(Coastal View of Montenegro)
(Montenegro's location on map outline, showing the lands of the former Yugoslavia)
Modern History of Montenegro
This hidden pearl of the Mediterranean is a delightful little country on the Adriatic Coast. Nestled among Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro is a land of stunning diversity and breathtaking beauty. The country has some 182 miles of gorgeous Adriatic coastline. The Tara River Canyon is one of the deepest and longest canyons in Europe. Lake Scutari is the largest in the Balkans and has one of the biggest bird sanctuaries in Europe. And all of this in an area only one third the size of Switzerland!
The history of the country, however is marked by wars, strife, and suffering. The struggles of the Montenegrin people have, in turn, profoundly influenced their tradition, mentality, and culture. A fundamental part of their culture is admiration for such qualities as bravery, integrity, dignity, humility, self-sacrifice, and respect for others. (I like them already!) Many of the resilient Montenegrins have embraced the good news of the Kingdom and are loyally defending Bible truth. (As you'll see, the group here is very small, which makes their efforts even more commendable)
Can anyone who attended the momentous 1991 convention held in Zagreb, Croatia, ever forget the unity and love of the brothers gathered there from all parts of the former Yugoslavia? "With the smell of war in the air, traveling from Montenegro to Croatia was dangerous," recalls Savo Čeprnjić, who had recently begun to study the Bible. "I was amazed to see so many buses arrive at the convention without a problem. Even more impressive was the peace and unity among the Witnesses. On the first day, there were hundreds of policemen, but after realizing that we were peaceful, only a few reported for duty on the following days."
Before the start of the war, one couple had regularly traveled from Croatia to Montenegro to conduct a study with Savo. As the borders were closed, how would Savo continue his study of the Bible? "Interested ones who were more advanced in their study had to teach others," explains Savo. "A baptized brother was studying the book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth with me. But when that was no longer possible, an unbaptized person continued studying with me...Savo, along with his wife and daughter, continued to make progress and were baptized in 1993.
(Kingdom Hall in Podgorica)
*this next part ties in well with the scripture from yesterday's daily text about being yielding when it comes to others, and 'going the extra mile' ... because following that advice ended up helping the brothers on a later occasion when they were having trouble with the local residents. But the text from Saturday about being 'objects of hatred by all the nations' also applies, since our brothers in Montenegro have been facing harassment by the local community as well.
In the early 1990's, a group of publishers met in the capital city of Podgorica. The group continued to grow, and in 1997 plans were made to purchase property for a Kingdom Hall. The land that the brothers purchased had a wall that they decided to keep for privacy. But a police officer living in the basement of the neighboring building asked if they would remove the wall so that more light could reach his dark apartment. To promote good relations with the neighbor, the brothers agreed to take down the wall and replace it with a fence. What a blessing their neighborliness proved to be! When other tenants of the building made trouble for the brothers, the police officer warned the tenants that if they attacked the Kingdom Hall, he would see that they were prosecuted. Now the brothers have a beautiful Kingdom Hall as well as a house for special pioneers and a large covered parking area that can also be used for assemblies.
Things did not go as well, though, for the brothers in the town of Nikšić. They purchased property in 1996, but the community was hostile to having a Kingdom Hall. Brothers guarded the building project day and night fearing that neighbors would try to sabotage it. One day a local priest recruited a mob of 200 people, who stormed the property with guns and sticks. They fired their weapons into the air and began to tear down the Kingdom Hall brick by brick. The police stood by without taking any action.
When the situation could not be resolved peacefully, the brothers looked for other property. Four years later they found a building, which they renovated and converted into a Kingdom Hall. At first, there seemed to be no problems with the community, but a few months later, the Kingdom Hall was suspiciously destroyed by fire. Our determined brothers, however, did not give up. They set to work yet again and rebuilt the hall. Since then they have had no more problems.
The four congregations in Montenegro are under supervision of the Serbia Country Committee. With a ratio of 1 publisher to 2,967 of the population, the 201 publishers are grateful for the help of the 6 special pioneers. In general, the people of Montenegro feel that religion has more to do with tradition than with reading the Bible. But our brothers and sisters in Montenegro loyally persevere in boldly preaching the good news.
*I can't believe how people who are members of a much larger religious community (which obviously outnumbers us by so many) can still stoop to that kind of harassment and destruction of property.