South Africa

One Woman’s Escape from the Jehovah’s Witnesses Church in South Africa

Category
Personal Stories
Country
South Africa
Date
Source
MSN South Africa
Citation
(February 20, 2024 Tuesday). Maria’s Keepers: One Woman’s Escape from the Jehovah’s Witnesses Church in South Africa. WebNews - English. https://advance.lexis.com/api/document?collection=news&id=urn:contentItem:6BCG-BBG1-F07F-84MK-00000-00&context=1516831.

Maria managed to escape the church’s doctrines and control, but her freedom came at a price – she is shunned by her family, and can never see her mother or sister again.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses is a worldwide, Christian-based religious group that professes an unparalleled dedication to Jehovah (God). It claims to be politically neutral, racially and ethnically transcendent, and has a membership of eight million people worldwide.

Yet many former Witnesses claim that it is a fear-based doomsday cult that considers itself above all other belief systems.

Allegations of secular, cultish behaviour, homophobia, money laundering, brainwashing and countless accusations of institutionalised sexual abuse abound.

Entering the church is easy, but leaving it can be a matter of life or death, as Maria and countless others discovered.  Read an excerpt below.

As Lloyd Evans writes in The Reluctant Apostate: ‘I had no idea Witnesses felt love was conditional. Forget the idea of blood being thicker than water. If you dare to disagree about Jehovah, that blood loses its viscosity in a heartbeat. Sons and daughters become dead to the very people who gave them life, and moms and dads are treated as invisible by those whom they cradled in their arms as babies.’

Against a backdrop of selfless love and a seemingly benign, unconditional serving of God, there are former Jehovah’s Witnesses who have left the church, and attest to a vastly different reality to that portrayed on the official Jehovah’s Witnesses website. One such person is Maria, a former Jehovah’s Witness in South Africa, whose story may resonate with current or former Witnesses. Shamed and ostracised by her family and her congregation for not only questioning her faith, but also for standing up against the sexual abuse she endured by the very people she ‘served’ and respected, she was eventually excommunicated from her faith and shunned by her family.

Of the many double standards that she was forced to tolerate, Maria’s experiences of sexual abuse and emotional ‘gaslighting’ at the hands of senior members of her community church are by far the most distressing. These were ‘crimes’ for which she was not only shamed, but also blamed. Sadly, Maria’s experiences are not necessarily unique. A damning 2016 report by the Australian Royal Commission into ‘Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse’ revealed evidence from case files held by the Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation that recorded allegations, reports or complaints of child sexual abuse by 1 006 members of the organisation.

(This is a book review for Sam Human’s new book ‘Maria’s Keepers’, which tells the story of Maria, a former Jehovah’s Witness in South Africa, and reveals gender victimisation, sexual abuse and cover-ups within the church.)

 

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