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They arrive in caravans, bringing Tupperware, coolers, blankets and, most importantly, their Bibles.

Here they can pray among peers, feeling a sense of community instead of isolation.

Witnesses Beget Witnesses "I fell in love with a non-believer once but it didn't work," says Melanie.

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Members of the sect in Germany prefer to pair off their children within the faith community, and regional congresses make for prime matchmaking territory. Her hair is delicately pinned up, arranged in bud-like clusters. " Melanie, 17, was baptized as a Jehovah's Witness at 14.

Like thousands of others, she has come to Dortmund with her family -- all of them strict believers, all of them dressed up for the special day -- for the annual North Rhine-Westfalia convention of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Having doubts about his faith, the oldest son stayed home.

It's a blow to the parents but the enthusiasm of their younger children compensates for the one son's lack of faith. family has traveled to Germany's Ruhr region for what many Jehovah's Witnesses consider the high point of the year.

They hold their Bible in front of them like a silver tray: the word of Jehovah. There are passages explaining why nicotine is forbidden but a glass of wine at the end of the day permitted, why blood transfusions are to be avoided and why non-believers must be converted. They don't mention that the Protestant church has described the translation of the Bible used by Jehovah's Witnesses as inaccurate and uncritical.

Throughout the meeting, Bible passages are discussed at length and hymns are sung.

Dortmund is home to the largest district convention of Jehovah's Witnesses in the country.

The majority of those following the faith in Germany hail from the Ruhr region, which is densely populated and has relatively high unemployment. The girls' skirts might be a little longer and the children might look a bit more nicely coiffed, but it would be difficult to assign this group of people to any particular faith community.

Every so often, there is an interview with a Jehovah's Witness.

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