On careful consideration of circumstances, in relation to my past “conversion”, by “baptism”, from the Roman Catholic religion, to the Jehovahs Witness religion, I would like to make it known, that I no longer consider, either that “baptism”, nor the “conversion”, symbolized by it, to have been valid. I hereby set forth reasons for this declaration:
Prior to receiving my military conscription “call up” papers, during the 80’s apartheid era, in South Africa, I knew very little about Jehovahs Witnesses. I was baptised as a Roman Catholic, had my communion, was confirmed, and attended Catholic church services happily, every Sunday, with my parents, for 23yrs, whilst at school and beyond. all my relatives and family, before them, were Catholic, and so, I had very little reason to change my religion.
I had learnt about the JW religion whilst at school, through a classmate, who had converted to this religion, and who was amongst a handful, who had refused to do “cadets” (marching exercises), after school, an activity that was compulsory for final year, high school students, at the time. The purpose of “cadets”, was to prepare one for the compulsory 2yr period of military service, and annual “camps”, that would follow, once one had left school.
Right from the outset, following the very short opportunity that I had to experience military service, (I did 1 month of basic training), before managing to obtain a deferment to continue studying, I knew that I did not want to be part, either of the SADF, or of the border war, for which soldiers within the SADF were being trained. This war was essentially an effort to prevent foreign “enemy” soldiers, fighting for democracy, in South Africa (at that time, labeled as communists and “terrorists”), from crossing the border and overthrowing the apartheid government, in SA.
After eventually receiving my military “call up” papers, despite determined efforts to prolong my studies at university, in the hope that the laws would change, as they eventually did, I decided to take the plunge, and ignore my military “call up” instructions, as a matter of conscience. Unfortunately, at the time, “conscientious objectors”, were not recognised by the SADF, as qualifying for exemption from military service. Only those who could prove that they were “religious objectors”, would be considered for exemption. Weekly attendance at Catholic church services, was not deemed to be sufficient grounds, for an application for such an exemption.
there was very little else left that I could do, after declining an invitation to join the JW religion (I never intended to join the religion), but to discuss my situation with their elders, and accept their advice to reherse a few selected Biblical questions, that they indicated, I most certainly, as an individual, would be required to answer, at a SADF trial and judicial hearing.
Since in those days, JW’s were one of the few religious groups that had been classified as exempt from military service, by the SADF, their hearings were ordinarily a mere formality, for finalizing the documention necessary for processing large numbers of their members, to enable them to perform the 3yrs of alternate community service, that the SADF had agreed to allow them to perform.
I on the other hand, as one who had refused largely on an individual capacity, was required to undergo a formal trial, and judicial hearing, before a panel of SADF judges and ministers, and to answer Bible based questions, designed to establish the true motives for this refusal. although wishing to be classified as a “religious objector”, I was faced with the distinct possibility of being refused application, with the consequence of a 6yr civilian prison term
After a lengthy cross examination by the judicial panel, I was advised that I had failed in establishing my classification as a religious objector, and could not be exempted from military service, unless I agreed to join the Jehovahs Witness religion.
This agreement was reached between the SADF legal team and a JW lawyer, in a very short span of time, and essentially is what “saved me” from receiving the 6yr prison term, that would most certainly have been meeted down to me, had I refused to serve as a uniformed soldier, in a non-combatant capacity.
I am grateful to those who participated, that I was spared such a prison term, however it does not negate the fact that I was necessarily placed under duress, to join the JW religion, by the SADF, who at my trial, made it quite clear that they would continue to check that I was attending JW meetings, and would recall a 6yr prison sentence, if they found otherwise.
Since my baptism, as a JW, took place not much more than a year, after my trial, I can say for a certainty that it would never have taken place, had there not been coersion placed on me by the SADF, to attend JW meetings, at my trial. I cannot therefore honestly say that my baptism as a JW, took place as a result of my own personal feelings and conviction, but as a decision based on an obligation imposed on me, to fulfill the conditions of my sentence, as a religious objector. For this reason I feel that I am justified in declaring my “baptism” and “conversion” from the Roman Catholic religion, to the JW religion, as invalid. Many may consider this issue as irrelevant, but I feel that it is an important and necessary one for me to make known. thank you