Jehovah’s Witnesses: A sect whose members choose prison over voting

“I reckon their numbers to be very limited in Kerala, maybe a few thousands,” said Kurian Thomas, a church historian.
Image used for representational purposes only.
Image used for representational purposes only.

KOCHI: The blasts at a prayer meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses have brought to focus the Christian sect, which follows some unconventional beliefs and practices.

Founded around 1870s in the US by Charles Taze Russell, the movement established its presence in India in 1905, and became popular in 1950. Though it was restricted to Kottayam, Yehovah’s Witnesses are now spread across Kerala. However, their numbers are limited, according to church observers.

“I reckon their numbers to be very limited in Kerala, maybe a few thousands,” said Kurian Thomas, a church historian. Believers of Jehovah’s Witnesses avoid blood transfusions, which has been criticised as the group’s reluctance to accept modern medical practices. 

In several countries, the group members willingly choose to go to prison for not voting.

However, the group’s website explains its decision to avoid blood transfusions. “When we have health problems, we go to doctors who have skill in providing medical and surgical care without blood. Bloodless treatments developed to help Witness patients are now being used to benefit all in the community. In many countries, any patient can now choose to avoid blood-transfusion risks, such as blood-borne diseases, immune-system reactions, and human errors,” it said.

Jehovah’s Witnesses were also dragged into controversy in Kerala when in 1985, three children belonging to the group were expelled from a school after they refused to sing the national anthem. The matter was dragged to the courts. The Kerala High Court rejected their plea and their appeal also failed. But, the group finally moved the Supreme Court and received a favourable verdict, directing the school to readmit the students.

Though they are a Christian sect, they do not believe in the Holy Trinity (the doctrine that God exists in three equal persons of the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit). While the Witnesses believe in Jesus Christ, the group does not worship Jesus, “as we do not believe that he is Almighty God”, according to their website.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the end is near. They believe Armageddon is imminent. The religion has previously provided a number of dates for the end the world as we know it. They now tell the followers it will happen any day now. After the blasts on Sunday, many who assembled at the congregation thought it was the end.

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