Even as the rest of Goa was waiting eagerly for the results at the end of the Panchayat Elections counting day, Jehovah's Witnesses across the state remained neutral and uninterested.
It is not that their lives aren't affected by those who run the government or the policies they formulate, but members of this Christian sect don't actively participate in the political process because they believe that god alone must be obeyed in all things and not any man, even if he is an elected representative.
The members of the religious community follow the rules, regulations and laws of the land they inhabit but consider themselves to be citizens of the 'Kingdom of God'. While the 'Kingdom of God' is just and peaceful, Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the present world belongs to Satan and is full of corruption. Therefore, they don't want to be a part of it. In fact, they consider singing the national anthem or saluting the flag of any country antithetical to their beliefs.
The Times of India quoted one of the members of the Jehovah's Witnesses community in Goa as saying that the community does not quite impose the 'no-vote' restriction but leaves it the decision to individual members.
Jehovah's Witnesses emerged as a group with beliefs distinct from mainstream Christianity in the 1800s. They consider it extremely important to refer to god by the Latinised version of the Hebrew name for god, Yahweh, which is Jehovah. Hence they call themselves Jehovah's Witnesses and believe that their beliefs have accurately restored the Christian faith as it was followed in the first century after Christ.
They emphasise more on god, less on Christ and refuse to participate in major Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter. They even refuse to celebrate birthdays because they believe such festivals are all pagan in origin.
By god's kingdom, they mean a literal government in heaven, established in 1914, which is ruled by Jesus Christ and of which Jehovah's Witnesses are representatives on earth.
Mainstream Christianity on the other hand considers the kingdom of god central to Jesus's ministry on earth and believes in its realisation only after he returns to earth. In short, it is the equivalent of salvation in popular Christianity.
Leo Tolstory, in his book The Kingdom of God is Within You sees Christ's teachings on pacifism and nonviolence as the means to build such a kingdom. Tolstoy also sees exercising the right to franchise as being antithetical to pacifism as he believed that every government was oppressive and voting for an oppressive government was akin to encouraging it. "The profession of true Christianity not only excludes the possibility of recognizing government, but even destroys its very foundations," he wrote.
The Jehovah's Witnesses, who are well-known for their door-to-door evangelism, are not a large group in India, even though they claim to have some 8.3 million followers worldwide. There are some 44,000 practicing Jehovah's Witnesses in India.
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