(Note: this letter is written in response to the statement at the end in the item about sexual abuse within the Jehovah's Witnesses in the eight o'clock news from 16 August 2018.)
Dear Michel van Hilten,
With this a letter from me. An open letter that I will post online, though. The reason for this is that our contact so far is rather one-sided. You seem to get out of answering emails from me. Too bad, because when I saw you the first time, I thought you might be a nice man. I like to go out of the good in people.
Were you the spokesperson for Jehovah's Witnesses who had sent an e-mail to the NOS stating that an investigation is not necessary because the problem would be too small? I think so, even though no name was mentioned. It seems to me very difficult to turn off your feelings and pass on such a hurtful, insensitive message! Somewhere you must have thought of how this message happens to people who have experienced suffering for years as a result of sexual abuse, how it is for them to hear that their misery is dismissed as a problem that is too small to do research. You have surpassed yourself this time in pushing away human sympathy.
I know, in the end you also only say what you are told from above. I think that is very heavy to have to obey those who are above you. You, of course, already realized that it was not smart to give such a reaction. Apart from how hurtful it is for victims of abuse, she shows how heartless and devoid of empathy is the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses. The whole of the Netherlands is watching and can see that your organization does not take seriously 300 survivors of sexual abuse.
Dear Michel, sometimes I wonder how you keep this going. You, working in the legal department, know about reports that elders do about sexual abuse in their communities. Undoubtedly you also have access to older information. Yet you should pretend there is no problem. That must be very stressful for your conscience.
Somewhere you are also a victim. Not of sexual abuse - at least that's what I hope for - but of a system. I imagine that it is occasionally quite oppressive to follow strictly what you are instructed to do even though you may not agree deeply. Then you also have to step outside as a spokesperson, whereby your name is linked to the statements you make. I can imagine that you do not want to appear in front of a camera. All anger now focuses on you.
It is so easy to judge and I do not want that. I want to live from love and compassion. I feel sorry for you because you do not seem able to choose for what is right and a loving God would really want you. I want to continue to believe in goodness, precisely because there is so much evil already.
Therefore, Michel, I choose not to respond from anger and hatred, but from love and compassion. Can you do that too?
PS: I do not send you this letter, but place it online where you will undoubtedly read it.
This letter has also been published on Aswins personal weblog