Harold King, Stanley Jones and Nancy Yuen were on my mind for some reason when I awoke this morning. I suppose I must somehow want to pay my respects publicly. Harold King and Stanley Jones were missionaries in China during the middle part of last century – during the Mao Zedong communist regime. They were each placed in solitary confinement for refusing to give allegiance to the said revered chairperson, and ended up serving five and seven years respectively. Could you possibly imagine two and a half thousand days without seeing a soul – other than maybe a face or two of your captors?
Nancy Yuen was a Chinese housewife who, although not placed in solitary, was nevertheless forced to serve almost twenty years away from friends and family in Chinese prisons and labour camps. Each of these three was a devout Jehovah’s Witness. In matters of allegiance, they were already committed to God through their chosen faith, and found no room for compromise. Whatever your religious convictions (or not) – I believe respect is due!
Ironically, in Richwood, West Virginia in 1940, Stanley Jones and a few friends had been mobbed, tied up and insulted by a crowd of fifteen hundred fanatics who accused them of being Communists just because they were distributing non-conformist literature. The court case makes an interesting read: CATLETTE v. UNITED STATES – 132 F.2d 902 (1943). Seems like Jones couldn’t win either way! But none of this really mattered to Stanley.
Harold King was released in 1963, and came to Bristol to speak at the Colston Hall not long after. I remember going there with my Dad, and finding we couldn’t get in as the place was so packed – so we stood on the steps outside with the overflow crowd. We were a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses in those days – Mum, Dad, my sister and me. I was ten. None of us are Witnesses now. I suppose we each came to a more universal consciousness in our own way. Like dear brother Michael (Jackson), also an ex-Witness – of whom I’d like to write more later.
Despite leaving the Witnesses over fifteen years ago, I wouldn’t want it to be thought for a moment that I do not take off my hat to such courage, faith and conviction as displayed by Nancy Yuen, Harold King and Stanley Jones. Through this kind of personal integrity and endurance for the sake of what is personally perceived to be right, unconscious dictatorships such as Zedong Communism, cruel Doctor Banda in Malawi, even Nazi Hitler in Germany have all eventually toppled – at least in part due to the unswerving self-integrity of those willing to stand up and be counted.
Religions may come and go, but in the greater scheme of human spirituality and an ever-evolving holistic consciousness of one world family, we cannot afford to forget men and women of whatever creed who paved the way for sublime freedom. To me – despite whatever personal interpretation they might have held – they constitute a sky filled with shining star-like examples of the transcendent quality of the human spirit in the face of adversity. They provide as if a dedicated kick-block – over which coercion and persecution eventually fall headlong. Nancy Yuen, Harold King and Stanley Jones and any like you – we salute you! Whatever your personal brand of religion – you stood against what can only now be described as narrow, fear-based and exclusive regimes. All-embracing consciousness is bound to triumph in the end – as, let’s face it – we are even genetically proven to be all of one common stock, one big family.
I found a home video of Nancy Yuen (not the opera singer by the way!) talking of her experience. You can watch it here: Nancy Yuen speaks.