From June 6 to 16, 2013, millions of visitors from all over the world flocked to the port of Rouen, in northern France, for one of the largest and most beautiful nautical gatherings in the world, the Armada.
After sailing 120 kilometers (75 mi) up the Seine, a meandering river in picturesque Normandy, the finest and tallest sailing ships in the world dropped anchor along the seven kilometers (4 mi) of waterfront fitted out for this festive event. For over ten days, visitors had the unique opportunity to go aboard and freely visit some of the 45 legendary vessels and tall ships present at the festival.
What moved so many people of all ages to attend the Armada? According to the event’s organizer and founder, the Armada gives them an opportunity to “get closer to those ‘Sea Giants’ that make us dream.” Indeed, for most people, both young and old, great sailing ships evoke thoughts of distant voyages and freedom.
Thousands of tourists also had the opportunity to hear about another kind of freedom, the kind that Bible truth offers. (John 8:31, 32) As they toured charming medieval Rouen and its crowded narrow streets, visitors could not fail to notice the mobile displays used by local Jehovah’s Witnesses. When sightseers or sailors approached a stand, they were invited to take any Bible literature on display, free of charge. Many passersby showed interest in the article “A World Without Prejudice—When?” featured in the Watchtower magazine and were invited to attend a Bible-based talk to be given in French, English, or Spanish.
Locals expressed their appreciation for this initiative. One man, who was at first surprised to see the Witnesses standing in public near a mobile display, said: “I am glad to see you in the streets. I have respect for those who stand by their convictions, even though I do not share your beliefs.” Two elderly men who met young Witnesses involved in this public activity told them: “You can be proud of who you are!”