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AP Overview of Germany’s Jehovah’s Witnesses

(AP) – Several people were killed or injured Thursday night after a gunshot was fired inside a building where Jehovah’s Witnesses were holding a rally in the northern German city of Hamburg, officials said.

Founded in the United States, the international Christian denomination has been in Germany for over 100 years. Today, about 170,000 members call the European country home, according to the sect’s website.

The sect itself dates back to the 19th century. It was founded by Pittsburgh minister Charles Taze Russell. It is currently headquartered in Warwick, New York and has approximately 8.7 million members worldwide. Members are known for their evangelistic work, such as knocking on doors and distributing literature in public squares.

Here is a brief look at the beliefs of international sects and their history in Germany.

  • There are approximately 2,020 Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations and 170,491 pastors in Germany. According to the sect’s website, one of his 498 Germans practices the faith.
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses call their places of worship “Kingdom Halls,” not churches. This is because they believe the Bible refers to worshipers as churches, not buildings. Therefore, a building or hall where congregations gather to worship Jehovah (the God of the Bible and His Kingdom) is known as a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses do not use the cross in their worship because they believe the Bible indicates that Jesus died on a simple stake rather than on a cross. in worship,” says the sect’s website.
  • Each congregation is overseen by a body of elders. About 20 congregations make up the circuit and are occasionally visited by traveling elders known as circuit overseers.
  • On January 27, 2021, the German state parliament commemorated the courageous stand of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the face of Nazi abuse. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the ceremony was held online and was watched by over 37,000 people from Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
  • Of the approximately 35,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses living in Germany and Nazi-occupied countries at the time, approximately 1,500 died during the Holocaust. Over 1,000 people died in prisons and concentration camps. Members of the faith were persecuted by the Nazi regime because they remained politically neutral. They also refused to sign documents renouncing their faith, continued to gather for worship, performed public service, and disobeyed regime orders by showing kindness to Jews.
  • On January 27, 2017, Jehovah’s Witnesses received the same legal status granted to the major German religions. Prior to obtaining this status, their national headquarters in Germany and thousands of congregations throughout the country were considered independent religious organizations.
  • In the United States, Jehovah’s Witnesses suspended knocking on doors in the early days of the pandemic, but many others in society also fell into lockdown. ended all public gatherings in and canceled 5,600 annual gatherings worldwide. This was an unprecedented move, even during his 1918 Spanish flu pandemic that killed 50 million people worldwide.

AP’s religious coverage is supported through a partnership between AP and The Conversation US with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. AP is solely responsible for this content.

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