At his grandmother’s funeral, who was a Jehovah’s Witness–three years after his exclusion–Dahlem “was completely ignored. Five hundred people were there, and nobody greeted me. That made me very angry and sad.”
Dahlem is a Christian and visits a congregation of the Vergadering van Gelovigen (the so-called Brethern).
“Only God’s grace prevented me from losing my faith,” he says.
He began his activism after learning The Belgian Court convicted Jehovah’s Witnesses for inciting discrimination, hate and violence against former members. The organisation has to pay a fine of 96,000 euros for “shunning and socially isolating members who left the community.”
The initiator in the Belgian case is Patrick Haeck, a high ranked Jehovah’s Witness who left the community after 35 years. He was part of a judicial committee that shunned members who left for years; until he found that shunning went a step too far. The Interfederaal Gelijkekansencentrum (Interfederal Equal Opportunities Centre) Unia and 15 victims joined the lawsuit
”When are we going to take action?”
The ruling came as a shock for the former Dutch Jehovah’s Witnesses, Dahlem says. “This case did not take place in the United States of America, with its culture of claims, but in Belgian, a neighbouring country. In our private Facebook group of former members, the question arose immediately: When are we going to take action?”
Recently, a couple that was shunned at the end of last year pressed charges against the president of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. “It is a strong case because there is a recording of the announcement of their shunning available”, Dahlem says. The three charges are insults, defamation and slander.
“We intend to get several former members to press charges and hope that these reports are linked to each other so that the prosecutor can take up the case.”