Our brothers and sisters were not intimidated, and they continued meeting together. Elders wisely took preventive measures to protect publishers. Brother André Carbonneau, a Canadian lawyer who defended our brothers in those years, recalls: “A brother would usually be stationed near the meeting place with a cell phone. If he saw a mob approaching, he would immediately warn the elders of a potential attack.”
After every incident, two representatives from the branch office visited the brothers in order to strengthen them. “It was remarkable,” says André, “that branch representatives would usually find a meeting place packed with happy, smiling brothers and sisters.”
Those not directly affected by attacks, including Bible students, showed similar determination. André recalls talking to a woman who was about to become an unbaptized publisher. She told him, “When I watched those attacks on television, I saw the difference between true and false Christians, and I want to be a true Christian.”
Courageously Defending Fellow Believers
In those challenging years, publishers showed exemplary faith and courage by remaining busy in the preaching work. Those involved in defending fellow believers in court demonstrated similar faith.
The Witnesses were often misrepresented in media reports as people who break up families, refuse medical treatment, and act against the State. Those who defended them as lawyers actually risked their reputation and career.
John Burns, a lawyer from the Canada branch, who assisted the Georgian brothers in those years, recalls: “Local brothers and sisters who worked as lawyers made themselves available. Despite possible consequences to their job, they were not afraid to go to court and identify themselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Those courageous Witnesses contributed to “the defending and legally establishing of the good news.”
Georgians Speak Up Against Violence
In the meantime, violent acts against the Witnesses continued. Therefore, beginning on January 8, 2001, the Witnesses circulated a petition that called for protection from mob attacks and for the prosecution of those who had assaulted peaceful citizens.
Brother Burns explains the purpose of the petition: “Our aim was to show that most Georgians disapproved of such violence against Jehovah’s Witnesses and that a small group of religious extremists were actually responsible for it.”
Within just two weeks, 133,375 adults from all regions of Georgia
Meanwhile, Jehovah continued to bless his people. While religious extremists were busy causing trouble for God’s people, Jehovah God was calling many sincere individuals out of false religion.
Breaking Free From False Religion
For most of her life, Babilina Kharatishvili was a devoted member of the Georgian Orthodox Church. When she was in her 30’s, she traveled from town to town and from village to village teaching people about the lives led by the saints.
But Babilina wanted to know more about God. So she decided to attend lectures at a Georgian Orthodox seminary. On one occasion, a clergyman showed the book Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life to his listeners and encouraged them to obtain a copy of it from Jehovah’s Witnesses. He told them, “This book can teach you a lot about the Bible.”
Babilina was shocked. She had always avoided the Witnesses, and now a clergyman recommended their books! She told herself, ‘If I should learn about God from Jehovah’s Witnesses, what am I doing here?’ She immediately contacted the Witnesses in the city of Poti and started studying the Bible.
As Babilina learned more from the Bible, she made important changes in her life. She once said: “When I saw with my own eyes that the Bible says it is wrong to worship icons, I shunned all forms of idolatry. I was convinced that it was the right thing to do.” In her late 70’s at the time, she decided to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Sadly, in 2001, Babilina became ill and passed away before she could get baptized. But her granddaughter, Izabela, later got baptized and is now faithfully serving Jehovah.
She Wanted to Become a Nun
Eliso Dzidzishvili was 28 years old when she decided to become a nun. Since there was no convent close to her hometown, Tkibuli, she moved to Tbilisi in 2001. While searching for a vacancy in a convent, she took a part-time job as a private teacher. One of her pupils happened to be the daughter of a sister named Nunu.
Eliso relates: “We often talked about the Bible. I fiercely defended the Orthodox religion, while Nunu patiently showed me one verse after another. One day, she offered to read me the brochure What Does God Require of Us? As we read paragraphs and looked up Bible verses, I realized that worshipping icons is in direct violation of God’s command.”
Later, Eliso went to the local church and asked a priest some questions. From his answers it was clear that the church’s teachings were not based on the Bible. (Mark 7:7, 8) Convinced that she had found the truth, she immediately started to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses and soon got baptized.
Building Kingdom Halls Despite Opposition
By 2001, a growing number of congregations needed suitable places to meet for worship. According to one estimate, some 70 Kingdom Halls were needed. Hence, a Kingdom Hall construction program was initiated despite the opposition in the country.
Soon a construction crew began remodeling a building that had previously been used by several congregations in Tbilisi. Two projects quickly followed
Brother Tamazi Khutsishvili, who worked on the project in Chiatura, remembers: “Fifteen of us worked on the site every day. Soon everybody in town knew we were building a new hall. At times we heard rumors that our opponents wanted to come and destroy the Kingdom Hall.”
In view of such opposition, how successful could the construction project be? Tamazi says: “We continued our work and finished the Kingdom Hall in three months. Despite the threats, no opposers ever came.” *
In October 2003, a construction project was started in the city of Samtredia. Once again, religious extremists threatened the local brothers. In fact, the walls had just been erected and the mortar was still wet when opposers came and tore down the building.
However, in November 2003, a new development in Georgia brought relief to our brothers and sisters. A change in government opened the door to more religious tolerance. As a result, several members of the extremist Orthodox group that had attacked Jehovah’s Witnesses were arrested.
Showers of Blessings Upon God’s People
Shortly after the persecution ended, Jehovah’s people in Georgia received many spiritual blessings. At the 2004 district convention, the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures in the Georgian language was released.
Then, at the 2006 “Deliverance at Hand!” District Convention, another unforgettable event took place. Excitement was in the air when the delegates heard that Geoffrey Jackson, a member of the Governing Body, would address the audience. And what a surprise when Brother Jackson announced the release of the complete New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in Georgian!
Tears of gratitude welled up in the eyes of many delegates. A sister said: “I cannot put into words the joy that I felt when we received the complete Bible. . . . It was really a historic event.” Over 17,000 people enjoyed this spiritual feast, which marked a milestone in the history of Jehovah’s people in Georgia.
^ par. 29 From 2001 to 2003, seven Kingdom Halls were built throughout the country.