Jehovah’s Witnesses capped a three-day convention in Raleigh on Sunday, stressing loyalty in unstable times and drawing a total of more than 20,000 people to PNC Arena.
The free event echoed more than a dozen other regional events held around the country by the denomination, which has 118,000 congregations worldwide, including 30 in Raleigh.
Saturday’s events at the arena saw total attendance at 9,193 and featured 39 baptisms. A full-house crowd Sunday saw the last of 49 presentations and 35 video segments on the theme. More than 450 attendants helped a crowd that ranged from an elementary-school-age boy in a seersucker suit and bow tie to a row of white-haired listeners in wheelchairs.
“We don’t see a lot of loyalty today, in general,” said Ken Weiss, media services overseer for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Not only do we as individuals need to be loyal to each other and our loved ones, but also to Jehovah. ... It seems like we’re all broken apart.”
Speakers on Sunday cited an abundance of cruelty in the world torn by war and terrorism.
“There’s so much hatred in the world today,” said Richard Wendt, a media assistant. “These terror attacks ... People see these things and they happen and they blame God. It’s a question of loyalty as we realize that isn’t the case at all.”
Videos featured a Palestinian man jailed for his involvement in resisting Israeli occupation and a Jewish man surrounded by hatred of Arabs, both of whom became drawn to Jehovah’s Witnesses and through the message of peace and acceptance.
“Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world, people of different ethnicities, skin colors, racial backgrounds are all being brought together,” said Mark Ramirez, a representative from the denomination’s headquarters in Warwick, N.Y. “How can that be in a world that is divided? Because we are following the teachings. ... We are also learning how to be loyal. Loving loyalty is so powerful that (people) could do things they once thought would be impossible.”
Sunday’s event marked the second straight convention weekend for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Raleigh. Similar events have been held recently in Charlotte and Winston-Salem.