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Why Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Not Go to War?

Jehovah’s Witnesses, wherever they live, have a long history of abstaining from carnal warfare between nations or between combatants within the same nation. “Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain a strict neutrality in time of war,” noted the Australian Encyclopædia half a century ago.

A major reason why the Witnesses refrain from taking part in war is that participating in such conflicts would violate their Christian conscience. Their conscience has been shaped by the commands and example of the Lord Jesus Christ. He directed his followers to love their neighbor. He also commanded: “Continue to love your enemies, to do good to those hating you.” (Luke 6:27; Matthew 22:39) When one of his disciples tried to defend him with a sword, Jesus told him: “Return your sword to its place, for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52) Thus, by word and example, he plainly showed that his followers are not to wield weapons of carnal warfare.

Another reason Jehovah’s Witnesses do not go to war is that they are members of a worldwide community of believers. War would pit brother against brother, and that would fly in the face of Jesus’ command to have ‘love among themselves.’​—John 13:35.

The above principles governing love are not mere theory to Jehovah’s Witnesses. As an example, examine their course of action during World War II, 1939-1945. In the United States, more than 4,300 Witnesses of Jehovah were incarcerated in federal prisons for refusing to perform military service. In Britain, upwards of 1,500, including more than 300 women, were imprisoned for declining to perform war duties. In Nazi Germany, upwards of 270 Witnesses were executed by State order for their refusal to take up arms. Under the Nazi regime, more than 10,000 Witnesses were incarcerated, either in prisons or in concentration camps. Witnesses in Japan suffered terribly as well. Any individuals who lost their loved ones on the battlefields of World War II​—or any subsequent war for that matter—​can rest assured that not a single one of Jehovah’s Witnesses was responsible for such deaths.

The view of Jehovah’s Witnesses toward war is eloquently expressed in the final words of Wolfgang Kusserow. In 1942 the Nazis beheaded this 20-year-old German because he refused to go to war. (Isaiah 2:4) He stated before the military tribunal: “I was brought up as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, according to God’s word contained in the Holy Scriptures. The greatest and most holy law he gave mankind is: ‘You shall love your God above all else and your neighbor as yourself.’ Other commandments read: ‘You must not kill.’ Did our Creator have all this written down for the trees?”​—Mark 12:29-31; Exodus 20:13.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that only Jehovah, the almighty God, will bring permanent peace to the earth. They look to him to fulfill his promise that he will make “wars to cease to the extremity of the earth.”​—Psalm 46:9.