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A Fearless Pioneer

André Elias

A Fearless Pioneer
  • BORN 1915

  • BAPTIZED 1940

  • PROFILE A courageous pioneer who repeatedly stood firm under interrogation and threats.

DURING World War II, Brother Elias and his wife, Josephine, appeared before officials in Sukabumi, West Java, at the headquarters of the dreaded Kempeitai, the Japanese military police. André was interrogated first. Questions rained down on him like hammer blows. “Who are Jehovah’s Witnesses? Do you oppose the Japanese government? Are you a spy?”

“We are servants of Almighty God and have done nothing wrong,” replied André. The commanding officer grabbed a samurai sword from the wall and held it aloft.

“What if I kill you now?” he snarled. André placed his head on the office desk and silently prayed. After a long pause, laughter erupted. “You are brave!” said the officer. He then summoned Josephine. When her testimony agreed with André’s, the officer barked: “You are not spies. Get out of here!”

Several months later, André was denounced by “false brothers” and imprisoned. (2 Cor. 11:26) For several months, he survived by eating food scraps scavenged from the cell gutter. Still, the jailers could not break his integrity. When Josephine was able to visit him, he whispered to her through the prison bars: “Do not worry. Whether they kill me or set me free, I will remain faithful to Jehovah. They can carry me out as a corpse but not as a traitor.”

After six months in jail, André defended himself before the Jakarta High Court and was released.

Some 30 years later, when the Indonesian government banned Jehovah’s Witnesses again, the district attorney in Manado, North Sulawesi, summoned André to his office. “Do you know that Jehovah’s Witnesses are banned?” he asked.

“Yes,” replied André.

“Are you now prepared to change your religion?” asked the official.

André leaned forward and dramatically beat his chest. “You can tear my heart from my body, but you can never make me change my religion,” he boomed.

The district attorney dismissed André and never bothered him again.

In 2000, André died at the age of 85, after some 60 years of zealous pioneer service.