sect: they are against the law, against the Constitution and against Human Rights, and they are protecting them, the State is guilty of That this is happening. It is a tolerated sect. "
Then, sitting in his living room, he reads a paragraph from the book 'Shepherd God's Flock', the internal jurisprudence of the organization: "Is it wrong to love our relatives?" "Of course not, but we must love Jehovah more. And if he is worried about the behavior of an expelled relative, tell him to Jehovah, let him go with him, and remember: to always obey is the best option. "Diego closes the book, shrugs and shows the palms of hands.
THE SHEEP AND THE GOATS
Members of Jehovah's Witnesses, who are called brothers and sisters, can not receive blood transfusions, can not smoke, get drunk, be adulterers, homosexuals, can not vote, join a party, trade union or association, can not Reading apostate literature or relating to people who have left the confession. Even if they are your relatives.
Nuria is the fictitious name of a young woman from Madrid who spent her childhood as a Jehovah's Witness. "My parents were and since I use reason, I was until my parents left, when I was about 10 years," says sitting on a terrace in the Madrid neighborhood of Lavapiés. "From that time I remember that I could not celebrate birthdays. And that hurt a lot. Every time a classmate brought treats for his birthday I could not accept them because they came from Satan. " The other children made life impossible for him. "I was a weirdo. I was always alone and they harassed me. "
At Christmas he did not receive gifts either. "My parents tried to compensate for it in some way, so they let us choose a toy from the catalog for good grades. I remember that one year, when returning to class after Christmas, we were sent to write with the gifts we had received. And I had to leave it blank. "
Nuria has also recorded in memory the photo album of her parents' wedding: "They were married by the Catholic church before entering the order. So my grandmother, who is a Witness, cut out all the catholic crosses and symbols of the photos. The photo album of my parents' wedding is shattered. "
Nuria's mother, who also asks to hide her name, remembers her stage as Witness with some bitterness. "When you are a Witness you are a sheep and the rest of people are goats. And we avoided getting together with goats, "he explains. "You withdraw, you become locked in yourself. I changed the character. Everything seems sinful to you, it is impossible to integrate yourself into normal life. You are not part of the world, you are a sacred people. "