Through Revd. Dr. John Watson we received Dr. Leitch’s comment on pope Shenouda’s statements on Jehovah Witnesses in the Egyptian weekly Al-Musawwar [RNSAW, 2001, week 01A, art. 13]. Dr. Watson writes that "Dr. Leitch is a Jehovah’s Witness. He is a graduate of St. Andrew’s university in Scotland and holds a doctorate in Chemistry. He is highly educated, a married man, with delightful children and a person of great personal charm and an experienced teacher of many years."
Pope Shenouda: "What is the influence of American Jews on the appearance of new beliefs .....namely Jehovah Witnesses ..........."
Dr. Leitch: Jehovah’s Witnesses appreciate factual information published by the American Jews whether it be historical, textual, scientific or whatever. The Witnesses value the Bible as a whole as well as the application of its principles and any additional insight into this is always appreciated. Jehovah’s Witnesses appreciate similar information from all religions but the American Jews do not influence Jehovah’s Witnesses any more than any other religion. Jehovah’s Witnesses consistently strive do their best to base their beliefs on a thorough, complete and well balanced knowledge, faith and understanding of the Bible.
Pope Shenouda: "Jehovah’s Witnesses .....believe in Saturday being the Holy day, exactly as Jews do."
Dr. Leitch: This is not correct as Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have a "Holy day" in the week.
Pope Shenouda: "They also believe that Jesus, on his return, will establish a theocracy with Jerusalem as its capital."
Dr. Leitch: This is not quite correct as Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the theocracy will be established in heaven, pictured in a spiritual sense by the city of Jerusalem of Bible times. Jehovah’s Witnesses understand that the present day city of Jerusalem has no part in this, but that Biblical Jerusalem is used in the Bible as a pattern or prophetic type of heavenly things. Heb. 12: 22.
Pope Shenouda: "Jehovah’s Witnesses are anti-government."
Dr. Leitch: This is not correct. Jehovah’s Witness show the utmost respect to governments and are honest law abiding citizens. Romans 13: 1-7. They will however sincerely and respectfully choose to obey God rather than men if asked to do something that they believe is contrary to Bible teaching. Acts 5: 28,29. This is never done with the intention of working against any secular government.
Pope Shenouda: "They say in their books that governments are created by Satan."
Dr. Leitch: This is not quite accurate but is an understandable misinterpretation of our literature. Jehovah’s Witnesses understand that Satan has temporary control over this world and its governments and that this has been the case throughout history. This is illustrated by Revelation chapter twelve and verse nine. Many from other religions say they can agree with this.
Pope Shenouda: "They also believe they should not enter the army."
Dr. Leitch: This is correct. Jehovah’s Witness show the utmost respect to governments and are honest law abiding citizens. Romans 13: 1-7. They will however respectfully choose to obey God rather than men if asked to do something that they believe is contrary to Bible teaching. Matt. 26: 52, Is. 2: 2-4, 2 Cor. 10: 3,4, Luke 6: 27, 28. [Reasoning from the Scriptures p 271; Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society Publication 1985].
Pope Shenouda: "They even consider kissing the nation’s flag a kind of polytheism."
Dr. Leitch: This is correct but respect (not acts of worship) is given to nations and their symbols. For example, two school children in Canada were told to spit on the national flag. The non witness child did this but the witness child refused: "When Terra was 11 years of age she was unexpectedly put to the test by a teacher. At the time, Terra was the only Witness student in the entire school. One morning during class, Terra noticed that the teacher took a fellow student out of the classroom for a few moments. Shortly thereafter the teacher quietly asked Terra to accompany him to the principal’s office. No reason was given at the time. However, upon arriving in the principal’s office, Terra noticed that the Canadian flag was draped across the principal’s desk. There were just the three of them in the office: Terra, her teacher, and her principal. The teacher then instructed Terra to spit on the Canadian flag. He suggested that since Terra did not sing the national anthem or salute the flag, there was no reason why she should not spit on the flag when ordered to do so. While greatly surprised by this order, Terra refused to desecrate this symbol of the country. She explained that Jehovah’s Witnesses respect the flag, although they do not worship it. When the teacher saw that Terra was firm in her position, the two of them returned to the classroom. Back in the classroom, the teacher announced that he had just conducted an experiment. He had taken two students one at a time to the principal’s office, instructing them to spit on the flag. Although the first student did participate in patriotic ceremonies, she spat on the flag when ordered to do so. In contrast, as the teacher explained, Terra had very high principles. Even though she does not sing the anthem or salute the flag, she refused to dishonor the flag in this way. The teacher said that Terra was the one who showed proper respect." [as reported in 1990 Yearbook p57, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society Publication 1989].
Al-Musawwar asked Pope Shenouda: Do Jehovah’s Witnesses exist in Egypt too?
Pope Shenouda responded: "Yes they do. They had a society called the Watch Tower in Ramsis street, but it was closed by the government in the fifties. However, they still work and spread individually. They have a huge center in Brooklyn in America. They have translated their books into over sixty languages. They spread their publications through personal contacts."
Dr. Leitch: I understand that this is basically correct but I don’t have any further information on Jehovah’s Witnesses in Egypt at the moment.
Al-Musawwar asked Pope Shenouda: Jehovah is God?
Pope Shenouda responded: "It is the name of God in the Old Testament. Still, they insist His name is Jehovah."
Dr. Leitch: This is basically correct although the name of God is pronounced differently in different languages and the Witnesses understand that.
Pope Shenouda: "There is a story told about them. One time they went to visit a Coptic Egyptian family living in New York. They asked the woman what her language was, so they could give her their books. "I am Egyptian", she said. They could not find books in the [ancient] "Egyptian" language, and in this way she was able to make them leave."
Dr. Leitch: This is quite humorous whether or not it is true. Like all religions, the members of Jehovah’s Witnesses are from all walks of life and some are not well educated. Unlike all religions, all Jehovah’s Witnesses believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith with others.