Thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Philippines will be holding their religious convention from home through an online streaming platform as part of the organization’s efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
They will join fellow believers from 240 lands in attending their annual convention through a streaming platform away from the usual large conference halls, arenas and stadiums.
For the first time in its history of holding conventions, Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world will be converging on jw.org for a series of convention programs that will run until the end of August.
The jw.org earlier reached a translation milestone of being available in 1,004 languages, making it the most translated website globally.
With the program available online in hundreds of languages, the organization believes that this could be the most attended convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses to date. In 2019, attendees to the global conventions reached up to more than 14 million people, including many who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses but are interested in learning Bible messages.
The 2020 convention with theme “Always Rejoice!” seeks to encourage people who may think that achieving a state of sustained joy may be impossible due to many life’s challenges. Recently, such hardships have been exacerbated by the impact of the pandemic on people’s lives.
“Our worship is centered on our mutual love for our God and for each other, irrespective of where we are physically. This year’s convention program underscores the unity of our international family and the joy that people can have against a backdrop of stress and despair,” said Dean Jacek, national spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The program answers questions such as: What contributes to finding and sustaining joy? How can you cultivate joy in the family? How can you remain joyful in difficult times? One of the convention highlights is a Bible-based drama which features the prophet Nehemiah and how he helped the ancient nation of Israel find joy in their worship of God.
In the Philippines, the online convention can be viewed free of charge in at least 11 languages namely English, Bicol, Cebuano, Chavacano, Filipino Sign Language, Hiligaynon, Ibanag, Iloko, Pangasinan, Tagalog, and Waray-Waray.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Metro Manila conventions alone were supposed to gather 46,000 people at the Metro Manila Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Novaliches, Quezon City from the months of June to August.
“As much as we long to meet together, life is far too precious to put at risk,” said Mr. Jacek, referring to the sanctity of life and love of neighbors as two principles primarily considered for the decision to go online. “The virtual meetings we have held over the past four months have proved to all of us that it’s not about where we are physically. It’s about where we are spiritually. In many ways we are closer as a spiritual family than ever before.”
In the Philippines, there are over 232,000 Witnesses nationwide who are participating in the streaming program. From July to August, they and their families as well as Bible students and guests can view the program to be released in six installments via JW Broadcasting found on jw.org website. The program runs from the month of July up to the final weekend of the virtual event on August 29 to 30.
Since the pandemic, Jehovah’s Witnesses have also moved their weekly public meetings to video conferencing and streaming platforms. Their place of worship, also called Kingdom Halls, will remain temporarily closed to public meetings.
Known for their house-to-house preaching work, they have also been participating in alternative ways of reaching the people such as writing letters, telephone witnessing and conducting Bible studies online among others.
There are more than 8.6 million active Witnesses worldwide.