By Guest Indiana
If you go outside this Labor Day weekend, don't forget the bug spray.
The dangerous but rare Eastern equine encephalitis virus is flaring up in Michigan, state health officials say, and has been confirmed in two people in Berrien and Kalamazoo counties and is suspected in five more people.
The virus, carried by birds and transmitted to humans through the bite of infected mosquitoes, is deadly in 1 in 3 people who contract it, and can cause brain damage and permanent neurological disabilities in those who survive.
By JOHN BUTLER
I find it interesting when so much is compared between the Jews and the JW's.
But in my opinion, one big difference between being a Jew before and in the time of Jesus, and being a JW, is choice.
If a person was born into the Nation of Israel, they were born under Law and ruled over by the Religious leaders (and the Romans) at that time. There was no choice of being a Jew or not being a Jew. They were born into it. So of course many of them, probably all of them, committed 'sin' and had to make sin offerings. God had chosen that Nation, those people had responsibility but not of their choice.
Now, people that enter the JW religion do so voluntarily. ( Unfortunately for those born into it, they have to go through the motions of serving the JW Org until they are of an age whereby they can leave home. Then, when of age they too can volunteer to be a JW or chose to leave the Org.).
There is a big difference from being born into a Nation which you may not like, than voluntarily joining a religion which you do like.
So the big question is, if 'millions' of people voluntarily join this JW Org, why do so many commit child abuse, adultery and many other sins ?
If this is supposed to be 'THE true religion', why are the people not guided by God through Jesus Christ ? Just reading comments on here from so called JW's makes me laugh. There is no love, no mercy, no understanding, no respect even.
Being an ex JW and seeing things from both sides i have found more genuine love, kindness, friendship, respect, warmth, understanding etc outside of the Org than inside. Inside the Org people have to be told to 'love one another', outside the Org people do it anyway.
It has amazed me how JW's can really believe that God is with them when they are so cold and selfish.
With the Jews that were born into that Nation, they had no choice about their way of life. It was basically a dictatorship by God. The Laws were from 'above'. Obviously for the right reason, to bring forth Jesus Christ who in turn would 'rescue' the human race from complete destruction. But it was a totally different situation to the JW Org today.
So now all you 'JWs', think on it. Do you truly believe you are in this' special environment' within the Org ? Do you really think that your Org has God's approval ?
Think deeply about all the problems within JW Org. All the disgusting things being done voluntarily by all the volunteer JW's.
Now ask yourself, are you really a volunteer JW or are you trapped in the Org for fear of losing all those 'so called friends' ?
You know that you can only have your family and 'friends' as long as you are a JW. Do you feel like the Jews must have felt, trapped in that Nation ?
As we know many of the Jews left the Jewish religion and way of life to follow Christ, but it was difficult for them. However, they did have God's approval and God, through Christ made this known clearly. And it seems that many are leaving the JW Org to seek God's approval too.
But remember that all JW's are volunteers, or should be, so why oh why is there so much trouble in that Org ?
By Guest Indiana
Seven were shot at a party near Indiana’s Ball State University.
At least seven people were injured, three in a life-threatening fashion, in a shooting near Indiana’s Ball State University overnight.
According to local NBC affiliate WTHR, the shooting occurred at a large off-campus house party, with shots fired inside the house around 12:45 am. Police say they are still working to piece together what happened, as most witnesses heard but did not see the shooting.
By JOHN BUTLER
Having read lots of comments on this forum it is very easy to see that all that Jehovah's Witnesses have is their belief in their Governing Body and it's Writing Department.
If they believe, as a certain cowboy would have it, that a person can gain no true knowledge from the bible itself, then how else does a person gain true knowledge ?
It would seem that Jehovah's Witnesses rely totally on their GB 'boses' and on the Writing Department of same, to tell all JW's what to believe and when to believe it.
Why do i say 'and when to believe it' ? Well you have to keep up you know . What is said to be 'truth' by the GB and co one day, will be said to be totally untrue the next day or week.
JW's have nothing, no proof of any 'enlightenment' from above. They talk proudly about having 8.5 million members earthwide, but how many Muslims are there earthwide ? How many Catholics earthwide ? Numbers prove nothing as it can be clearly seen.
Yes I was once fooled by all the 'niceness' of a few brothers and sisters. But once I got to know those people properly I soon found out that they are no better than people in the world.
The JW Org is no better than any other organisation that pretends to serve God, but the JW Org is in some ways more dangerous. It wraps itself around people's lives and restricts people's freedom of thinking. It pretends to have 'special knowledge' from God that no other organisation has.
But then if one looks closely one can see it is all just a smoke screen. The JW Org only has 8 men in America dominating it, and 8.5 million people worshiping those 8 men.
I do feel a bit foolish having wasted years of my life believing all of it's lies and deceit, but I congratulate myself for not being frightened to ask questions and do research for myself.
No matter what any Jehovah's Witness tells you, the truth is, all they have is a belief in their GB, and they follow their GB's orders via all the others in charge including the puppet men Elders.
At meetings, conventions, assemblies, on the ministry et al, all they do is use the literature provided for them by the GB and the Writing dept. Without question they pump this 'information' into other people. When conducting a supposed 'bible study' it is actually a book study, studying the words of the GB / writing dept, not studying God's written word properly. They spend more time reading the paragraphs and answering those questions than they do reading scriptures and focusing on God's words.
It is a horrid way of brainwashing people, washing out the common sense and replacing it with lies from the GB / writing dept. Dictating, giving orders and pretending it is God's will.
Removing the love that people have for one another and replacing it with discrimination. Shunning family members, turning their back on anyone that is not a JW by saying all other people are just 'part of the world' and therefore wicked.
Frightening people with threats of 'armageddon' killing them.
And now it seems that they are almost begging for contributions as they seem to be getting short of money. Well paying off millions in compensation for the Child Abuse / Pedophilea of course. Selling off Kingdom Halls too as funds run low.
Oh how low that religion has sunken. Are they really stupid enough to believe that God is with them ?
By JOHN BUTLER
I was going to add this to another topic but remembered we are told to start new topics, so I've done that.
Hope this hasn't been added before but it would take me a month to go through all the topics to see if its on here.
It is about the baptism of children, but I also thing it involves making children go on the ministry.
By Guest Indiana
WASHINGTON – Kirstjen Nielsen, who oversaw President Donald Trump's hard-line immigration policies as secretary of Homeland Security, is leaving her post amid tensions with some in the White House who felt she hasn't done enough to stem border crossings.
Trump tweeted Sunday that Nielsen is leaving the post she has held since the end of 2017.
"Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen will be leaving her position, and I would like to thank her for her service," he said. He said Kevin McAleenan, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner, will become the acting DHS secretary. McAleenan has held senior posts within CBP dating back to President George W. Bush's administration.
Rea more: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2019/04/07/kirstjen-nielsen-out-trump-secretary-homeland-security/1895285002/
By Guest Indiana
In February, a Russian court sentenced a Danish citizen who was a legal resident of Russia to six years in prison for such an extremist offence as organizing other Witnesses to shovel snow from their church’s property.
A month later, Sergei Skrynnikov, a Russian and allegedly a Jehovah’s Witness, was charged with “participating in an extremist organization,” an offence under Russian law that could earn him up to six years in prison. Jehovah’s Witnesses have been fleeing Russia and seeking asylum in Germany and Finland to escape such harsh sentences.
In China, state authorities harass Jehovah’s Witnesses and raid their meetings. Authorities also deport foreign Witness missionaries from countries such as South Korea.
South Korea has only recently dropped a 2003 law prohibiting conscientious objection to fighting in its armed forces, a law that confined young Witness men — as well as other men — to jail.
All these states violate international laws that protect religious freedom, including the freedoms of unpopular minorities. Article 18, 1 of the 1976 United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights protects everyone’s freedom to “have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice” and “to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”
A long history of persecution
Jehovah’s Witnesses were among the first groups the Nazis persecuted. There were about 25,000 to 30,000 Witnesses in Germany in 1933. About half of those who did not flee were convicted of various crimes and between 2,000 and 2,500 were sent to concentration camps, where about 1,000 died. About 250 were also executed.
Some years ago I met a Jehovah’s Witness in the city where I live who told me the Nazis had beheaded his grandfather. Germany’s Jehovah’s Witnesses were not merely passive religious group that refused to adopt the Nazi ideology: they also actively tried to expose Nazi atrocities.
In the 1960s and ‘70s in Malawi, entire villages of Jehovah’s Witnesses were burned, and many villagers were raped, tortured or murdered as they tried to flee. Their crime was refusal to participate in rituals of loyalty to the newly independent Malawian state and its president, Hastings Banda.
The Malawi government denied me a visa in the early 1980s when I told its High Commission in Ottawa that I wanted to know what had happened to these Witnesses for research for my book, Human Rights in Commonwealth Africa.
Many Witnesses in Rwanda, both Tutsi and Hutu, lost their lives during the 1994 genocide, many trying to hide people at risk of being murdered.Even now, Rwandan authorities expel some Witness children from school and have fired some Witness teachers because they refuse to sing the national anthem or participate in religious training.
Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Canada
Here in Canada, Jehovah’s Witnesses have not always enjoyed their rights to freedom of religion and expression.
During the Second World War, Witness children were banned from schools in several locations because they would not salute the flag, sing the national anthem or repeat the pledge of allegiance. A Witness father sued the Hamilton Board of Education on behalf of his two sons, who had been expelled from school in 1940. In 1945, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, saying the Board was required to excuse students from participating in religious exercises to which their parents objected.
via .ORGWorld News
By JOHN BUTLER
OK, not really a topic, but I'm confused
J W's Open Club ? this one that I've just joined.
What happened to the other JW club ? Do you know I cannot even remember what it was called.
Was it JW's Private club ? Any way did i miss something happening and if so what, when and why ???
By Guest Nicole
HAVANA TIMES – Daniel Ortega has achieved what neither Putin, nor climate change, nor China, nor the immigration problem, nor Maduro nor Syria could do: he inspired nothing more and nothing less than the adoption of a bipartisan consensus between the US Republican and Democratic parties regarding his regime.
What’s more, he managed to become a point of consensus between the US Executive branch, headed by Trump, and the US Congress. It may seem a lie or an exaggeration, but no other topic during Trump’s administration has been resolved with this level of consensus.
In reacting to the decisions adopted by the organs of United States power, Ortega momentarily dusted off the old speeches that he had kept filed away these eleven years and spoke once again of interventionism, of imperialism and other expressions of the like. Then, he fell silent.
He’ll likely speak about it again once he’s assimilated the blow and has designed the course he’ll follow. Meanwhile, it’s important to recall that Nicaragua’s economic dependence with respect to the United States has broadened and deepened during this “antiimperialist” regime of Ortega’s.
Read more: https://havanatimes.org/?p=145130
By JOHN BUTLER
OK, I've sort of shot myself in the foot by saying I'm now going to take this forum as a joke and have a laugh. In most ways i will continue to do so BUT.
This evening I was given some information that 1.maybe I shouldn't have been given. 2. Maybe i wish i hadn't been given.
Some of you may say I'm telling lies. Some of you may say I'm just after attention. Some may say I'm just trying to put down the JW Org.
However i have to think on something i say a lot. DUTY OF CARE. Care of everyone, in or out of that JW Org.
I have been given this information :-
Somewhere between 18 months to 2 years ago, a young man that is a member of Honiton Congregation (my ex congregation) committed a sexual offence against a young girl that would have been around 7 or 8 years old at that time..
The young man was visiting the home of this child and he went up to the girl's bedroom and asked the girl to have sex with him. I do not think that sexual intercourse took place but from the information that I've been given, he laid her on the bed and got on top of her and 'humped' her as if he were having sexual intercourse with her.
The incident was reported to the Elders and the police were not informed. I have no idea what action the Elders took but the congregation were not informed.
The young man ( who's name I have ) would have been in his very early twenties at the time, but his mental age is lower. He is a bit slow in learning things and possibly has mental disorders. That is not meant as an insult, but i do know this young man personally and he does act a bit strange sometimes and frightens people.
The young man's father was a single dad of three children ( i knew this man quite well ), but he invited a foreign lady (a sister in the JW Org) over to the UK, and they married. The marriage did not go well as the woman wanted to 'be the boss'. They split up and she went back to her country of origin. But then she came back to have a 'second try' at the marriage. I do not know the marriage situation at this time. However the whole issue would have been totally upsetting for the three children, especially for this young man that found it difficult to cope with some situations.
The person that gave me this information, in my opinion, is completely trustworthy, and once again in my opinion, would not have any reason for making up a 'story'. As I was given the young man's name, and i know the young man and his father, it all seems quite genuine to me.
Now i come back to the duty of care. For, in my opinion, it is the duty of anyone that has any information concerning child abuse to report it to the police.
This could be just a one off incident, but it could be the start of a young man becoming a pedophile. I honestly don't know where my duty is here.
The young girl that was the victim of this assault may need help getting over the situation. The information was also that the father of the victim does not want 'any trouble'. Hence he did not want the police involved. That helped the Elders to keep it secret, well almost.
Now this young man may commit sexual assault again, within the JW congregation or outside of it. And that young lady will be in fear of him and yet still have to attend that Kingdom hall where she will see him every week.
So should i report what i have been told to the police or not ? Of course I would have to tell the police it is only third hand information.
BUT, if the police could get hold of the 'records' / paperwork from the Kingdom hall regarding the incident, then it would be proved as true.
I do not expect that the Elders would willingly hand over paperwork, so I've no idea how it would work out in the end. But it's my actions that I'm concerned about here , my responsabilites. What should i do ?
By Guest Nicole
A Florida couple is recalling a distressing experience on a Carnival CruiseÂ after finding a hidden camera pointing at their bed.Â
In an interview set to air Monday, Chris and Dana White toldÂ Inside EditionÂ that they discovered aÂ recording deviceÂ hidden among TV wires in their stateroom last October on the Carnival Fantasy, aÂ three-day Caribbean cruiseÂ departing from Mobile, Alabama.Â
"I said, 'Is that what I think it is?' " Chris WhiteÂ said. "And she looked at it and she became concerned. And we were just really flabbergasted that there's a camera in the room and it's plugged up and it's working."
The couple called Carnival security and used their cellphone to film an employeeÂ who inspected and disassembled the device.Â "I was thinking, 'I can't believe this is actually happening to us,' " he said.
By Guest Nicole
Legislators ‘need to stopÂ’ working for institutions
Dave Kohler, of Allentown, was abused by an ordained minister in the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in November 1965. He was 9 years old.Â
When Kohler was 17, his abuser told him to never talk about the abuse again.Â
Â“So I obeyed and kept my mouth shut,Â” Kohler said.Â
HeÂ’s been coming to Harrisburg for about five years to show his support for statute of limitations reform. Â“Individuals vote them in, and then they work for institutions,Â” Kohler said of the state legislators. Â“That needs to stop.Â”
If reform is passed that would allow Kohler the opportunity to sue his abuser, Kohler said he knows what he would do with any money he could collect.
Â“I will hopefully be able to afford therapy,Â” he said.
Dave Kohler, who said he was abused by an ordained minister in the Jehovah's Witnesses in Kutztown and Emmaus, talks about his experience, during the demonstration for statute of limitations reform to the state's childhood sexual abuse laws at the state capitol in Harrisburg on Monday.Â (Photo: Paul Kuehnel, York Daily Record)
By JOHN BUTLER
This topic is aimed toward asking ADMIN these questions. I do not know who Admin are. Some folks here seem to have made friends with Admin where as I just use the forum.
Why was Jehovah's Witnesses Private Club set up ?
Should it be 999% about Jehovah's Witnesses and their Organisation, which would include the GB ?
Am I therefore wrong when i only talk about Jehovah's Witnesses and have no interest in other religions ?
There are those on here that regularly 'bite my ears off' because i only talk about the JW's, but I thought that was the intention of this forum.
Admin please clarify these matters for me, please ......
By Guest Nicole
SCHOHARIE, N.Y. — It was an intersection of two highways, one a steep downhill road, that residents had long warned was notoriously dangerous.
On Saturday afternoon, their worst fears were realized: A limousine lost control, careening through the intersection and striking an empty car. The crash killed all 18 people in the white limousine and two pedestrians in an accident that left deep tire tracks in the ground and a small upstate New York town reeling.
“That limo was coming down that hill probably over 60 miles per hour,” said Jessica Kirby, 36, the manager of the Apple Barrel Country Store, where she said customers were hit near the parking lot. “All fatal.”
“I don’t want to describe the scene,” she added. “It’s not something I want to think about.”
Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/07/nyregion/wedding-limo-crash-schoharie-ny.html
By Guest Nicole
While most of the comments on the post in the Facebook page debated the merits of the celebrations and the priorities of the district, some focused on the religious beliefs of those who don't celebrate Halloween.
Halloween began as the Celtic festival Samhain, where people would light bonfires and wear costumes to frighten ghosts, according to History.com. Due to its roots, the holiday isn't celebrated by certain religions or groups, including Jehovah's Witnesses, some Christians, Orthodox Jews and Muslims.
"It is the stated strategy of some to use our own laws against us," reads on comment on Facebook. "Wake up people. Nothing is an 'American Tradition' anymore. (And many who move here aren't doing so to become American)."
Another comment asked "Who is ruining traditions?" The response from a different person, which has since been deleted, read: "Muslims."
Kucinski said statements such as these are "very hurtful to people who are equally American but may be of a different culture, religion, or hold different beliefs than those who are making these comments."
"This discussion has emboldened certain voices in our community to make sweeping biased assumptions against groups of people that may or may not be the ones that are holding their kids home from school," she said. "Does it matter what group or groups are keeping their kids home and missing a fun celebration at school? No."
Littman said it's anyone's right to not celebrate a holiday, though others don't have to follow suit.
Read more: https://www.swnewsmedia.com/prior_lake_american/news/elementary-schools-move-away-from-fall-celebrations-spark-debate/article_b3add4dc-b36a-5ceb-a1a7-9128e7cce1e2.html
By Srecko Sostar
3) We do not lobby, vote in political elections, run for government office, or try to change governments. …Otherwise, how could we have a clean conscience when we preach the good news that only God’s Kingdom can solve mankind’s problems? source: https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2016288#h=36
lobby verb [ I or T ] UK /ˈlɒb.i/ US /ˈlɑː.bi/
C2 to try to persuade a politician, the government, or an official group that a particular thing should or should not happen, or that a law should be changed:
Recent example how WT Company and JW members participated in "lobbying" was writing letters to Russian Government and their politicians.
By Guest Nicole
More than 200 Jehovah's Witnesses - a religious organization banned in Russia - have applied for asylum in Finland. More than 100 members of this organization have arrived in the European country only so far in 2018. According to Juha Simila, representative of the Finnish migration service, about 10 cases have been analyzed so far and, in most of them, Finland rejected the asylum application. Simila explained to the Finnish newspaper Aamulehti that some denials have been appealed to the court and that in one of the cases the negative decision of the migration service has already been confirmed.
Read more: https://mundo.sputniknews.com/religion/201808221081407393-testigos-jehova-rusos-piden-asilo-en-finlandia/
By Guest Nicole
By Guest Nicole
YELM, Wash. — Authorities on Wednesday were investigating after someone tried to set fire to the Kingdom Hall of JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in Yelm.
This comes after four other recent attacks onÂ Kingdom Halls of JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in Thurston County that are being investigated as hate crimes.
In the latest incident, authorities were called around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday to the report of an attempted arson at the Kingdom Hall on Vail Road SE in Yelm.
The ensuing investigation closed a large section of Vail Road for most of the day.
Church elders had arrived to find fire logs stacked up against an outside wall that was smoldering. They doused the logs with water and prevented any further damage to the building.
The elders reported finding a suspicious device placed on the ground on the west side of the building. It Â“had the appearance of being an explosive device,Â” so deputies called the bomb squad to the scene.
People living nearby the church told Q13 News they were told by law enforcement to evacuate for their own safety.
Â“I got woken up by my roommate Zachary saying there was a device on the church next door to our house and we needed to evacuate,Â” said Richard McIntire.
McIntireÂ’s shared his concern about living so close to whatÂ’s become a repeated target.
Â“I donÂ’t understand why people have to target churches,Â” he said.
Neighbors in rural Yelm expressed their worries about the attacks and hoped police would soon make an arrest before someone gets hurt.
By late afternoon investigators determined the suspicious device wasnÂ’t dangerous. The Thurston County SheriffÂ’s Office laterÂ tweeted, Â“The suspicious device was made to look like a real bomb but in the end, it was found to be fake.Â”
Read more:Â https://q13fox.com/2018/08/08/possible-explosive-device-found-after-attempted-arson-at-kingdom-hall-in-yelm/
By Guest Nicole
(Moscow) – Law enforcement authorities acrossÂ RussiaÂ have carried out a sweeping campaign against JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in recent months, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities have carried out dozens of home searches, raids, interrogations, and other acts of harassment and persecution.
The authorities are holding 18 men in pretrial detention on charges of organizing, participating in, or financing the activities of an Â“extremist organizationÂ” solely for their religious activities. Several others are facing the same charges and are under house arrest or subject to travel restrictions. The charges carry a maximum 10-year prison sentence. RussianÂ authorities should release those in detention immediately, drop the charges, and halt the persecution of JehovahÂ’s Witnesses.
Â“The JehovahÂ’s Witnesses are simply peacefully exercising their right to freedom of religion,Â” saidÂ Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. Â“The JehovahÂ’s Witness faith is not an extremist organization, and authorities should stop this religious persecution of its worshipers now.Â”
Human Rights Watch interviewed four lawyers defending JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in five regions and a representative of the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses. Human Rights Watch also reviewed court documents, media reports, Russian government statements, and Federal Security Service (FSB) photos and videos purporting to show the raids.
The raids and arrests stem fromÂ an April 2017 Russian Supreme Courtruling that banned all JehovahÂ’s Witnesses organizations throughout Russia. The ruling declared the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses Administrative Center, the head office for 395 JehovahÂ’s Witnesses branches throughout Russia, an extremist organization and ruled that all 395 be shut down. The ruling, which affects more than 100,000 JehovahÂ’s Witnesses across Russia, blatantly violates RussiaÂ’s obligations to respect and protect religious freedom and freedom of association.
Russian authorities should reverse the ban on the organizationÂ’s activities and remove the Â“extremistÂ” designation, Human Rights Watch said. Meanwhile, they should leave JehovahÂ’s Witnesses free to practice their faith.
JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in Russia and other former USSR countries have faced persecution in the past. During the Soviet era, they were arrested and imprisoned in labor camps, including in Siberia. Within the past decade,Â worshipers across Russia have faced persecution, intrusive home searches, andÂ arrests, and have been denied rights to freedom of assembly, association, and religion.
In 2010, theÂ European Court of Human Rights ruled against RussiaÂ for closing the Moscow branch of the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses and refusing to allow the group to re-register. The court found violations of articles 9 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protect freedom of religion and association, respectively. In addition to awarding monetary damages, the court said that Russia should review the domestic decisions that led to the violations. Russia has refused to carry out the judgments in that case andÂ several othersÂ brought by members of the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses. On the contrary, Russia has continued to persecute JehovahÂ’s Witnesses, seeking the groupÂ’s complete dissolution in Russia.
From April to June 2018, law enforcement raids targeted JehovahÂ’s Witness communities in at least 11 regions throughout Russia, from Saratov region in southwestern Russia to Primorsky Krai in RussiaÂ’s far east. Police carried out the raids, often accompanied by a combination of FSB officials wearing masks, armed personnel of the Interior Ministry Special Task Police Force or National Guard, and representatives from the Investigative Committee, RussiaÂ’s criminal investigation service. Â
The authorities, who obtained search warrants or entry permits in most cases, confiscated personal computers, mobile phones, bank cards, passports, religious literature, and, in some cases, housing deeds. Dozens of JehovahÂ’s Witnesses, including at least one child, were taken to local investigative offices for questioning. Others were detained and later charged.
A lawyer representing a JehovahÂ’s Witness who is in pretrial detention in Murmansk Region told Human Rights Watch that the authoritiesÂ’ actions contradict religious freedom guarantees in the Russian Constitution. Â“The [Russian] constitution says that you canÂ practice your faith togetherÂ with others, but as it turns out, thatÂ’s a crime,Â” said Yegiazar Chernikov, of the Sverdlovsk LawyersÂ’ Association.
In at least two regions, armed officers threatened the worshipers with firearms, in one case pointing a gun at a personÂ’s head, a lawyer familiar with the incident told Human Rights Watch.
A JehovahÂ’s Witnesses representative told Human Rights Watch that approximately 160 JehovahÂ’s Witnesses have fled Russia to seek refuge abroad.
On June 20, RussiaÂ’s Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights announced that it hadÂ asked the prosecutor generalÂ’s officeÂ to verify the legality of criminal prosecutions against JehovahÂ’s Witnesses practicing their faith. A week earlier, several of the spouses of the men in pretrial detention hadÂ sent a letter to the chair of the council, Mikhail Fedotov, urging him to ask President Vladimir Putin to end the raids and arrests and to restore freedom of religion in Russia.
Over 150 Russian activists, journalists, and academics Â– including several members of Memorial, RussiaÂ’s foremost human rights group Â–Â signed and publishedÂ an open letter urging the authorities to immediately release those in detention and to reverse the Supreme CourtÂ’s decision to liquidate the JehovahÂ’s WitnessesÂ’ organization.
JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in Russia Â– like all people in Russia Â– should be able to peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of religion and association, Human Rights Watch said. Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Russian Constitution as well as the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Russia is a party.
Under international law, freedom of religion includes the freedom to practice oneÂ’s religion or belief both individually and in community with others, in public or in private, and through worship, practice, and teaching. Russia already has many rulings against it for its failure to respect the freedom of religion of faith communities and minority religious groups, such as theÂ Church of Scientology, theÂ Salvation Army, and theÂ JehovahÂ’s Witnesses
Â“Russia should do right by its national and international obligations to respect freedom of religion,Â” Denber said. Â“Russian leadership should make sure that law enforcement is honoring and protecting that right, not trampling on it.Â”
Raids Aimed at Intimidation
The JehovahÂ’s Witnesses are a peaceful religious community. The consistent show of force in raids in many locations in Russia was disproportionate and seemed aimed at sending a strong message of intimidation, Human Rights Watch said.Â
In most regions, the authorities arrested people they singled out as leaders and organizers of the local JehovahÂ’s Witnesses community for such actions as recruiting new members and distributing religious literature that the authorities label Â“extremist.Â”
On May 16 in the Orenburg Region, in southwest Russia, law enforcement personnel searched 18 homes in four cities and charged nine people. Two are in pretrial custody and another is under house arrest.
On May 17 in Birobidzhan, in southeast Russia, representatives of the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses reported that about 150 law enforcement personnel raided the homes of at least nine JehovahÂ’s Witnesses, confiscating photos, bank cards, money, and computers. An officialÂ reportedly saidthat the operation was code-named Â“Judgment Day.Â” One person was arrested and charged with organizing activities of an Â“extremist organizationÂ” but wasÂ released from pretrial detentionÂ eight days later.
On April 18 in the town of Polyarny in the Murmansk Region, in northwest Russia, armed law enforcement agents raided at least seven homes and arrested two men. They took several others into custody for questioning and later released them. Police also took a 16-year-old girl into custody and questioned her at the local investigative unit for several hours. AÂ video posted on the Murmansk Investigative CommitteeÂ’s websiteÂ shows men wearing camouflage uniforms and helmets forcing open a door to an apartment.
The arrest and raid campaign took place as the trial of aÂ JehovahÂ’s Witness who is a Danish citizen, Dennis Christensen, continues in Orel, a city in western Russia. Christensen, who was arrested in May 2017, is being tried on charges of organizing activities of an Â“extremist organizationÂ” and faces a maximum 10-year prison sentence if convicted. He hasÂ filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rightsalleging, among other things, that his arrest constituted unlawful interference with his right to freedom of religion.
Another JehovahÂ’s Witness in Orel, 55-year-oldÂ Sergei Skrynnikov, was charged on May 8, 2018, with participating in the activities of an Â“extremist organization.Â”
A lawyer who is defending three JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in two regions said that throughout the past eight months, FSB agents in the Orenburg Region and the Republic of Bashkortostan conducted wiretapping, videotaping, and other surveillance of JehovahÂ’s WitnessesÂ’ activities Â– for which they said they had warrants Â– as part of the investigation. In some cases, the lawyer said, authorities placed recording devices in JehovahÂ’s WitnessesÂ’ homes.
Earlier in 2018, police raided more than two dozen JehovahÂ’s WitnessesÂ’ homes in Belgorod and Kemerovo. Two JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in Belgorod are facing extremism charges.
Saratov and Shirokoe, Saratov Region
On June 12, authorities in Saratov Region, southwestern Russia,Â raided at least seven homesÂ of JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in the city of Saratov and village of Shirokoe. According to the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in Russia,Â special forces officers broke down doorsÂ and confiscated computers, books, notebooks, photographs, bankbooks, and passports. The authorities took at least 10 people to FSB offices for questioning.
ThreeÂ were detained and chargedÂ with organizing activities of an Â“extremist organization.Â” They are: 43-year-old Konstantin Bazhenov, 35-year-old Aleksei Budenchuk, and 33-year-old Felix Makhammadiyev. On June 14, the Frunzensky District Court placed all three in pretrial detention until August 12.
Tomsk, Tomsk Region
Law enforcementÂ raided several homes and cars belonging to JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in TomskÂ between 10 a.m. on June 3 and about 2 a.m. the next day, the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in Russia reported. Officers confiscated Bibles, mobile phones, tablets, computers, photographs, money, bank cards, and other personal possessions. They took about 30 people to the police anti-extremism center for questioning.
According to a statement by the Tomsk Investigative Committee, the searches were part of a joint FSB and Internal Affairs Ministry investigation into meetings of JehovahÂ’s Witness residents in Tomsk. Investigative authorities allege that worshipers studied prohibited, Â“extremistÂ” religious materials and carried out organized religious activities in violation of the Supreme CourtÂ’s ruling against the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses Administrative Center.
Representatives of the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that 48-year-old Sergei Klimov was detained after a search of his home on June 3, was charged with organizing activities of an Â“extremist organization,Â” and will remain in pretrial detention until August 4.
Magadan, Magadan Region
The JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in RussiaÂ reportedÂ that on May 30, FSB and law enforcement officers arrested Konstantin Petrov, 31; Yevgeny Zyablov, 41; and Sergei Yerkin, 61, after searching their homes in the city of Magadan (Magadan Region). On the same day, authorities in Khabarovsk (Khabarovsky Krai) detained Ivan Puyda, 39, based on a court order from Magadan. All four are accused of organizing activities of an Â“extremist organizationÂ” and will remain in pretrial detention until July 29.
Naberezhnye Chelny, Republic of Tatarstan
Police and FSB officials searched the homes of 10 JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in the city of Naberezhnye Chelny, in south-central Russia, on the evening of May 27. The JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in RussiaÂ reportedÂ that the searches lasted Â“well into the night.Â”
Investigators arrestedÂ Ilham Karimov, 37; Vladimir Myakushin, 30; Konstantin Matrashov, 25;Â Â Â Aydar Yulmetyev, 24, on suspicion of organizing and participating in the activities of an Â“extremist organizationÂ” and placed them in pretrial detention until July 25. The Naberezhnye Chelny City Court displays records of all four hearings.Â According to the religious freedom monitoring group Forum 18, Karimov, Myakushin, and Matrashov have appealed their pretrial detention.
Perm, Perm Krai
The JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in Russia reported that on the evening of May 22, Aleksandr Solovyev, 48, and his wife, Anna, wereÂ detained at the railway stationÂ in Perm, in the Ural Mountains region, after returning from a trip abroad. Law enforcement then searched the coupleÂ’s home and reportedly seized property deeds, photographs, several Bibles, and a Wi-Fi router.
Anna was released, but her husband was held for two days. He was released on May 24, and the Sverdlovsk District Court ordered him confined to house arrest.Â According to Forum 18, he is being investigated on charges of participating in the activities of an Â“extremist organization.Â”
Before the 2017 Supreme Court ruling banning the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses Administrative Center, Solovyov chaired the Perm JehovahÂ’s Witnesses congregation,Â according to the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in Russia website.
Birobidzhan, Jewish Autonomous Region
On May 17 in Birobidzhan, southeast Russia,Â police raided the homes of at least nine JehovahÂ’s Witnesses. The raids were carried out by approximately 150 law enforcement officers. An officialÂ reportedly saidthat the operation was code-named Â“Judgment Day.Â”
On May 18, 55-year-old Alam Aliev was placed in pretrial detention until July 13 under suspicion of organizing activities of an Â“extremist organization.Â” TheÂ FSB statedÂ that its request to detain Aliev Â“was motivated by the fact that the crime is classified as graveÂ” and because Â“[t]he suspect may impede the criminal proceedings, put pressure on witnesses, and also evade investigative and judicial authorities.Â” Following an appeal by AlievÂ’s lawyer,Â Aliev was released from detention on May 25Â but still faces charges.
Orenburg, Orenburg Region
On May 16 in Orenburg Region, Investigative Committee authorities, FSB officials, and armed National Guard officers searched 18 homes in four cities. Vitaly Svintsov, a lawyer representing two JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in the region, told Human Rights Watch that nine people were charged with organizing or participating in the activities of an Â“extremist organization.Â” Two of them, Aleksandr Suvorov and Vladimir Kochnev, both 38, remain in pretrial custody until July 14. Twenty-six-year-old Vladislav Kolbanov remains under house arrest. The other six remain under travel restrictions while the investigation is ongoing, Svintsov said.
Photographs of some of the raidsÂ posted on the Orenburg Investigative Committee websiteÂ show FSB officials and riot police in bulletproof vests and masks approaching JehovahÂ’s WitnessesÂ’ residences.
A statement by the Orenburg Investigative Committee said that investigative operations were Â“carefully planned and organizedÂ” by law enforcement with the aim of Â“seizing documents and items relevant to the criminal case, as well as identifying other persons involved in unlawful activities.Â”Â Investigators allegeÂ that the suspects Â“organized activities of a subdivision of JehovahÂ’s Witnesses [Administrative Center] by calling and holding meetings, organizing the recruitment of new members, and communicating the contents of religious literature to meeting participants.Â”
Shuya, Ivanovo Region
Forum 18 reportedÂ that law enforcement raided four homes in the town of Shuya, western Russia, early on the morning of April 20.
Dmitry Mikhailov, 33, wasÂ arrested on May 29, over a month after his home was searched and placed in pretrial custody until July 19. He is being accused of Â“financing extremist activities.Â” Â
On April 20, the Ivanovo Region Investigative CommitteeÂ released a statementÂ about the home searches, alleging that since the beginning of 2018, JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in Shuya had been studying literature Â“containing statements degrading human dignity . . . and elements of propaganda of the exclusivity of one religion over another.Â”
Vladivostok, Primorsky Krai
Several homes belonging to JehovahÂ’s Witnesses wereÂ reportedly raidedon April 19 in the far-east city of Vladivostok.
Human Rights Watch was able to confirm that on April 23Â Valentin Osadchuk, 42, was placed under arrest by Frunzensky District Court on charges of participation in the activities of an Â“extremist organizationÂ” after authorities searched his home and confiscated computers, notebooks, and other devices. He remains in pretrial detention until September 20. Representatives of the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that five others face the same charges but remain at liberty subject to travel restrictions.
Polyarny, Murmansk Region
On the evening of April 18 in the town of Polyarny in the Murmansk region, armed law enforcement raided at least seven homes and arrested two JehovahÂ’s Witnesses, Roman Markin, 44, and Viktor Tifimov, 61. Others whose homes were searched were taken to the local investigative unit for questioning and later released without charge.
The Murmansk Region Investigative CommitteeÂ stated on its websitethat National Guard officers and FSB officials who led the home searches confiscated computer drives and religious literature. AÂ video posted to the websiteÂ shows men wearing camouflage uniforms and helmets forcing open a door with a pry bar. The Investigative Committee said that beginning in April 2017, the suspects had allegedly Â“organized activities of the religious organization [JehovahÂ’s Witnesses] by convening and holding meetings, organizing the recruitment of new members, and leading studies of religious texts at meetings.Â”
MarkinÂ’s lawyer, Arli Chimirov, told Human Rights Watch that armed officers broke down MarkinÂ’s door and told him and his 16-year-old daughter, who was at home with him, to lie on the floor while law enforcement threatened them with firearms and searched the apartment. MarkinÂ’s daughter was escorted to the investigative unit and was questioned for several hours along with her mother, who arrived some time later.
On April 23, 2018, the Polyarny District Court placed Markin in pretrial custody until June 11. MarkinÂ’s lawyer unsuccessfully appealed the decision. According to court documents on file with Human Rights Watch, investigative authorities requested that Markin be placed in pretrial detention because of the risk that he Â“may continue criminal activities, threaten participants in the legal proceedings, hide or destroy evidence, and also fail to attend preliminary court hearings.Â” On June 4, MarkinÂ’s pretrial detention was extended to October 11.
TifimovÂ’s lawyer, Yegiazar Chernikov, told Human Rights Watch that beginning in October 2017, investigators had been collecting as evidence audio and video recordings of conversations among JehovahÂ’s Witnesses. Chernikov said that on several occasions, a woman involved in the investigation invited Tifimov to her home, where audio and video recording devices were in place, and asked him questions given to her by investigative authorities and designed to incriminate him.
Tifimov was originally detained until June 12, 2018, but his pretrial detention was extended until October 11.
Ufa, Republic of Bashkortostan
The religious freedom groupÂ Forum 18 reportedÂ that approximately 60 law enforcement officers, some of them armed, raided eight homes in the city of Ufa, south-central Russia, on the morning of April 10. Investigators confiscated personal belongings, books, and photographs. The lawyer representing one of the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses who was detained said that authorities threatened worshipers with weapons,Â in one case holding an automatic weapon to a personÂ’s head.
At least 20 people were reportedly taken to the Lenin District Investigative Department for questioning and fingerprinting but were later released. One girl was called for questioning, but when she showed up for the meeting with her mother and the director of her school, the investigator failed to appear.
On April 12, Anatoly Vilikevich, 32, was arrested on suspicion of organizing activities of an Â“extremist organization,Â” and placed in pretrial detention. VilikevichÂ’s lawyer, Vitaly Svintsov, who appealed the order, told Human Rights Watch that on June 21 the Supreme Court of Bashkortostan overturned the lower courtÂ’s decision and placed him under house arrest.
A statement by theÂ Bashkortostan Republic Investigative Committeealleged that Vilikevich had organized a local chapter of the banned JehovahÂ’s Witnesses Administrative Center. Investigators who searched his home confiscated Â“prohibited literature,Â” the statement said.
Since 2007, dozens of pieces of JehovahÂ’s WitnessesÂ’ literature have been banned and placed on the federal registry of banned extremist materials. Pictured here, stacks of booklets distributed by a local leader of a Jehovah's Witnesses congregation in the Siberian town of Gorno-Altaysk are seen during a court session on December 16, 2010.
Â Â©2010 Reuters/Alexandr Tyryshkin
By Guest Nicole
In a surprising move, a branch of the Russian government has called out the actions of their government’s police and judicial forces in the enforcement of the ban of Jehovah Witnesses. The ban occurred last year when the Russian Supreme Court labeled the religious denomination an “extremist organization.” This has led to arrests of over a dozen Jehovah’s Witnesses, the closing of all administrative and religious worship buildings, and near constant harassment by police forces for the private practice of their faith. Several wives of arrested Jehovah’s Witnesses created a joint statement begging for their release. The Presidential Council is designed to help assist the Russian president in protecting human rights. In a written statement, the organization questioned the actions of the past year, saying “It cannot but be a cause for concern because the criminal prosecutions and detentions have taken on a systemic character.” This comes at a unique time for human rights and Russia. The country deflected demands by the United States to release over a hundred political and religious prisoners earlier in the week, including Jehovah’s Witnesses. The United States pressure was labeled Western propaganda. Conversely, Russia has been proposing that it takes the United States spot on the United Nations Human Rights Council. The United States announced pulling out of the international body earlier this week. Given the authoritarian control Putin has over the government, the actions of the presidential council may be purely a symbolic measure to prevent criticism from the West and gain support for their bid to join the UN Human Rights Council. It is unclear what steps will be taken and what the lasting effect will be on the government. What is not addressed in the letter is the physical violence and threats that have occurred from vigilante groups and private citizens, which seem emboldened by the government’s law and police actions.
Read more at World Religion News: "Russian Government Criticizes Putin for Treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses" https://www.worldreligionnews.com/?p=53681
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