In the current version of the DPI NGO brochure, it asks the question “What are the Criteria for NGOs to become associated with DPI? The NGO must support and respect the principles of the Charter of the UN”, however in a previous chapter we saw how in earlier versions as late as 1994, the brochure said, “Who is eligible for association with the DPI? Non-profit organizations which: share the ideals of the UN charter”.
So the requirement clearly changed from happening to share the same ideals as the charter, to active support of the principles of the charter. Therefore, we know the Society never agreed to the words “support ... the principles of the Charter of the UN”. However, they may have been aware of the the requirement to “share the ideals” of that Charter. Does this requirement — if the Society ever agreed to it, of course — compromise our Christian beliefs?
Jehovah's Witnesses have certainly never been a part of the United Nations, despite what many grossly misinformed people may claim. Even when the Watchtower Society was a DPI NGO, the UN itself clearly stated to all such organizations that the “association of NGOs with the DPI does not constitute their incorporation into the United Nations system, nor does it entitle associated organizations or their staff to any kind of privileges, immunities or special status.” The very idea that access to the DPI's resources — although many and varied — was some sort of “political partnership” or “political alliance” as many of our critics claim, is not based in reality.
The DPI has never made any associated NGO organization “part of the UN” or gained that organization any kind of special treatment. This may be the case with ECOSOC NGOs, but certainly not with DPI NGO's in the 1990's!
Some have speculated that the Watchtower Society's “real motive” was to gain prominence in the eyes of the UN and other governments, particularly where governments were persecuting Jehovah's Witnesses. However, there is absolutely no evidence that having DPI passes to access their library resources, exhibitions and events, could ever have such a benefit. To speculate that a government, such as that of France, would stop persecuting Jehovah's Witnesses because the Bethel staff in New York have access to books, audio and film libraries, and can attend UN education workshops in buildings in New York, is a bizarre concept with absolutely no evidence or precedent to back it up.
This is especially so when we consider the great number of high court judgments the Witnesses have won. If the Watchtower Society wanted to gain legal status and recognition, they would do it via the courts as they have successfully done for decades. Who would seriously expect a government to think again about persecuting Jehovah's Witnesses, because their staff in New York were granted passes by the UN Department of Public Information to help write Awake! articles? Considering France again, exactly what legal baring would the Society's NGO status have on the dispute with interpretations of French tax laws?
The claim that the DPI NGO status was to gain political influence over various governments is nothing more than ridiculous speculation — a speculation usually entertained by those who are not in a position to know any of the facts.
Although the evidence indicated that the Watchtower Society never signed or completed one document that said they would support the United Nations, for a moment let's do as many critics do, and pretend that the evidence doesn't exist. Let's pretend we have evidence that the Society did indeed sign a document where they agreed to support the UN and the principles of the UN's charter. What implications would such an agreement have? Would it compromise our Christian beliefs?
The word “support”, in English, is a general term, and we are not at all helped in defining exactly what it means to the UN. In their documents they do not stipulate exact specifications of what it means to support the UN and the principles of their charter — neither in a practical nor philosophical sense.
According to Websters, when the word “support” is used as a verb, can mean to “uphold or defend as valid; to furnish corroborating evidence for; to act in a secondary or subordinate role to.” Using these definitions, what are the implications of supporting the UN and it's charter?
When the Watchtower Society began educating the public on the United Nations and it's place in Bible prophecy from 1945 onwards, it could be said that our support was to “furnish corroborating evidence for” to the UN whether we intended to or not — at least in the sense of educating the public in what the UN is, what it is there for, and what it does. The UN wants the public to know about its existence and relevance in the world. That is why even organizations which criticize the UN's failings can remain DPI NGOs — as did the Watchtower Society. Since the DPI is there to disseminate information it is reasonable to believe that the definition “to furnish corroborating evidence for” would be the applicable definition for the word ‘support’ in this case.
However it is also true that by being “in subjection” to the governments as Romans 13 tells us to do, we are supporting them in that we are acting in a “secondary or subordinate role.” It says:
“Everybody must submit to the ruling authorities for none exists without God's permission and it is he who puts them in their place. So anyone who opposes the authority is setting himself against God's arrangement, and those who do so will only bring punishment upon themselves. ... So pay to all what is due, the property tax to the tax collector, customs to the customs officer, and respect and honour to all whose positions call for it.” —Romans 13:1-2, 7; 21st Century New Testament, Insight Press, Bristol, UK
Lets say that the definition to “uphold or defend as valid” is what is meant by the word ‘support.’ By paying our taxes and being in subjection to God's arrangement, true Christians support and encourage the rule of law and the authority of all human governments, for by doing any different we would be setting ourselves “against God's arrangement”. We uphold and defend as valid the application of the constitution of the country we live in when it does not conflict with Bible principles. For example, this would particularly apply to the right to choose and practice one's own faith. This includes the Bill of Rights if you live in the United States, the European Convention on Human Rights if you live within the European Union, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights within every UN member state.
Furthermore, we use the court system of many countries to advance true worship; Many brothers and sisters sign documents which state they will protect the constitution or laws of the land they reside in. Yes, we support and encourage the rule of law and the authority of the governments put in place by God, for “none” exists without God's permission and “it is he” who put them in their place — yes, including the United Nations.
While it may be acceptable to support a government in the sense of encouraging it's God-placed authority through co-operation and so forth, what about supporting the principles of the United Nations charter? Those principles and goals expressed in the charter are:
“to maintain international peace and security; to suppress acts of aggression that threaten world peace; to encourage friendly relations among nations; to protect the fundamental freedoms of all peoples without discrimination based on race, sex, language, or religion; and to achieve international cooperation in solving economic, social, and cultural problems."
Do we or do we not support and give “approval” to these principles? If you do not support those principles, what kind of person would you be? Indeed, if Jehovah's Witnesses as a religion did not support and approve of those principles above, what kind of horrible religion would we be members of?
Is it appropriate to support the UN upholding the religious freedom and the human rights of our brothers, provided that we do not become incorporated in that organization? Absolutely. Can’t we promote and support the same ideals without promoting it as the Kingdom of God on earth? Most certainly. Can’t we use the court system and other avenues of the both UN and it's member states to gain religious freedom for our brothers? Of course we can.
Even the 1996 resolution by the ECOSOC concerning an ECOSOC NGO’s support of the UN makes the following statement about that type of NGO (remember, the Society was not an ECOSOC NGO):
“3. The organization shall undertake to support the work of the United Nations and to promote knowledge of its principles and activities, in accordance with its own aims and purposes and the nature and scope of its competence and activities.”
Note that even an ECOSOC NGO, which is in a consultative relationship with the UN, isn't even obligated to support all the work of the UN. It says its support must be “in accordance with its own aims and purposes”. This means that the particular ECOSOC NGO would not support all the aims of the UN, but only those “aims and purposes” in the “scope of its competence and activities.”
In the case of Jehovah's Witnesses, those ‘aims and purposes’ would be in the field of religious freedom and human rights. That is the “scope of its competence and activities.” There is certainly nothing wrong with supporting that type of work and using whatever avenues are available for assistance. Further, if this qualified definition of “support” applied to the consultative-status ECOSOC NGO's, how much more qualified the definition of “support” must be to the DPI NGOs which enjoy no such status.
Of course, one of the main interests of the UN is human rights. If the UN wants to come to the aid of brothers being persecuted for their religious beliefs, should we not support that? The UN has not yet attacked God's people and proved itself to be an enemy of God. Did not Paul appeal to Rome when he was being persecuted? Yes — did he not use the legal system of a government which later proved to be the foretold “disgusting thing”, to advance true worship?
The Watchtower of October 1st, 1995 provides a clear description of how we should view the United Nations:
“In Bible prophecy, human governments are often symbolized by wild beasts. (Daniel 7:6, 12, 23; 8:20-22) Hence, for many decades the Watchtower magazine has identified the wild beasts of Revelation chapters 13 and 17 with today’s worldly governments. This includes the United Nations, which is depicted in Revelation chapter 17 as a scarlet-colored beast with seven heads and ten horns.
“However, this Scriptural position does not condone any form of disrespect toward governments or their officials. The Bible clearly states: “Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God. Therefore he who opposes the authority has taken a stand against the arrangement of God; those who have taken a stand against it will receive judgment to themselves.”—Romans 13:1, 2.
“Accordingly, Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are maintaining strict political neutrality, do not interfere with human governments. They never foment revolution or participate in acts of civil disobedience. Rather, they recognize that some form of government is necessary to maintain law and order in human society.—Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1.
“Jehovah’s Witnesses view the United Nations organization as they do other governmental bodies of the world. They acknowledge that the United Nations continues to exist by God’s permission. In harmony with the Bible, Jehovah’s Witnesses render due respect to all governments and obey them as long as such obedience does not require that they sin against God.—Acts 5:29.”
In 1st Corinthians 7:31, the apostle Paul said that “those making use of the world [should be] as those not using it to the full...” In view of these scriptures, after reasoning on the matter, and in view of the definitions connected to the word ‘support’, would it really be wrong to say that you agree to ‘support’ the UN and the principles of it's charter — especially so in the field in which the Society specializes in, that of human rights and religious freedom? Yet our brothers in Bethel, upon realizing the new wording of the UN’s criteria for association as a DPI NGO, and even though it may not be unscriptural to remain a DPI NGO, chose to withdraw membership rather than risk stumbling others. Is that not commendable and loving on their part?
However, when the Society was a DPI NGO, did the Society deliberately put forth extra effort to maintain their DPI NGO status? Did they deliberately write articles “praising” the UN and it's accomplishments, as critics claim?