Is It Easy to Be Young When You Are a Jehovah’s Witness?
Toms Harjo is 21 and a Jehovah’s Witness. He created a photo project called In the Truth to show that his religious beliefs do not make him any different from his peers.
Photographer from Riga, Latvia. Since 2016, works as a freelance photographer and assistant editor for FK Magazine, a Latvian edition about modern photography. Finished ISSP in 2017.
How much are we willing to give in order to approach, look over, or adjust the inner borders that we have placed upon ourselves? In the Truth is a self-reflective story about a Jehovah’s Witness, his attempts at fitting in with different societal groups, whilst accompanied by the fear of alienation from his peers, both those who share and who don’t share his religious views. The project is a search for balance between doubts and vivacious conviction.
— I started contemplating making a series based on my experience as one of Jehovah’s Witness in early 2016. Even though Witnesses are known for their public witnessing, it’s never been easy for me to talk about the topic of personal conviction and religious views with my peers. Especially at school, where you are willing to do almost everything in order not to be ridiculed for standing out by not celebrating birthdays, Christmas, skipping cigarette breaks, wild parties or not getting involved in a romantic relationship before being mature enough for marriage.
Even though I don’t view my faith as restrictive anymore, but as morally disciplining, that benefits in the long term, challenging situations did occur often. Often enough I started to seek for ways of getting accepted amongst peers by exploring how close I could approach my inner borders without breaching them.
At the end of the day, most of the fears of being potentially alienated by groups of society are inside one’s head and might never come true. However, I know that there are a lot of young people, both witnesses and non-witnesses, who are being peer pressured daily and struggle to stand by their personal views, faith, or identity.