Franco Maranini: exclusive interview

The director of the Watchtower in Italy gives us a beautiful interview

In this issue, Universal World Italia gives space to Franco Maranini, editor and chief of the magazines "La Torre di Guardia" and "Svegliatevi" in Italy. The director Maranini with extreme kindness answered my questions, releasing me some very important statements. During the interview, we discussed extremely important topics, such as the Coronavirus and the persecution that Jehovah's Witnesses are suffering in Russia. The UWI appeals once again to President Vladimir Putin, so that the Witnesses can once again have the freedom of religion they so much deserve. I repeat, Jehovah's Witnesses are a peaceful religious group that spreads the "Word of God" around the world, without putting any country's national security at risk. I thank the Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses in Italy and the director Franco Maranini for the great availability shown.

Director Franco Maranini, as a Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses in Italy, how are you
facing the Coronavirus?

We have moved on two fronts. The first was to help our faithful to cope with the health emergency. The
second was to organize our worship activities in compliance with health regulations. Our communities of faithful have faced many difficulties due to the pandemic, especially in northern Italy. In Lombardy alone we have about 38,000 faithful and over 400 local communities, called congregations.
From our national headquarters we immediately activated three rescue committees operating in the area
and maintain direct contact with our approximately 3,000 communities. In this way we try to identify needs and satisfy them promptly, also through the distribution of protective devices and basic necessities.
Under the second profile, we have organized all of our worship activities in compliance with the various DPCM and protocols. Sometimes we have taken even greater protection measures than required by the authorities. For example, since March 6 we have closed all our places of worship, over 1,200 Kingdom Halls throughout Italy, and we have started to hold all our religious meetings in streaming through an online platform. Everyone can actively participate by connecting from home with their device. This required a lot of support work. For example, younger people have helped older people learn how to use these technologies. This has allowed us to give continuity to our activities without any interruption and in safety. In this new way, our annual conventions and the Memorial of Christ's death, our most important annual event, were also organized around the world. We have canceled the events in the big convention centers and we have them
streamed; so many interested people, friends, relatives and co-workers were able to connect and assist each other. These measures have protected both us and others.

The Watchtower is a monthly periodical that is certainly uplifting on a spiritual level. How
is your editorial work going?

The Watchtower is today the most widely distributed magazine in the world: each issue has a circulation of over 93 million copies and is distributed free in 369 languages ​​in 240 countries. Being also available in electronic format on the site, it can be easily disseminated without risk of contagion. During the month of November 2020, Witnesses around the world are distributing a special issue entitled "What is the Kingdom of God?", With particular attention to the authorities and businesses. The magazine explains what this Kingdom will do for humans and why we can be sure that the future holds good news. We hope to bring comfort to as many people as possible.

Unfortunately, Jehovah's Witnesses are persecuted in Russia. What is your hope for the

 It is true, our community in Russia of over 170,000 faithful is suffering severe and unjustified persecution. Currently, Witnesses in the Federation are unable to carry out normal religious activities and are sentenced to up to 7 years in prison simply for praying, reading religious literature, or sharing the Bible with others. The situation is very serious. It has been described by some experts as one of the most serious attacks on religious freedom of the 21st century. To date, 379 of Jehovah's Witnesses are under criminal investigation, 186 of them have served a period of pre-trial detention, 44 have been jailed, and 29 have been placed under house arrest. 1,107 houses have been searched since 2017; In 2020 alone, more than 310 homes were raided and reports confirm cases of abuse and even torture by the authorities. Various national and international bodies such as the UN, EU, OSCE continue to denounce what is happening. The same president of the USCIRF (an independent and bipartisan American commission that deals with religious freedom), is talking about the sufference inflicted to one of our faithful in prison for over three years, stated that it is "a huge judicial error". Recently 50 experts and teachers from around the world signed a resolution calling on Putin to stop the persecution: Censur Page. However, it seems that the grip is not loosening. While waiting for our brothers in Russia to resume freely practicing their peaceful faith, we hope that greater knowledge of what is happening in Russia will raise public awareness and urge international bodies to keep attention. The interest of journalists and sites like this are certainly a support and a gesture of solidarity much appreciated.

What appeal do you want to make to your Russian brothers?

We are all praying that God will strengthen our dear brothers and sisters in Russia and their families during this difficult time. As it is written in the Bible, 'God is not unjust to forget those who love him' (Hebrews 6:10). Our brothers in Russia have done nothing wrong. Just as was the case under the Soviet (and even earlier under the Nazi) regime, Jehovah's Witnesses are facing opposition only because they desire to worship God and study the Bible. It is their right and they will continue to do so peacefully. We are confident that their respectful and patient behavior in doing good to all is not going unnoticed to the authorities.

Despite the global pandemic, continue, with caution and respect for the various laws, a
spreading the Good News. What are the major difficulties you are currently experiencing
in terms of preaching?

As Christians, keep in mind that Jesus commanded his disciples to make the Scriptures known to as many people as possible. Today this cannot be done by meeting them in person; therefore we try to contact them by alternative methods, for example by letter, telephone or e-mail. We know that people need more than ever the comfort that the Bible can provide, and in this time of uncertainty and anxiety due to the pandemic, we find that many are returning to interest in God and the Bible. Who studies the Bible realizes that world events are the fulfillment of some prophecies of Jesus reported in the Gospels. Knowing this helps us not to fall into despair, but to nourish the hope that a better world is nearby.

Interview by Agrippino Castania

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