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Turkey violated religious freedoms of Jehovah Witnesses: ECHR


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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Turkey violated the right to freedom of religion of a group of Jehovah Witnesses in İzmir and Mersin through “direct interference” by refusing to grant them appropriate places of worship. 


The Association for Solidarity with Jehovah Witnesses and others appealed against the ECHR against Turkey in June 2010 and complained that national authorities refused to grant a place of worship status to their houses of worship while also rejecting their requests to provide access to places of worship. 

In the appeal, the association claimed Turkey violated the group’s right to freedom of religion (Article 9), right to a fair trial (Article 6) and freedom of assembly and association (Article 11). The group added that they did not benefit from the right to an effective remedy (Article 13) and were discriminated against over their membership to a minority religious community – a violation of prohibition of discrimination (Article 14). 

The aforementioned difficulties arose from a Turkish Law No. 3194 on Urban Planning which prohibits the opening of places of worship on sites which were designated for other purposes in local development plans.

The same law also established a number of conditions to build places of worship. Accordingly, even a small place of worship must have a surface area of at least 2,550 square meters. 

The private premises which were used by Jehovah’s Witnesses in the southern province of Mersin and the Aegean province of İzmir were closed down by authorities for being “unlawful.” Appeals by the believers for the allocation or use of alternative premises as places of worship were also turned down by courts. 

In its decision, the ECHR ruled that “the impugned rejections by the authorities amounted to such a direct interference with their freedom of religion that it was neither proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued nor necessary in a democratic society.”

Noting that states are largely free to implement urban planning policies, the court nevertheless underlined that the needs of minority communities were not taken into consideration by state authorities. 

“Domestic courts had taken no account of the specific needs of a small community of believers,” the ECHR said, adding that Turkey’s practices were in violation of Article 9 of the convention. 

Violations of the remaining articles on which the Jehovah Witnesses complained should also be declared admissible, the court said, but found no need to examine their merits because they were already sufficiently covered.

Turkey was ordered to pay 1,000 euros to the applicants in non-pecuniary damages in addition to 4,000 euros to cover their costs and expenses.

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      Police raided Jehovah's Witness Mansur Masharipov's home in Dashoguz in July 2014, seized religious literature (subsequently destroyed), beat him, placed him in a Drug Rehabilitation Centre where he was injected with unknown drugs (from which he fled). Arrested in June 2016, he was imprisoned for one year.
      Jehovah's Witness Mansur Masharipov has appealed against a one-year prison term handed down on 18 August in the northern city of Dashoguz for allegedly assaulting a police officer back in July 2014. Police subsequently destroyed Bibles and other religious literature seized from him during a raid on his home, according to the verdict seen by Forum 18. His fellow-Jehovah's Witnesses insist the 32-year-old Masharipov is innocent of any wrongdoing and was targeted for his faith.

      Masharipov had fled in July 2014 from forcible detention in a Drug Rehabilitation Centre in Dashoguz, where he was injected with harmful unknown drugs, "out of fear for my life and my health". He was arrested in the capital Ashgabad [Ashgabat] on 30 June 2016 and was transferred to Investigation Prison in Dashoguz ahead of his trial.

      Other prisoners of conscience

      Masharipov is one of two known Jehovah's Witness prisoners of conscience. The 53-year-old Bahram Hemdemov is serving a four-year sentence on charges of inciting religious hatred, charges he denies (see F18News 5 July 2016http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2196).

      An unknown number of Muslims are also believed to be imprisoned to punish them for exercising freedom of religion or belief. One of those apparently being held incommunicado in Turkmenistan's high-security Ovadan-Depe prison in the desert north of Ashgabad is Bahram Saparov, a fellow Muslim told Forum 18. He had led a Hanafi Sunni Muslim community in the eastern city of Turkmenabad [Turkmenabat] (formerly Charjew) until his imprisonment in late 2013. About 20 others were sentenced to long prison terms with him. Their fate remains unknown (see forthcoming F18News article).

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      In addition to those imprisoned for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief, the authorities regularly hand down corrective labour sentences to those unable to perform compulsory military service on grounds of religious conscience. The men must live at home under restrictions and a fifth of their wages are seized by the state. The most recent such known corrective labour sentence was handed down to Jehovah's Witness Dayanch Jumayev in Ashgabad in February 2016. He was sentenced to one year of corrective labour (see F18News 5 July 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2196).

      Ashgabad arrest

      Masharipov – who is unmarried – is an ethnic Uzbek who lived in Dashoguz until he moved away from the city in 2014 to avoid arrest. In May 2004 he was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment for refusing compulsory military service on grounds of his religious faith. He was among four Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors freed from prison under amnesty in April 2005 (see F18News 22 April 2005 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=548).

      Police officers arrested Jehovah's Witness Masharipov on 30 June 2016 in a park in Ashgabad, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. He was then transferred back to his home city of Dashoguz, where he was held in the city's Interior Ministry's Investigation Prison (DZD/7).

      Police had been hunting for Masharipov since summer 2014 to punish him for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief. On the morning of 3 July 2014, six police officers and officials had come to his home in Dashoguz as part of "preventive measures" because of his "adherence to the Jehovah's Witness religion", the August 2016 court verdict notes.

      One of those raiding Masharipov's home was Hudainazar Artykov, an official of the Religious Affairs Department of the Regional Hyakimlik (administration)

      The police officers asked Masharipov to hand over all his literature about religion. He "voluntarily" gave them 22 copies of the New Testament and other books, 15 religious leaflets, 42 religious discs, 7 exercise books with religious notes, 304 pages of religious notes, a religious calendar and a computer notebook containing six or seven Jehovah's Witness films. Masharipov told the officers he had been given these items by an unknown individual on a visit to Uzbekistan. Officers also seized his mobile phone.

      The officers then demanded that Masharipov go with them to the police station for – in the words of the verdict - "explanatory work" and "preventive measures in connection with his adherence to the Jehovah's Witness movement", but he refused.

      Police officer Gurban Khanov claimed that once outside the block of flats, Masharipov tried to run away. Officers then grabbed him by the arm to try to put him in the police car. Khanov claimed Masharipov tore the lower button and left epaulette from his police uniform before they managed to get him into the car.

      Masharipov was charged under Criminal Code Article 211, Part 1 with assaulting a police officer, "although it was the police officers who had subjected him to rough physical mistreatment," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. "Mansur Masharipov has previously endured abuse, even torture, for his peaceful religious activities."

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      Did police assault and lodge false charges against Masharipov?

      Masharipov's fellow Jehovah's Witnesses gave Forum 18 in late July 2014 a different account of what happened on the day he was detained (see F18News 1 August 2014 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1981).

      Once the search was complete, one of the plain-clothed police officers grabbed Masharipov from behind by the neck, "choking him so he could not breathe, and then dragged him into a waiting vehicle". Once in the vehicle, the officers "began to beat him repeatedly on his head and on his body above his kidneys".

      At 12 noon the police took Masharipov to Dashoguz City Police Station, where he was again beaten. From there he was taken to a supervisor's office where the police began to openly discuss what pretext they would use to justify placing him in detention. They brought in police officer Ruslan Jumaniyazov (who had been present during the raid), who said he would claim that Masharipov had ripped off his shoulder insignia while resisting arrest.

      At 1 pm Masharipov was returned to Dashoguz City Police Station, where he was again beaten. "The police threatened they would place him in a 'harem' cell with male prisoners where he would be raped," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18 back in July 2014.

      The police gave Masharipov a document in Turkmen, which he does not understand, and forced him to sign it. They claimed the document contained a report that they had seized religious books during the search of his flat. The officials included three officers from the Ministry of State Security (MSS) secret police and one representative of the religious affairs department of the Regional Hyakimlik.

      Police again threatened that they would charge Masharipov with ripping off the insignia of a police officer. Local policeman Merdan Khanov (also present during the raid) stated that he would testify to this effect.

      In the afternoon, the police took Masharipov to Dashoguz City Prosecutor's Office. The prosecutor took a statement from Masharipov and he was then returned to Dashoguz City Police Station and again beaten.

      Some of the same police officers in Dashoguz were also involved in accusing another local Jehovah's Witness of tearing off the insignia from an officer's uniform. The same Artykov from the regional religious affairs department testified that Bibi Rahmanova had assaulted the officer in July 2014 within days of Masharipov's detention. She received a four-year prison term the following month, but had her sentence suspended on appeal in September. This meant she was ordered to serve the rest of her sentence at home under travel restrictions (see F18News 28 October 2014 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2009).

      The duty officer at Dashoguz City Police refused to discuss with Forum 18 in August 2014 the treatment of Masharipov by its officers.

      Tortured with drugs

      At 6 pm on 3 July 2014, police took Masharipov to the Drug Rehabilitation Centre in Dashoguz. "This was done as a pretext to justify his detention," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. "The medical staff administered four injections to Mansur Masharipov, one in each buttock and two below his shoulder blades." His arms and legs became paralysed and he vomited throughout that evening and the following day. He also began to suffer a high fever and severe headaches.

      Fearing further torture, Masharipov escaped from the Drug Rehabilitation Centre on 5 July 2014 and fled from Dashoguz.

      Dashoguz sentence

      Following the arrest of Masharipov in Ashgabad on 30 June 2016, police and prosecutors revived the criminal case against him. As well as accusing him under Criminal Code Article 211, Part 1, Dashoguz City Prosecutors' Office also considered accusations under Criminal Code Article 177 ("Incitement of social, ethnic or religious hatred"). However, on 1 August Prosecutors abandoned charges under this Article.

      On 18 August, Judge V. Amanov of Dashoguz City Court heard the case against Masharipov not in the court, but at a hearing held in the city's Housing Trust. Judge Amanov found Masharipov guilty under Criminal Code Article 211, Part 1. He sentenced him to one year in a general regime labour camp, according to the verdict seen by Forum 18. Masharipov denied the allegations against him in court.

      Police officer Gurban Khanov, described as the "victim", testified in court and called for Masharipov to be punished. The verdict notes that a 5 July 2014 medical report on Gurban Khanov had not found any injuries.

      Also testifying in court was regional religious affairs official Artykov. He told the court that Police had already destroyed the New Testaments and other religious literature confiscated from Masharipov during the raid on his home in July 2014. However, the verdict also quotes an 8 July 2016 letter from the Muftiate representation in Dashoguz Region to say that the confiscated books had been handed over to the government's Commission for Work with Religious Organisations and Expert Analysis of Resources Containing Religious Information, Published and Printed Production before being destroyed.

      Forum 18 has been unable to obtain a copy of the Muftiate letter, which is Page 118 of the case file.

      The Commission was established in summer 2015 to replace the Gengesh (Council) for Religious Affairs, the government body controlling religious communities (see F18News 18 April 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2169).

      The verdict does not explain why Masharipov's religious literature was destroyed.

      The verdict ordered that his confiscated computer and mobile phone should be transferred to the state.

      The prison term was deemed to run from 30 June, the date of his arrest, with each day in pre-trial detention counting as the equivalent of two days' labour camp.

      Forum 18 was unable to reach Judge Amanov at Dashoguz City Court on 21 September. It was also unable to reach regional religious affairs official Artykov the same day.

      Appeal lodged

      On 30 August, Masharipov lodged an appeal against his conviction – seen by Forum 18 - to Dashoguz Regional Court. He denied the police account that he had used force against them, noting that because of his faith "for me an individual, their worth, life, rights and freedom are of great value". He added that "my religion teaches and helps me to relate to other people with deep respect and love".

      Masharipov recounted the beatings and rape threats from police officers after his 3 July 2014 detention. He added that later that afternoon, when he was brought out of the Prosecutor's Office, he tried in vain to run away. He was then beaten again "right on the street". Beatings continued once officers had taken him back to the police station.

      Masharipov also recounted that at the Drug Rehabilitation Centre, staff gave him four injections "after which I felt sick, I had a headache and a high temperature and it was almost impossible for me to move". "On 5 July 2014, out of fear for my life and my health, and with the aim of preserving them, I fled from the Drug Rehabilitation Centre."

      Masharipov – who says he does not smoke or drink alcohol – questions why he was sent to the Drug Rehabilitation Centre with no court decision. He notes that on 7 July 2014 he sent complaints about the Police conduct to the Interior Ministry and, the following day, to the General Prosecutor's Office. On 30 March 2015 he sent a complaint to President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.

      In his appeal Masharipov also complained about procedural violations. He said he had not been given the opportunity to acquaint himself with the accusations against him, and that the July 2014 house search had been conducted without a search warrant from the Prosecutor's Office.

      Masharipov insists that the case against him violates the protection of the right to freedom of religion or belief outlined in Turkmenistan's Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Turkmenistan is a party.

      No-one at Dashoguz Regional Court would confirm to Forum 18 on 21 September whether any appeal hearing has yet been set in Masharipov's case.

      If Masharipov's appeal is rejected, he is likely to be sent to serve his sentence at the general regime labour camp in the desert just outside the eastern town of Seydi in Lebap Region.

      UN appeal

      Jehovah's Witnesses lodged an urgent appeal on 11 July 2014 about Masharipov's case to the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief in Geneva.

      The appeal – seen by Forum 18 – gives details of the abuses in Masharipov's case and includes photographs of scars on his arms, legs, stomach, back and one cheek which Jehovah's Witnesses say were inflicted on him in police detention.

      The appeal also covered abuses against three other Jehovah's Witnesses (see F18News 1 August 2014http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1981).

      No charges against police officers

      The verdict in Masharipov's case also reveals that Prosecutors considered criminal cases against two police officers involved in the July 2014 raid. Dashoguz City Prosecutors' Office considered criminal charges against Gurban Khanov and Jumaniyazov under Article 181 ("Misuse of official powers"), Article 182 ("Exceeding official powers") and Article 182-1 ("Torture").

      Dashoguz City Prosecutors' Office dropped these charges on 1 August 2016. The verdict gives no reason for the decision.

      Under the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Turkmenistan is obliged to arrest and try under criminal law any person suspected on good grounds of having committed torture. (END)

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      By Guest Nicole
      Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed legislation this week that severely restricts freedom of religion by prohibiting any religious speech or evangelization outside of places of worship.
      “This new situation resembles the Soviet Union in 1929. At that time confession of faith was permitted only in church,” said Dr. Hannu Haukka, president of Great Commission Media Ministries, reports National Religious Broadcasters (NRB). “Practically speaking, we are back in the same situation. These anti-terrorist laws are some of the most restrictive laws in post-Soviet history.”
      The new law, which goes into effect July 20, is actually an amendment to a package of laws against terrorism and extremism approved by the Russian Parliament’s upper chamber. As a result of the legislation, faith sharing in homes, in the media, online, or any place other than a government recognized church is prohibited.
      The measure is expected to especially affect evangelical groups and Jehovah’s Witnesses who often share faith in homes rather than traditional churches.
      In a column at the Daily Signal, U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) wrote the new law is “an affront to free people everywhere.”
      “We need to begin telling the truth about an increasingly aggressive actor in global affairs,” he said. “This Russian law would be an affront to free people everywhere—at home and abroad—who believe that rights of conscience—the rights to free speech and to freedom of religion—are pre-political.”
       
       
       
      Religious freedom attorneys and human rights groups are already preparing an appeal to Russia’s Constitutional Court, reports Forum 18. The legislation drew widespread protests and religious leaders are uncertain how they can fulfill the law’s obligations.
      “Today is indeed a black day on the calendar,” lawyer Vladimir Ryakhovsky of the Slavic Centre for Law and Justice posted on his Facebook page. “Hope was that Vladimir Putin would not in the end sign this law. A law which openly contradicts the gospel command ‘go and make disciples’ and, in addition, violates the constitutional rights of citizens.”
      Mikhail Fedotov, chairman of the Presidential Council on Civil Society Development and Human Rights, protested the new amendments directly to Putin, asserting that they “create unjustified and excessive restrictions on the freedom of conscience of believers of all religions, and encroach upon the fundamental constitutional principle of non-interference by the state in the internal arrangements of religious associations.”
      Financial penalties for violating the law are reportedly up to 50,000 roubles for individuals and up to one million roubles for organizations.
      “We are distressed by the law and see it as repressive for believers in our country, because the law contradicts the Bible,” said a spokeswoman for the Council of Churches – Baptists. “We must assume there will be repression and persecution.”
      “The United States government and all other nations that profess a commitment to religious freedom should urge Russia to repeal this unjust law, NRB President Dr. Jerry A. Johnson said. “Let’s pray this new iron curtain of Christian persecution in Russia will be lifted quickly and without harm to our brothers and sisters in Christ.”

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      One of the attackers at Istanbul Ataturk Airport smashing his rifle on the floor in frustration over being unable to find new victims. 
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.  
      The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Turkey violated the right to freedom of religion of a group of Jehovah Witnesses in İzmir and Mersin through “direct interference” by refusing to grant them appropriate places of worship. 

      The Association for Solidarity with Jehovah Witnesses and others appealed against the ECHR against Turkey in June 2010 and complained that national authorities refused to grant a place of worship status to their houses of worship while also rejecting their requests to provide access to places of worship. 

      In the appeal, the association claimed Turkey violated the group’s right to freedom of religion (Article 9), right to a fair trial (Article 6) and freedom of assembly and association (Article 11). The group added that they did not benefit from the right to an effective remedy (Article 13) and were discriminated against over their membership to a minority religious community – a violation of prohibition of discrimination (Article 14). 

      The aforementioned difficulties arose from a Turkish Law No. 3194 on Urban Planning which prohibits the opening of places of worship on sites which were designated for other purposes in local development plans.

      The same law also established a number of conditions to build places of worship. Accordingly, even a small place of worship must have a surface area of at least 2,550 square meters. 

      The private premises which were used by Jehovah’s Witnesses in the southern province of Mersin and the Aegean province of İzmir were closed down by authorities for being “unlawful.” Appeals by the believers for the allocation or use of alternative premises as places of worship were also turned down by courts. 

      In its decision, the ECHR ruled that “the impugned rejections by the authorities amounted to such a direct interference with their freedom of religion that it was neither proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued nor necessary in a democratic society.”

      Noting that states are largely free to implement urban planning policies, the court nevertheless underlined that the needs of minority communities were not taken into consideration by state authorities. 

      “Domestic courts had taken no account of the specific needs of a small community of believers,” the ECHR said, adding that Turkey’s practices were in violation of Article 9 of the convention. 

      Violations of the remaining articles on which the Jehovah Witnesses complained should also be declared admissible, the court said, but found no need to examine their merits because they were already sufficiently covered.

      Turkey was ordered to pay 1,000 euros to the applicants in non-pecuniary damages in addition to 4,000 euros to cover their costs and expenses.
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      Stanislav Kim could be jailed for up to three years if convicted of having "illegal" religious literature in his home in Urgench. In Bukhara, two Jehovah's Witnesses were jailed for ten days and, with 28 others, fined for "illegal" literature and worship meeting.
      Police in Urgench [Urganch] in Uzbekistan's north-western Khorezm Region appear about to hand to court a criminal case against a local Baptist to punish him for "illegal possession" of religious literature in his home. Stanislav Kim could face up to three years' imprisonment if convicted. The Investigator who prepared the indictment refused to tell Forum 18 if Nikolai Serin, another Baptist questioned as a witness in the case, also faces prosecution. Courts routinely punish people for "illegal" religious literature as well as holding meetings for worship.

      Khorezm authorities also raided a Baptist worship meeting in February. In late March the host and her non-believing husband were fined for possessing "illegal" literature in their home when the meeting was raided.

      Meanwhile in the southern Bukhara Region on 27 January, 30 Jehovah's Witnesses were punished for meeting for worship and possessing religious literature officials claimed was "illegal". They received fines totalling more than 1,050 times the minimum monthly wage or 136,752,000 Soms (390,000 Norwegian Kroner, 42,000 Euros or 47,000 US Dollars at the inflated official exchange rate). Two of the Jehovah's Witnesses - Andrei and Yelena Yu - were fined 30 times the minimum monthly wage each and given 10-day jail terms for exercising their freedom of religion and belief.

      Against its international human rights obligations, Uzbekistan imposes strict censorship on all religious publications and all aspects of their distribution. There is a de facto ban on religious literature of any faith in homes and if found such literature is frequently ordered to be destroyed. State pressure is so great that for their own safety some religious believers have destroyed their own sacred texts (see Forum 18's Uzbekistan religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1862).

      Imprisonment for religious literature?

      On 27 June Investigator Lieutenant Sarvar Artykov of Urgench City Police in Khorezm Region prepared and signed the indictment (seen by Forum 18) against local Baptist Stanislav Kim. He is accused of "illegal possession" of Christian literature under Criminal Code Article 244-3.

      Article 244-3 punishes "Illegal production, storage, import into the territory of Uzbekistan with a purpose to distribute or distribution of religious materials, committed after enforcement of an administrative penalty for a similar violation" with a fine of 100 to 200 times the minimum monthly wage or corrective labour of up to three years.

      "The Investigator warned us that Stanislav might be fined or even jailed for up to three years," Nikolai Serin, Kim's fellow-Baptist from Navoi Region, told Forum 18 on 27 June. Police told Serin and Kim that Urgench City Court will hear the case in up to fifteen days (by about 10 July), Serin added.

      Both Kim and Serin are members of separate Council of Churches Baptist congregations. Council of Churches Baptist churches do not – as Uzbekistan against its human rights obligations requires – seek state permission to exist (see Forum 18's Uzbekistan religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1862).

      Urgench Police questioned Serin on 26 June as a witness in the case, he noted. On 19 June Police in Navoi had already raided his home there and confiscated his Christian books. Navoi Police told him that a case had been opened against him under Administrative Code Article 184-2, which punishes "Illegal production, storage, import or distribution of religious materials" with a fine for individuals of 20 to 100 times the minimum monthly wage, as well as confiscation of the materials and any equipment used to produce them.

      "We've done nothing criminal, but only exercised our Constitutional rights which allow us peacefully to practice our faith, which does no harm to anyone," Serin insisted to Forum 18. He said that when he told Investigator Artykov, who is leading the case, that he refuses to be a witness, the Investigator warned him that "I also may be punished with up to three years' imprisonment unless I cooperate with the Police."

      Serin did not sign any Police reports or statements prepared by Urgench Police during questioning either on 17 May or 26 June, he told Forum 18.

      "Extremist"?

      Investigator Artykov argues in the 27 June indictment that the materials found in Kim's home "contain ideas of converting believers of one confession to another, which is against Article 5, Part 3 of the Religion Law". He concludes therefore that Kim "stored illegal religious materials in his private flat".

      The indictment says that among the items officers seized from Kim was a Russian-language book "To Mecca", which "propagates the Protestant religion". The book is a "testimony of a former [non-Uzbek] Muslim man who became a Christian", Serin told Forum 18. He confirmed that Kim had a copy.

      The "expert analysis" by the government's Religious Affairs Committee says that the book "does not contain ideas against Uzbekistan's Constitutional order, or of an extremist or separatist nature". But it claims that the book "can be used for missionary purposes", Serin noted.

      Arslan Ruzimov, Chief of Khorezm Regional Police Criminal Investigation Department, adamantly defended the charges against Kim. Asked on 28 June why the authorities want to imprison him, he told Forum 18 from Urgench: "The religious expert analysis found the materials confiscated from Kim to be extremist."

      Told that the confiscated literature consisted of Christian magazines, children's stories, song-books and Kim's personal notes, and asked what specifically is "extremist" in those materials, Ruzimov could not answer. "They have a lawyer, they can ask him to defend them," he retorted. Asked why Serin was pressured to be a witness against Kim, his co-believer, he did not answer. He then declined to talk to Forum 18.

      Investigator Artykov also used a July 2001 conviction in a non-religious criminal case to justify the unrelated new case. Kim was sentenced that year to 20 years' imprisonment as an alleged accomplice in an intentional killing. Artykov argues that although Kim was freed from his sentence, "he continued violating the Law".

      Serin told Forum 18 that Kim was released from prison in 2009, and that "he became a believer while in prison." He said that "it looks like the authorities want to imprison him again, which is why they bring up his criminal conviction from the past in the indictment."

      Investigator Artykov told Forum 18 on 28 June that the case against Kim has not yet been handed to the Court, but refused to answer Forum 18's other questions. Asked whether any charges were brought against Serin, as well as why a criminal case was opened against Kim simply for having Christian books and materials in his home, Artykov replied: "If you want to know the answers then send your representative to our office. I will not answer your questions over the phone." Artykov also did not say when the Police will refer the case to the Court.

      Why criminal charges?

      The indictment explains that police opened a criminal case against Kim because this is the second case against him within one year for possessing "illegal" religious literature.

      Urgench City Criminal Court fined Kim ten times the minimum monthly wage, 1,184,000 Soms, on 8 August 2015 under Administrative Code Article 184-2, according to the June 2016 indictment. The Court ordered part of the Christian literature confiscated from him to be destroyed and the rest to be handed over to the Khorezm Department of the state-backed Muslim Board.


      Secret police and anti-terrorism police raid and confiscations

      The latest trouble began for Kim on 17 May, when Major Shukhrat Masharipov of Urgench Anti-Terrorism Police and two unidentified officers raided his home in the city, Serin told Forum 18. The indictment indicates that the two officers represented the National Security Service (NSS) secret police. The officers pretended to be conducting a passport inspection.

      Without showing a search warrant, officers confiscated Christian literature, including the book "To Mecca", one copy each of "Herald of Truth" magazine, two Baptist song books ("Hold on to Christ" and "Youth for Christ"), a book of Christian children's stories, and several notebooks with personal notes.

      Serin told Forum 18 that he was present during the Police raid on Kim's home, since he happened to be visiting him that day.

      Six hour interrogation

      Officer Masharipov and the other officers took Kim's and Serin's passports and left, demanding that the two appear at Urgench Police Station the next morning.

      On 18 May, Major Masharipov and Police Investigator Shavkat Bekjanov questioned the two Baptists for six hours, Serin told Forum 18. "They suggested that we write statements but we refused." The Police told the Baptists that as Kim had been found for the second time "illegally possessing" Christian literature in his home, this time he may be jailed. The two were released from the Police Station that evening.

      February Khorezm raid and fines

      On 17 February in Gullanbog, in Yangiaryk District of Khorezm Region, two plain-clothes Anti-Terrorism Police officers and the local ordinary police officer raided the home of Oybek and Gulnara Rahimov as 15 Council of Churches Baptists were meeting for worship.

      "When the local police officer saw we were worshipping, he called for a police squad," Baptists told Forum 18 on 15 April. Police then began filming those present and took down their names. Police also confiscated a Bible, a children's Bible, one other Christian book and two Baptist song-books.

      All the meeting participants were taken to Yangiaryk District Police Station, where they were questioned for three hours.

      Oybek Rahimov is not a Baptist and was not at home during the raid. But that did not stop Judge Yerpolat Berdiyev, Chair of Bogot District Criminal Court, on 22 March fining both wife and husband 10 times the minimum monthly wage each. Baptists have particularly expressed outrage at the fine imposed on Oybek.

      Judge Berdiyev also ordered the destruction of Christian literature confiscated from the Rahimovs' home. Courts frequently order that such confiscated religious literature be destroyed (see Forum 18's Uzbekistan religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1862).

      Asked why the Baptists were raided, Bogot District Police on 8 June referred Forum 18 to Anti-Terrorism Police officer Dilshot Fayzullayev. However, asked the same day why officers conducted the raid, fines and confiscations, he refused to answer.

      Neither Bogot District Court, nor Judge Berdiyev, answered their phones on 9 June.

      Two short-term prisoners of conscience, 30 large fines

      Meanwhile, in Kogon in Bukhara [Bukhoro] Region on 27 January, 30 Jehovah's Witnesses received fines totalling more than 1,050 times the minimum monthly wage or 136,752,000 Soms (390,000 Norwegian Kroner, 42,000 Euros or 47,000 US Dollars at the inflated official exchange rate). Two of the Jehovah's Witnesses - Andrei and Yelena Yu - were fined 30 times the minimum monthly wage each and given 10-day jail terms for exercising their freedom of religion and belief.

      The fines and jailing of the two prisoners of conscience followed an early January raid by Kogon Anti-Terrorism Police and the ordinary police on the home of Aziz Pulatov. Jehovah's Witnesses were meeting together for worship, they told Forum 18 on 8 June.

      Numon Tukhtayev, Deputy Head of Kogon Anti-Terrorism Police, refused on 8 June to explain why the raid took place. The same day the ordinary police similarly refused to explain their actions.

      Judge Zarif Sherov, Chair of Kogon Criminal Court, found the accused guilty under Administrative Code Articles 184-2 ("Illegal production, storage, or import into Uzbekistan, with the intent to distribute or actual distribution, of religious materials by physical persons") and Article 240 ("Violation of the Religion Law"), Part 1 ("Carrying out of unauthorised religious activity, evasion by leaders of religious organisations of registration of the charter of the organisation, the unauthorised organisation and conduct of worship by religious ministers, and the organisation and conduct of special children's and youth meetings, as well as vocational, literature and other study groups not relating to worship").

      Aziz Pulatov and Fazliddin Tukhtayev were fined 100 times the minimum monthly wage each; Akpar Pulatov, Shahzoda Pulatova, Mukaddas Rakhmatova, Zuhra Tashayeva, and Malyuda Kuldasheva were fined 50 times the minimum monthly wage each; Shahnoz Gulomova, Shahzoda Mavlyanova, Mukhabbatkhon Mirzayeva, Mokhidil Zairova, Gulnora Norova, Dilfuza Kobilova, Orom Khaydarova, Soliya Niyazova, Mahliyo Zhurayeva, Ibodillo Zhurayev, Gulchehra Ibadova, Shoista Mamedova, Shahin Norov, Zarina Kosimova, Munavvar Mardonova, Azamzhon Ismatilloyev, Farida Amonova, and Zarina Amonova were fined 30 times the minimum monthly wage each; and Gulbahor Mavlonova, Nilufar Ibrohimova, and Mizhgona Ismatillayeva were fined 5 times the minimum monthly wage each.

      Judge Sherov denied that he had jailed prisoners of conscience Andrei and Yelena Yu. "I do not know about the jailing," he claimed to Forum 18 on 9 June.

      However, the Judge admitted that he had imposed fines totalling 1,050 times the minimum monthly wage. Asked why he did this to people exercising their freedom of religion and belief, Sherov stated: "I explained to them during the hearing that the fines were given based on the existing law."

      Asked about the restrictions the Religion Law, Administrative and Criminal Codes put on the exercise of freedom of religion and belief, the Judge replied: "I cannot comment on that". He then said "let them appeal if they do not agree with our decision" before declining to talk further to Forum 18. (END)
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      The judge who upheld a large fine on a Jehovah's Witness for attending a worship meeting rejects the victim's argument that the fine violates the European Convention on Human Rights, telling Forum 18 his "decision is correct". Azerbaijan is obliged to uphold the Convention.
      An appeal court judge who rejected a victim's argument that fining individuals for participating in worship meetings violates the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms has defended his decision. "We believe our decision is correct and legal," Judge Mirbahaddin Huseynov of Sheki Appeal Court told Forum 18 on 2 June from the court. On 22 April he upheld a large fine on Jehovah's Witness Eldar Aliyev. Told that Azerbaijan – as a member of the Council of Europe – is obliged to respect rights to freedom of religion or belief set out in the Convention, Judge Huseynov put the phone down.

      The fine on Aliyev comes as officials continue to raid meetings for worship or religious study held away from state-registered places of worship. At least three police raids on Jehovah's Witness meetings in homes in different cities in 2016 have led to court cases, literature seizures and warnings. While 27 court cases which followed one raid ended in acquittals, others cases continue.

      Sunni Muslims who study using the works of the late Turkish Muslim theologian Said Nursi have been pressured to stop study meetings. "They're under strong surveillance," one Muslim told Forum 18 from Baku on 31 May. "They're constantly warned not to meet, and if maybe five or six get together they immediately start to face pressure."

      Police have frequently raided meetings of Muslims who study Nursi's works. Five men were imprisoned for taking part in a meeting in April 2014 in a Baku home to study their faith which was broken up in an armed police raid. Two of the five - Ismayil Mammadov and Eldeniz Hajiyev - remain in prison (see F18News 27 April 2016http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2173).

      Meanwhile, in April and May police again prevented Muslims from praying in the yard around the Lezgin Mosque (also known as the Ashur Mosque) in Baku's Icherisheher (Old City).

      "They didn't stop people praying around the mosque at Friday prayers on 27 May, but they did so in the weeks before that," one mosque member told Forum 18 from Baku on 1 June. The Sunni mosque is small and is often too full for all those wishing to attend Friday prayers to find space inside.

      The Lezgin Mosque has repeatedly been threatened with closure and from whose congregation five men – including the Imam – were jailed as prisoners of conscience (see F18News 8 October 2015 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2109).

      Mingachevir: religious meeting raided

      On the afternoon of 9 January, police officers abruptly stopped a Jehovah's Witness meeting held in Aliyev's home in the north-western town of Mingachevir. Bursting into the house, officers shouted at the more than 20 people present, demanding they stop the meeting, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. Police officers told those present that the meeting was "unlawful" and that a permit was required to hold such meetings. Representatives of the regional administration, the city and the State Committee for Work with Religious Organisations participated in the raid.

      Officers confiscated from those present personal copies of religious publications, including Bibles. The State Committee official stated that the Bible is a banned publication and must therefore be confiscated.

      The Old Testament, Nursi's 14-volume "Risale-i Nur" (Messages of Light) collection of writings, and several Jehovah's Witness publications were included on a police list of alleged "banned" religious literature, based on State Committee "expert analyses" (see F18News 6 May 2014 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1955).

      The State Committee does not publish any list of books it has banned, despite promises by the then State Committee Head in April 2013 that it would do so "soon" (see F18News 2 May 2013 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1830).

      After seizing religious literature from those present at the Mingachevir Jehovah's Witness meeting, the police took all attendees to the town's Police Station, where officers questioned and ordered them to write statements. The police held them until 10.30 pm, after having deprived them of their liberty for six hours.

      Major Elkhan Farajov of Mingachevir Police Public Safety Department drew up a record of an "offence" against Aliyev under Article 299.0.2 of the then Administrative Code (Article 515.0.2 of the new Administrative Code – see below), according to case materials. This Article punishes "Violating rules established by legislation on holding religious meetings, marches, and other religious ceremonies" with fines on individuals of 1,500 to 2,000 Manats. The case was then handed to court.

      Mingachevir: fine and action against parents

      On 3 March, Mingachevir City Court Judge Huseyn Mirzaliyev convicted Aliyev and fined him 1,500 Manats (8,400 Norwegian Kroner, 900 Euros or 1,000 US Dollars). The average monthly wage for employees in the first three months of 2016 was 485 Manats, according to the State Statistical Committee. The fine therefore represents more than three months wages for employees, though far more for those (like Aliyev) without formal work.

      On 22 April, Judge Huseynov of Sheki Appeal Court rejected Aliyev's appeal, according to the decision seen by Forum 18. The Judge dismissed Aliyev's arguments that the punishments had violated his rights under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. This guarantees the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion for all, "either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his [sic] religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance".

      After the raid, police officers summoned parents and children of the participants of the religious meeting. Police informed one of the parents, Arzu Ibrahimova, that they had issued a record of an administrative "offence" against her. They added that all materials under Article 51 of the old Administrative Code, which punished "Failure by parents and guardians to fulfil upbringing and educational responsibilities", were transferred to the Commission on Cases and Protection of Juveniles.

      Gakh: religious meeting raided, administrative charges

      On 23 March, police officers in the north-western town of Gakh [Qax] raided the home of Givi Khusishvili. They abruptly stopped the observance of the Memorial of Christ's death, the most sacred religious event of the year for Jehovah's Witnesses. Police officers showed what purported to be a court order authorising their search and confiscated personal copies of religious publications, including Bibles, Jehovah's Witnesses complained to Forum 18.

      Officers then took all the attendees to the local police station, interrogated them, and ordered them to write statements. Police drew up records of an "offence" under the Administrative Code on dozens of those present. All were released soon after 9 pm.

      A 23 March statement on the Interior Ministry website claimed that Khusishvili had violated the procedure for organising and holding religious meetings. It claimed the meeting had therefore been "prohibited by law". It said that of the 56 people present, more than 44 were local, while 9 were from Zakatala [Zaqatala], the region north of Gakh. Five were from Baku. The Interior Ministry said the 19 DVDs, two videos and 219 items of religious literature seized during the search had not been approved by the State Committee.

      Many acquittals, but other cases in court

      Cases under Administrative Code Article 515 against 27 attendees were handed to Gakh District Court. However, the Court's Judge Atabay Kichibayov dismissed all the cases for lack of an "offence", his assistant told Forum 18 from the court on 27 May. Ten of them were heard and dismissed on 24 May, the remaining 17 on 27 May.

      "We are pleased that Judge Atabek Kichibayov pronounced just and legal decisions to halt the cases for lack of an administrative offence," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18 on 29 May.

      The same Judge Kichibayov acquitted a Jehovah's Witness in a case in May 2014 (see F18News 3 June 2014http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1964). In the case of a former imam in October 2015, the Judge gave an official warning rather than a fine for "illegal" religious meetings (see F18News 26 January 2016http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2142).

      However, police handed to Zakatala District Court the records of an "offence" against the participants who had come down for the meeting from Zakatala. "We are still awaiting these hearings," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18.

      Zakatala District Court said one case under Administrative Code Article 515 – against a woman named Qurbanova – has already been handed to court and has been assigned to Judge Arif Ismayilov. Court officials refused to give Forum 18 any other details on 31 May.

      Records of an "offence" against the participants from Baku were handed to the local police in the district of the capital where they live.

      Sahil: religious meeting raided

      On 17 January, police officers burst into the home of Marina Asadova in Sahil, a settlement on the Caspian Sea south-west of Baku. They abruptly halted a meeting for worship. Officers took Asadova to the local Police Station. Once the officers verified that religious publications they had seized were labelled with State Committee censorship stamps, they took Asadova back to her home.

      The police recorded the identity of all the Jehovah's Witnesses who had been present before releasing them. The police warned Asadova not to host such religious meetings again.

      Police across Azerbaijan frequently raid Jehovah's Witness worship meetings. Following a 14 November 2015 police raid on a meeting in the home of Nijat Panahov in Gyanja [Gäncä], 12 of those present were each fined 2,000 Manats. In December 2015, the city's Appeal Court rejected all 12 appeals (see F18News 16 December 2015http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2134).

      New Administrative Code

      The new Administrative Code entered into force 1 March 2016. Proposed by President Ilham Aliyev, it had been adopted by the Milli Mejlis (Parliament) on 29 December 2015 and signed into law by the President on 15 February 2016. The new Code was officially published two days later in the government newspaper "Azerbaycan".

      Article 299 of the old Code was transferred almost unchanged into Article 515 of the new Code. It retains the same high fines for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief (see full text below).

      Article 300 of the old Code was shortened. Parts 1 and 3 appear as Article 516 of the new Code. The new Article 516 retains the punishment at the previous level for sending individuals abroad for religious education without State Committee permission and selling approved religious literature and materials away from approved places where they are allowed to be sold - though it introduces a new additional punishment of deportation when these "offences" are conducting by those who are not citizens (see full text below).

      Parts 2 and 4 of the old Article 300 are now "crimes". The new Article 516 therefore removes the administrative punishments for religious "propaganda" by people who are not citizens and for distributing uncensored religious literature and materials.

      Criminal Code Article 167-2 – adopted in December 2011 - punishes: "Production, sale and distribution of religious literature, audio and video materials, religious items and other informational materials of religious nature with the aim of import, sale and distribution without appropriate authorisation".

      December 2015 amendments to the Criminal Code added a new Article 168-1, which punishes "violation of the procedure for religious propaganda and religious ceremonies". Part 1 punishes the conducting of Islamic rites by a citizen who has received their education abroad with one year's imprisonment or a fine of between 2,000 and 5,000 Manats. Part 2 punishes "religious propaganda by foreigners and stateless persons" with imprisonment of between one and two years. Either of these "crimes" committed repeatedly or by prior agreement among a group of people is punishable by between two and five years' imprisonment (see F18News 16 December 2015http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2134).

      Article 515. Violation of the procedure for creating or running religious organisations

      515.0. Violation of the procedure for creating or running religious organisations:

      515.0.1. Religious association's leader evading registration of the association with the relevant executive authority [State Committee];

      515.0.2. Violating rules established by legislation on holding religious meetings, marches, and other religious ceremonies;

      515.0.3. Clergy and members of religious associations holding special meetings for children and youth, organising labour, literary, or other clubs and groups unassociated with holding religious ceremonies;

      515.0.4. Religious association operating outside of its registered legal address;

      515.0.5. Religious association carrying out activities not in accordance with its statute –

      entails fines of 1,500 to 2,000 Manats on individuals, 7,000 to 8,000 Manats on officials.

      Article 516. Violation of legislation on freedom of religion

      516.0. Violation of legislation on freedom of religion:

      516.0.1. Sending citizens abroad to study in religious educational establishments, exchange of religious ministers without prior consent of the relative executive authority [State Committee];

      516.0.2. Selling religious literature (printed or on electronic devices) audio and video materials, religious merchandise and products, or other religious informational materials, authorised for sale in an order established by the Law on Freedom of Religion of the Azerbaijan Republic, outside specialised sale outlets established with the consent of the relevant executive authority [State Committee and local administration] -

      entails confiscation of the literature, merchandise and products or other materials being the immediate object of the administrative violation and imposition of penalty in the amount of 2,000 to 2,500 Manats on individuals, 8,000 to 9,000 Manats on officials, 20,000 to 25,000 Manats on legal entities; imposition of penalty in the amount of 2,000 to 2,500 Manats and administrative deportation of foreigners and stateless persons from the Azerbaijan Republic. (END)
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    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      Amarna had lived in Turkey for six months while working as a wedding planner and had always begged her family to come over.
      Her mum said: "She had wanted the entire family to go out there, but I never thought it would be under these circumstances.
      "She knew all of the locals and they are coming up to me in the street and saying it feels like they have lost a sister.
      "Nothing will make this better but it helps knowing how well-loved she is.
      "I know she is my daughter and I'm going to be biased but some people are just that little bit different and special.
      "She was kind-hearted and friendly. She was so strong and I'd like to think her strength is going to live on through us."
      Amarna and Jakadi had been on a one-week holiday and were due to fly home last Wednesday.
      Amarna, who has four sisters - Kyanne, 12, lvladison, six, and two-year-old twins Ada and Lylah - had just set up a health business with her mum before the trip.
      They were driving behind two lorries when cars became agitated at them because they were driving at 25mph, so they pulled over.
      Step-dad Craig Baumber, 33, said: "As far as we know, they pulled into the country's equivalent of the hard shoulder to let the cars pass but they ended up running out of road and going 'down a verge."
      Amarna was already unconscious when medics arrived and pronounced dead at the scene.
      The family have set-up fundraising page on JustGiving to help with the cost of bringing Armana's body home and her funeral.
      They are also raising money to pay for a flight for Jakadi when she is able to lay flat, and have already amassed £8,000.
      Craig, who is also a singer, added: "We do not know how much it's going to cost but it's already in the thousands.
      "I tried to put a modest target of £3,000 and we've already passed that.
      "Any extra will go towards giving her the best send off she could possibly have."
      Dozens of family members and friends have also paid tribute to Armana on her Facebook page.
      Cousin Shana-Louise Smalley, who studies photography at New College Nottingham, said: "Being told that my beautiful, sweet and kind-hearted cousin had suffered an accident on holiday in Turkey and had sadly passed away broke my heart into a million pieces.
      ''It hurts so much knowing I will never see her beautiful smile or hear her infectious laugh again.
      "I will never be able to sit with her and laugh until I cry and listen to her tell me about all of the amazing things she is going to do and the funny things she's already done.
      "You were my rock all through school and my life will never be the same without you."
      And friend Ess Pree commented and said: "So beautiful. So full of life, so full of ambition, so much to offer the world.
      "This isn't real, I refuse to believe it. You was an angel before you left us."
      Source: 
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    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      Of four female Jehovah's Witnesses detained by Samarkand police for meeting for worship, one faced rape threats, Forum 18 has learnt. Three were fined for "illegal" religious literature. Two Protestants – one spent 16 days in prison - have fled Uzbekistan to escape "police persecution".
      Individuals across Uzbekistan continue to face fines for religious literature found during police raids in homes. Samarkand City Criminal Court in the central Samarkand Region on 15 March handed down huge fines to three Jehovah's Witnesses women for religious materials found on their tablet device, Forum 18 notes. During nearly 24 hours in detention at Samarkand City Police in early February, officers hit the women and demanded that they renounce their faith, Jehovah's Witnesses complained to Forum 18. Officers threatened one with rape.

      Two Protestants - Latipzhon Mamazhanov and Murot Turdiyev - have chosen to flee Uzbekistan with their families after what fellow Protestants have described to Forum 18 as continuous pressure from the authorities.

      The Court and Police in Fergana are searching for Mamazhanov to punish him for a second time for the same "offence" of possessing religious literature. Local Protestants complained to Forum 18 that he became very sick during 16 days in prison in Fergana in March.

      Between February and March Almalyk City Police raided Turdiyev's home in Almalyk, cut off its electricity, ambushed his home waiting to catch him, threatened him with a criminal case, and asked him to become a police informer. Also Fergana Police seized his car for 12 days, and Fergana Court warned him (see below).

      Tight controls

      Uzbekistan retains tight state controls on all exercise of the right to freedom of religion or belief. Printed literature, videos and DVDs of religious content have long been subjected to harsh prior compulsory state censorship. Police and secret police officers frequently raid homes and confiscate religious literature from their owners, including Arabic-language Korans, and Uzbek and Russian-language Bibles and New Testaments. Courts frequently order that such confiscated religious literature be destroyed (see Forum 18's Uzbekistan religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1862). A court in Tashkent ordered Bibles and New Testaments destroyed in December 2015.

      Prisoners of conscience Zuboyd Mirzorakhimov, a Tajik citizen, and Zoirjon Mirzayev are both serving five year prison terms for having Muslim sermons on their mobile phones when they entered Uzbekistan (see F18News 21 March 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2160).

      Mass raids, fined, short-term jailings

      Across Uzbekistan the authorities continue raiding individuals' homes – including those of Protestants of various denominations and Jehovah's Witnesses - and confiscating their religious literature. On 17 May, officers raided Council of Churches Baptists in Khorezm Region.

      Between January and May, at least 14 Protestants and 49 Jehovah's Witnesses are known to have received fines of up to 100 times the minimum monthly wage under Administrative Code Article 184-2 ("Illegal production, storage, or import into Uzbekistan, with the intent to distribute or actual distribution, of religious materials by physical persons").

      A fine of 100 times the minimum monthly wage – currently 1,302,400 Soms – is equivalent to 3,700 Norwegian Kroner, 400 Euros or 450 US Dollars at the inflated official exchange rate.

      In one case in Nukus in the autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan, 14 Protestants received total fines of 350 times the minimum monthly wage or 45,584,000 Soms (130,000 Norwegian Kroner, 14,000 Euros or 15,600 US Dollars at the inflated official exchange rate). In another case, 30 Jehovah's Witnesses received fines totalling more than 1,050 times the minimum monthly wage or 136,752,000 Soms (390,000 Norwegian Kroner, 42,000 Euros or 47,000 US Dollars at the inflated official exchange rate). Two of the Jehovah's Witnesses were also given ten-day jail terms.

      A total of 52 Jehovah's Witnesses are also known to have been fined for "illegal" religious activity in the first three months of 2016 (see forthcoming F18News article).

      Samarkand literature fines follow raid on religious meeting

      Judge Zafar Kholikulov of Samarkand City Court on 15 March fined three female Jehovah's Witnesses for meeting for worship in a home in February. Each was fined 50 times the minimum monthly wage, 6,512,000 Soms. They were punished under Administrative Code Article 184-2 for possessing "illegal" literature.

      On the evening of 3 February Samarkand Police arrested the three together with another local resident with whom they were meeting for worship and religious study. Police held the four women at a Samarkand Police Station for almost 24 hours. The Police confiscated their tablet device and passports before releasing them in the afternoon of 4 February.

      While in detention, two of the women were "physically abused", while another female Jehovah's Witness was "subjected to sexual harassment", Jehovah's Witnesses complained to Forum 18 on 25 April.

      Asked why Judge Kholikulov fined the Jehovah's Witnesses, the official who answered his phone on 23 May, replied that he (refused to give his name) is the Assistant to the Judge, and that he is "on a vacation." He declined to comment on the decision and tell Forum 18 whether the Court investigated the police abuses. He referred Forum 18 to the Chancellery.

      A Chancellery official (who refused to give his name) looked up Kholikulov's decision, but refused to explain the reasons of the fines. "I cannot comment," he told Forum 18 on 23 May.

      Police torture female Jehovah's Witnesses

      At Samarkand's Police Station No.6 in early February, the four women were questioned by Officer Sanjar Esanov, Chief of the Station, Lieutenant Askarali Boykobilov and Officer Sobir Rakhimov (both of whom are Esanov's subordinates), as well as Officer Khusrav Shamsiyev of Samarkand's Anti-Terrorism Police.

      The officers who questioned the women were "drunk and very aggressive", Jehovah's Witnesses complained to Forum 18. "They demanded that the women deny their faith." Lieutenant Boykobilov "roughly grasped the shoulders of [one of the women] and kept pushing her". Another was also "pushed", and Officer Shamsiyev "slapped her on the face".

      Chief Officer Esanov took another of the four women to a dark room and "strangled her and hit her on the body", Jehovah's Witnesses complained. Officer Rakhimov also slapped her face. Officer Esanov threatened to "undress her and rape her, after which he will take her out of the room naked so the others could see. Then he began unbuttoning her overcoat but she resisted and he stopped."

      Police Chief Esanov adamantly denied to Forum 18 that he or his colleagues abused the Jehovah's Witnesses. "It's all a pack of lies. Police in Uzbekistan never act in such a way," he told Forum 18 from Samarkand on 23 May.

      The United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which Uzbekistan acceded to in 1995, defines torture as: "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity".

      Under Article 6 of the Convention Uzbekistan is obliged to arrest any person suspected on good grounds of having committed torture. Under Article 4 Uzbekistan is obliged to try them under criminal law which makes "these offences punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature" (see Forum 18's Uzbekistan religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1862).

      Asked why police arrested the four women, Esanov responded: "Ask the Court, everything is explained in its decision."

      Told that Forum 18 has documented many cases where police in Samarkand and elsewhere in Uzbekistan have arrested and abused individuals for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief - including Jehovah's Witnesses - and asked why Police and other authorities violate individuals' human rights, Chief Esanov paused and Forum 18 could hear him consult his officers. "If you disagree with us then talk to the Court," he responded, before declining to talk to Forum 18 further.

      Families flee "police persecution"

      Two members of the same Protestant Church, Latipzhon Mamazhanov from Fergana in eastern Uzbekistan and Murot Turdiyev from Almalyk in Tashkent Region, have fled Uzbekistan after continuous pressure from the authorities, their fellow-believers complained to Forum 18 on 12 May. Both were "sick and tired of the police persecution, and therefore took their families and left Uzbekistan," they said.

      Mamazhanov was arrested and jailed on 12 March for 15 days in Fergana, the same day police illegally raided his home and those of other local Protestants searching for religious literature. He was released only on 28 March, one day after he should have been released under the law. Mamazhanov was imprisoned in the Region's Kuva District Police Detention Centre where up to seven inmates were put in a cell designed for two people, no sanitary and hygiene rules are followed, and food is given only once a day. He and other prisoners who insisted they were innocent of crime were also tortured several times (see F18News 13 April 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2167).

      After his release from prison, Mamazhanov "felt very sick and found he had developed several diseases", Protestants complained to Forum 18. They said that during his imprisonment he lost seven kilos in weight, developed shingles and experienced stomach problems. "The prison made him practically an invalid," Protestants lamented.

      Harsh treatment and even torture in prisons is common (see Forum 18's Uzbekistan religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1862).

      Protestants note that Mamazhanov suffers from hepatitis, diabetes, osteochondrosis of his back and spine, and two hernias of his spine.

      New case against Mamazhanov?

      Since early May Fergana City Court and Police have attempted to bring Mamazhanov before the Court to hand him an administrative fine for the 12 March confiscation of religious literature from his home, his fellow-believers told Forum 18. "He was already jailed after that Police raid and confiscation, and now the authorities are looking to punish him a second time for the same alleged offence," local Protestants complained to Forum 18.

      An official of Fergana City Court Chancellery (who did not give her name) told Forum 18 that the Police had brought a case against Mamazhanov under Administrative Code Article 184-2, but that the Court referred it back to the Police for further investigation. She declined to give any further information.

      Rustam Yegamberdiyev, Chief of Criminal Police of Fergana Region, on 24 May referred Forum 18 to the Anti-Terrorism Police. "I don't know the details, ask them, they are leading the case," he said.

      Asked about the case, Anvar Myrzayev, Chief of the Anti-Terrorism Police in Fergana, refused to talk to Forum 18. "I don't know you, and it's a wrong number," he said. Subsequent calls to him on the same day went unanswered.

      Asked about the case on 24 May, duty officers (who did not give their names) at Fergana Police refused to put Forum 18 through to any other officials, but referred Forum 18 to Myrzayev.

      Police threaten Turdiyev with criminal case

      Police detained Turdiyev, together with Mamazhanov's brothers, in Fergana on 12 March as they tried to defend Mamazhanov against the unlawful police actions. Police confiscated his car the same day. The car was returned to him 16 days later, on 28 March, when Judge Shukhrat Sotivoldiyev who gave the administrative arrest to Mamazhanov issued Turdiyev with a warning (see F18News 13 April 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2167).

      On 28 April, one month after the Fergana Court warning, two plain-clothes officers of the Criminal Police in Almalyk stopped Turdiyev while he was trying to get in his car, local Protestants told Forum 18. Turdiyev was taken to Almalyk Police Station where he was questioned.

      Officer Alisher (last name not given) of the Criminal Police questioned Turdiyev, demanding that he write a statement. Turdiyev was "threatened that he will be put in prison unless he stops writing complaints about police actions," local Protestants complained. Officer Alisher told Turdiyev that "Police will plant drugs or bullets on him, and open a fabricated case against him." However, Turdiyev refused to do so or sign the police report. Officers, "seeing that they could not achieve what they want", then released him.

      Turdiyev's home ambushed by Police

      While Turdiyev was being tried by the Fergana Court on 28 March, one police officer in uniform and several plain-clothes officials came to his home in Almalyk at 8 am and "began pounding and kicking on the doors for one hour." Turdiyev's "neighbours came out to the noise and asked them why they behaved in such an unruly way." The officials answered that "they want to see Turdiyev and check up on his flat."

      The officials then "took turns putting their ears to the door to see whether or not Turdiyev was in the flat." After this they turned off electricity to Turdiyev's flat and left. However, "unidentified Police officers set up an ambush not far from the home, and began waiting to catch him."

      When Turdiyev returned from Fergana to Almalyk on 1 April, he found out that all the food in their refrigerator was spoiled because the electricity had been cut off. Food, which included beef, sausage, and lard and products, cost Turdiyev some 107,000 Soms.

      Turdiyev harassed earlier

      Two officers of Almalyk Police also earlier on 20 February raided Turdiyev's home at 6.30 am under the guise of a passport inspection in the building, Protestants complained to Forum 18.

      They checked the passports of Turdiyev, his wife and children, as well as the title deed of their flat, taking copies of it. "We found out later that in the entire building, police checked up only on Turdiyev's flat. This shows that there was no passport regime check-up. The police only wanted to harass him and his family."

      Turdiyev was on the same day "against his will" taken to Almalyk Police Station. There an officer who would not give his name but said he was Chief of the Criminal Police "demanded that he write a statement explaining why he travels abroad, which countries and for what purpose he visited, why he chose to buy a flat in Almalyk, why he was registered with his family and lives in Almalyk." Police also demanded that he should write about the lifestyle of his family members, their sources of money, and about his family and other relations.

      The Police Chief then asked Turdiyev to become an informer for the police, Protestants complained. However, Turdiyev refused to do so.

      Asked why the police are pressuring Turdiyev, Ravshan Amilov, Chief of Almalyk's Criminal Police, claimed to Forum 18 on 24 May that "I know him but we do not have such facts." When Forum 18 asked why his colleagues ambushed Turdiyev's home and turned off his electricity, as well as why he was brought to the Criminal Police and threatened with a criminal case, Amilov did not say. "I will ask the terrorism Police about the case and you call us back some time later," he said.

      Jahongir Baltayev, Chief of Almalyk Anti-Terrorism Police refused to talk to Forum 18 on 24 May. "It's a wrong number," he replied. Told that Almalyk Police gave his number to Forum 18, he put the phone down. (END)
      Source: 
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    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      Authorities in Turkey breached European human rights law by refusing to provide the Mersin and İzmir Jehovah’s Witnesses with an appropriate place of worship.
      In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Association for Solidarity with Jehovah Witnesses and Others v. Turkey (applications nos. 36915/10 and 8606/13) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:
      a violation of Article 9 (right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights
      As just satisfaction (Article 41), the court held that Turkey was to pay 1,000 euros (EUR) jointly to the applicants in application no. 36915/10 and EUR 1,000 to the applicant association in application no. 8606/13 in respect of nonpecuniary damage, and EUR 4,000 to the applicants jointly in respect of costs and expenses.
      On the basis of a law prohibiting the opening of places of worship on sites not designated for that purpose and imposing certain conditions on the building of places of worship, the private premises which the Mersin and İzmir congregations of the Jehovah’s Witnesses had been using were closed by the national authorities and their applications to use those premises as places of worship were rejected.
      The congregations were also informed that the local development plans comprised no sites which could be used as places of worship.
      The court found in particular that the congregations in question were unable to obtain an appropriate place in which to worship on a regular basis, which amounted to such a direct interference with their freedom of religion that it was neither proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued, that is to say the prevention of disorder, nor necessary in a democratic society.
      The court considered that the domestic court had taken no account of the specific needs of a small community of believers and noted that the impugned legislation made no mention of that type of need, whereas, given the small number of adherents, the congregations in question needed not a building with a specific architectural design but a simple meeting room in which to worship, meet and teach their beliefs.
      Source: 
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    • Eric Ouellet

      Comment fortifier notre foi par les épreuves que nous subissons en ce monde.
       
      DANS la vie, il y a parfois des moments où nous avons désespérément besoin d’aide pour résoudre nos problèmes. S’il nous arrivait d’être frappés par une série de malheurs, nous pourrions facilement sombrer dans le désespoir le plus complet et nous sentir écrasés par l’adversité. C’est dans ces moments-là que nous apprécions l’aide qui nous est offerte.
      Le fait que nous sommes disciples du Fils de Dieu ne signifie pas que nous n’avons jamais besoin d’aide. Nous ne sommes pas à l’abri des épreuves. La maladie, les accidents, les inondations, les tremblements de terre, les tempêtes, la criminalité, l’injustice et l’oppression sont le lot de tous les humains. Nous ne devrions pas nous attendre que le Souverain suprême utilise son pouvoir pour influer sur notre hérédité ou sur notre environnement afin de nous épargner, à nous seulement qui sommes ses serviteurs, les souffrances consécutives aux conditions actuelles. Dieu a prévu d’annuler un jour les effets néfastes du péché de l’homme, mais ce jour est encore à venir. S’il accordait dès à présent une protection miraculeuse à son peuple, une foule d’hommes viendraient sans aucun doute en grossir les rangs, mais uniquement par intérêt, et non pas par amour et par foi. — Comparez avec Jean 6:10-15, 26, 27.
       
      Non seulement nous ne pourrons pas éviter les souffrances que causent des événements pénibles, mais pour la raison même que nous sommes serviteurs de Dieu, nous devrons peut-être endurer la persécution, qu’elle vienne de notre famille, de nos voisins, de nos connaissances ou des autorités gouvernementales. Jésus alla même jusqu’à dire: “On vous livrera à la tribulation et l’on vous tuera, et vous serez les objets de la haine de toutes les nations à cause de mon nom.” (Matthieu 24:9). L’Histoire démontre que c’est ce qui s’est passé précisément dans notre vingtième siècle.
      Pourquoi le Dieu Tout-Puissant permet-il que ses serviteurs subissent des épreuves? Puisque leur mode de vie ne les protège pas des maux courants et qu’il peut même faire d’eux des ‘objets de haine’, on peut se demander s’il est vraiment le meilleur qui soit. Apporte-t-il des bienfaits qui compensent, qui excèdent même les peines subies? Se pourrait-il qu’il y ait plus de bonheur à endurer certaines épreuves qu’à les éviter? Qu’est-ce qui nous permettra de supporter victorieusement les difficultés les plus grandes? La réponse à ces questions nous aidera et nous affermira beaucoup.
      QUI EST LE VRAI RESPONSABLE?
      Il ne faut jamais oublier que notre Père céleste n’est pas responsable de la souffrance. Ce n’est pas lui qui a introduit le péché dans le monde, mais un de ses fils spirituels qui s’est rebellé délibérément contre son Créateur, se faisant ainsi Satan, c’est-à-dire opposant au Très-Haut. Influencé par lui, le premier couple humain, Adam et Ève, a violé volontairement la loi divine et s’est attiré la condamnation de Dieu et la mort (Genèse 3:1-19; Jean 8:44). Adam ayant perdu sa perfection, tous ses descendants sont nés dans le péché et sont sujets à la maladie, aux infirmités, à la vieillesse et à la mort (Romains 5:12). Pécheurs dès la naissance, nous sommes bien loin d’être le genre de personnes que nous voudrions et que nous devrions être. Il nous arrive de blesser les autres involontairement par nos paroles ou nos actes, et d’ajouter ainsi à leurs peines. Il faut donc nous rappeler que Dieu n’est pas responsable des difficultés causées par notre imperfection ou par celle de nos semblables. Si sa loi avait été respectée, la maladie, les infirmités, la vieillesse et toutes les autres causes de souffrances n’auraient jamais existé.
      Notre Père céleste n’approuve pas non plus l’extrême cruauté de l’homme envers son semblable. La Bible déclare: “Écraser sous les pieds tous les prisonniers du pays, priver un homme de ses droits au mépris du Très-Haut, égarer la justice dans les tribunaux, — le Seigneur n’a jamais approuvé ces choses.” (Lamentations 3:34-36, The New English Bible). Ceux qui violent la loi de Dieu en maltraitant leurs semblables devront lui rendre des comptes. “La vengeance est à moi; c’est moi qui paierai de retour, dit Jéhovah.” (Romains 12:19). Par conséquent, nous devons veiller à ne pas nous irriter contre notre Père céleste à cause des souffrances provoquées par des hommes qui enfreignent délibérément et effrontément sa loi.
      Évidemment, Jéhovah Dieu pourrait empêcher Satan, les démons, les hommes méchants et l’imperfection humaine de provoquer toutes sortes de situations pénibles. Toutefois, puisqu’il permet que même ses serviteurs connaissent l’adversité, il doit avoir de bonnes raisons d’agir ainsi.
      POUR LE BIEN DES “VASES DE MISÉRICORDE”
      Les Écritures expliquent que si Dieu n’est pas intervenu contre les responsables des grandes souffrances qui affligent les humains, c’est dans le but de procurer finalement le plus grand bonheur aux amis de la droiture. Dans sa lettre aux Romains, l’apôtre chrétien Paul écrivit:
      “Que dirons-nous donc? Y a-t-il de l’injustice chez Dieu? Que ce ne soit jamais le cas! Car il dit à Moïse: ‘J’aurai pitié de qui j’ai pitié, et je témoignerai de la compassion à qui je témoigne de la compassion.’ Ainsi donc, cela dépend, non pas de celui qui souhaite ni de celui qui court, mais de Dieu qui a pitié. Car l’Écriture dit à Pharaon: ‘C’est pour cela même que je t’ai laissé subsister, pour faire voir à ton sujet ma puissance, et pour que mon nom soit proclamé par toute la terre.’ Ainsi donc, il a pitié de qui il veut, mais il laisse s’obstiner qui il veut.
      “Tu vas donc me dire: ‘Qu’a-t-il encore à faire des reproches? Qui a résisté en effet à sa volonté formelle?’ Ô homme, vraiment, qui es-tu donc pour répliquer à Dieu? Est-ce que l’objet façonné va dire à celui qui l’a façonné: ‘Pourquoi m’as-tu fait ainsi?’ — Plaît-il? Est-ce que le potier n’a pas pouvoir sur l’argile pour faire, de la même masse, tel vase pour un usage honorable et tel autre pour un usage vulgaire? Si donc Dieu, bien que voulant montrer son courroux et faire connaître sa puissance, a supporté avec beaucoup de longanimité des vases de courroux rendus bons pour la destruction, afin de faire connaître la richesse de sa gloire envers des vases de miséricorde qu’il a par avance préparés pour la gloire, savoir nous qu’il a appelés non seulement d’entre les Juifs, mais encore d’entre les nations, eh bien quoi?” — Romains 9:14-24.
      Les circonstances que Jéhovah peut provoquer ou tolérer dans la vie des hommes permettent de révéler quelle sorte de “vases” ils sont. Le pharaon à qui Jéhovah ordonna, par l’entremise de Moïse et d’Aaron, de libérer les Israélites qu’il tenait en esclavage, continua à s’endurcir contre le Très-Haut. Plus les plaies s’abattaient sur les Égyptiens, plus ce pharaon s’obstinait dans son refus de laisser les Israélites quitter l’Égypte comme un peuple libre. Il se révéla donc un ‘vase de courroux’ qui méritait la destruction pour avoir défié l’autorité du Souverain suprême, Jéhovah Dieu. Par la même occasion le traitement cruel et injuste qu’il infligea aux Israélites prouvait amplement que ceux-ci avaient bien besoin de la miséricorde et de la compassion de Dieu.
      Notez également que, selon l’apôtre Paul, si Jéhovah a laissé le pharaon s’obstiner dans son défi, c’est parce que son nom était impliqué. S’il avait détruit immédiatement cet orgueilleux monarque, Jéhovah Dieu n’aurait pas eu l’occasion de faire connaître l’ampleur et la diversité de son pouvoir, comme il l’a fait en humiliant les nombreuses divinités égyptiennes ainsi que les prêtres magiciens. Les dix plaies et la destruction du pharaon et de son armée dans la mer Rouge, point culminant de l’action de Dieu, furent une démonstration tellement grandiose de la puissance divine que les nations d’alentour en parlaient encore des années plus tard. Ainsi le nom de Jéhovah fut proclamé par toute la terre, ce qui contribua à sa gloire et à son honneur et incita les humains sincères à reconnaître sa suprématie. — Josué 2:10, 11; I Samuel 4:8.
      Les Israélites, tels des “vases de miséricorde”, profitèrent assurément de cette action du Très-Haut. En tolérant l’oppression des Israélites puis en y mettant fin par une splendide démonstration de puissance, Dieu leur permit de mieux le connaître. Il leur donna un aperçu de sa grandeur comme cela n’aurait jamais été possible autrement. Bien que pénibles, les événements que les Israélites vécurent en Égypte auraient certainement dû les aider à comprendre à quel point il était important d’exercer la foi dans le pouvoir salvateur de Dieu et d’éprouver pour lui une crainte salutaire. C’était indispensable s’ils voulaient continuer à mener une vie qui leur apporterait le bonheur, la sécurité, la paix et la santé. — Deutéronome 6:1-24; 28:1-68.
      Tout comme l’inclination du cœur des hommes a été rendue manifeste à cette époque-là, de même les épreuves que Dieu permet que nous subissions aujourd’hui révèlent si nous le servons avec de bons mobiles. Satan, l’adversaire de Dieu, prétend en effet que ceux qui font la volonté divine agissent surtout par égoïsme. Voici ce qu’il déclara au sujet du fidèle Job: “Tout ce qu’un homme a, il le donnera pour son âme. Pour changer, avance ta main, s’il te plaît, et touche jusqu’à son os et à sa chair, et vois s’il ne te maudit pas à ta face.” (Job 2:4, 5). En endurant fidèlement les souffrances, nous réfutons l’accusation de Satan et nous participons à la justification du beau nom de notre Père céleste qui, lui, a confiance en ses fidèles serviteurs. Mais que dire si Jéhovah permet à Satan d’utiliser ses instruments pour infliger aux vrais chrétiens des traitements qui les rendent infirmes ou provoquent leur mort? Si des chrétiennes sont violées ou subissent d’autres agressions tout aussi abominables? Évidemment, ce sont là des choses révoltantes, mais rappelons-nous qu’il n’est rien que notre Père céleste ne puisse entièrement réparer en temps voulu. C’est pourquoi il peut parfois juger bon de permettre que l’épreuve aille jusqu’à de telles extrémités. Grâce à leur fidélité, même jusqu’à la mort, les serviteurs de Dieu ont ainsi la possibilité de démontrer de façon incontestable qu’ils lui vouent un attachement sincère.
      Aussi surprenant que cela puisse paraître à certains, les épreuves que nous subissons, qu’elles aient des causes naturelles ou qu’elles soient dues à la persécution peuvent malgré tout nous faire progresser sur le plan individuel. C’est ce que fait remarquer l’apôtre Pierre. Après avoir dit que les chrétiens sont “sauvegardés par la puissance de Dieu” pour que leur salut définitif soit assuré, il ajoute:
      “En cette chose vous vous réjouissez grandement, bien que vous soyez actuellement affligés, s’il le faut, pour un peu de temps, par diverses épreuves, afin que la valeur éprouvée de votre foi, beaucoup plus précieuse que l’or qui est périssable quoique éprouvé par le feu, soit trouvée sujet de louange, de gloire et d’honneur lors de la révélation de Jésus Christ.” — I Pierre 1:5-7.
      Comme Pierre l’admet lui-même, il n’est nullement agréable de souffrir. Nous sommes certainement “affligés” lorsque nous subissons des épreuves, et pourtant il est possible, en même temps, de nous réjouir. Pourquoi? Cette joie vient en partie de ce que nous sommes conscients des bienfaits spirituels qui découlent de l’endurance victorieuse des souffrances. Quels sont ces bienfaits spirituels?
      LES SOUFFRANCES AFFINENT LA FOI
      L’apôtre Pierre compare l’effet des épreuves sur la foi d’un chrétien à l’affinage de l’or par le feu. Dans cette opération, on obtient de l’or fin par l’élimination des scories. La valeur bien supérieure de cet or affiné justifie certainement l’utilisation de ce procédé. Pourtant, comme le fait remarquer Pierre, même l’or éprouvé par le feu est périssable. Il peut s’user ou être détruit d’une façon ou d’une autre. Il n’en va pas de même de la foi éprouvée. La vraie foi ne peut être détruite.
      Pour obtenir l’approbation divine, nous devons absolument posséder une telle foi. La Bible déclare: “Sans la foi il est impossible de lui plaire [à Dieu].” (Hébreux 11:6). La foi dont la sincérité est démontrée dans l’épreuve a vraiment beaucoup plus de valeur que l’or fin, car notre avenir éternel en fait partie.
      Mais comment les épreuves affinent-elles la foi au point qu’elle “soit trouvée sujet de louange, de gloire et d’honneur lors de la révélation de Jésus Christ”? 
      En voici plusieurs façons.

      Si notre foi est solide, elle nous réconfortera et nous soutiendra quand nous subirons une épreuve. Ayant passé victorieusement cette épreuve, nous serons plus forts pour faire face à d’autres difficultés éventuelles. L’expérience nous aura montré ce que notre foi peut faire pour nous.
      D’autre part, une certaine épreuve peut révéler un défaut particulier de la personnalité du chrétien, par exemple l’orgueil, l’entêtement, l’impatience ou encore l’amour du monde, du luxe ou des plaisirs. Ces traits viennent en fait d’un manque de foi. En effet, ils montrent que ce chrétien ne se soumet pas totalement à la direction de Dieu et à sa volonté à son égard. Il n’est pas convaincu que son Père céleste sait mieux que quiconque ce qui lui procurera le bonheur ni qu’on est toujours béni quand on suit la direction divine (Hébreux 3:12, 13). Quand les épreuves révèlent au chrétien ses faiblesses, il se rend compte qu’il doit affermir sa foi s’il veut rester un serviteur approuvé du Très-Haut.
      Par conséquent, si un événement particulier révèle que notre foi présente une faille, nous pouvons nous examiner et décider quelle correction apporter. Il serait bien que nous nous posions ces questions: “Pourquoi ma foi est-elle faible? Est-ce que je néglige l’étude et la méditation de la Parole de Dieu? Est-ce que je saisis toutes les occasions qui me sont offertes de me réunir avec mes frères chrétiens afin de m’affermir grâce à la déclaration de leur foi? Ai-je tendance à trop compter sur moi-même au lieu de me décharger sur Jéhovah Dieu de tous mes soucis et de toutes mes ‘inquiétudes’? Est-ce que je prie Jéhovah du fond du cœur chaque jour?” Une fois que nous aurons déterminé dans quels domaines il nous faut progresser, faisons de grands efforts pour effectuer les changements nécessaires dans notre vie quotidienne, afin de fortifier notre foi.
      Si nous recherchons la direction de Dieu et attendons patiemment et avec foi qu’il nous indique le moyen d’être soulagés de nos épreuves, nous ferons en sorte que ces circonstances pénibles nous aident à devenir de meilleurs serviteurs du Très-Haut. Alors, notre foi sera vraiment “trouvée sujet de louange, de gloire et d’honneur lors de la révélation de Jésus Christ”. Le Fils de Dieu ‘louera’ ou fera l’éloge de notre foi. Il nous récompensera largement à cause de celle-ci, nous accordant ainsi la “gloire”. Il nous fera l’“honneur” de nous reconnaître comme ses disciples devant Jéhovah Dieu et devant les anges (comparez avec Matthieu 10:32; Luc 12:8; 18:8). Cela signifiera que nous aurons devant nous la perspective de vivre éternellement et heureux. Mais que pouvons-nous faire pour ne pas faiblir dans la foi quand nous passons par de dures épreuves?
      COMMENT RÉAGIR FACE À L’ÉPREUVE
      Il nous sera plus facile d’endurer avec succès de pénibles épreuves si nous reconnaissons qu’elles sont temporaires. L’affinage de l’or a un commencement et une fin. De même, aucune peine ne durera indéfiniment. Si nous gardons présente dans notre cœur la promesse divine de la vie éternelle sans maladie, ni cri, ni douleur, alors même la pire de toutes les souffrances dans le présent système sera à nos yeux “momentanée et légère”. (II Corinthiens 4:17.) Pensez à l’époque où “l’on ne se remémorera pas les choses précédentes, et [où] elles ne monteront pas au cœur”. (Ésaïe 65:17.) Qu’il est merveilleux de savoir qu’il ne restera même pas un mauvais souvenir de ces moments difficiles!Et puis, il est rare d’avoir à subir quotidiennement de grandes souffrances de la part des hommes. D’ailleurs, notre bonne conduite ne donne guère de raisons aux gens de nous faire du mal. Comme les autorités gouvernementales ont la responsabilité de faire respecter la loi et l’ordre, elles peuvent même louer les serviteurs de Jéhovah pour leur obéissance aux lois. De nos jours, même des gens hostiles aux chrétiens ont dû faire la même constatation que les ennemis de Daniel, fidèle prophète de Dieu; ceux-ci déclarèrent: “Nous ne trouverons dans ce Daniel aucun prétexte, à moins qu’il ne nous faille en trouver contre lui dans la loi de son Dieu.” Oui Daniel était “digne de confiance et (...) aucune négligence ni chose malhonnête ne fut trouvée en lui”. (Daniel 6:4, 5.) En général, il n’y a aucune raison pour qu’à elle seule la bonne conduite du chrétien lui vaille l’hostilité de ses semblables. C’est peut-être pourquoi l’apôtre Pierre soulève la question suivante: “Et en effet qui vous fera du mal si vous devenez zélés pour le bien?” — I Pierre 3:13.
      Mais, par cette question, il se peut que l’apôtre ait plutôt voulu dire: “Qui peut vraiment faire du mal à un chrétien dont la voie est droite?” Personne ne peut nous infliger de mauvais traitements indéfiniment. Jésus Christ déclara en effet à ses disciples: “Ne craignez pas ceux qui tuent le corps mais qui ne peuvent tuer l’âme; mais craignez plutôt celui qui peut détruire et l’âme et le corps dans la Géhenne.” (Matthieu 10:28). Oui, les hommes peuvent aller jusqu’à nous tuer, mais ils sont incapables de nous priver du droit de vivre en tant qu’âmes. Le Dieu Très-Haut, par l’entremise de son Fils, a le pouvoir de rendre la vie à ses fidèles serviteurs et c’est ce qu’il fera. Seul Jéhovah peut nous ôter pour toujours le droit à la vie en nous livrant à la mort éternelle, sans espoir de résurrection.
       L’apôtre Pierre pouvait donc dire à ses frères chrétiens: “Et même si vous souffrez pour la justice, heureux êtes-vous. Cependant ne craignez pas l’objet de leur crainte, et ne vous laissez pas émouvoir.” — I Pierre 3:14.
      Nous pouvons être heureux si nous souffrons “pour la justice, car nous avons alors une conscience pure vis-à-vis de Dieu et des hommes. Nous souffrons pour une juste cause. Nous retirons une satisfaction et une paix profondes de savoir que nous sommes agréables au Très-Haut. Toutefois, comme le fait remarquer l’apôtre, cela n’est possible que si nous ne cédons pas à la peur. Pierre parle peut-être ici de la peur que peuvent nous inspirer nos persécuteurs, à moins qu’il ne s’agisse de la peur qu’éprouvent les persécuteurs eux-mêmes. Par exemple, comme ils ne croient pas que Jéhovah Dieu ressuscitera les morts par l’entremise du Christ, les ennemis des vrais chrétiens redoutent une mort prématurée (Hébreux 2:14, 15). Mais nous, qui sommes serviteurs de Dieu, nous ne partageons pas la crainte des non-croyants, car nous avons été affranchis de la peur d’une telle mort et nous savons que notre Père céleste ne nous abandonnera jamais. Par conséquent, nous ne devrions pas nous laisser “émouvoir” au point, par exemple, de nous élever avec colère contre nos persécuteurs.
      Que faire s’il nous arrivait d’être convoqués devant les autorités gouvernementales et interrogés sur un ton dur et méprisant? Nous ne voudrons jamais rendre la pareille. Sachant que Dieu nous soutient, nous aurons de la hardiesse, sans pour autant nous croire autorisés à adopter une attitude agressive ou arrogante (comparez avec Actes 4:5-20). L’apôtre nous donne ce conseil: “Dans vos cœurs, sanctifiez comme Seigneur le Christ, étant toujours prêts à la défense devant quiconque vous demande la raison de l’espérance qui est en vous, tout en le faisant avec douceur et un profond respect.” (I Pierre 3:15). Si, au lieu de tenir compte de cette exhortation, nous nous montrions au contraire méprisants et irrespectueux, ce ne serait plus pour la justice que nous souffririons. Les autorités s’estimeraient alors en droit de prendre des mesures contre nous pour insoumission et manque de respect. Dans le monde, les gens laissent éclater leur irritation, leur colère et leur rancune quand ils estiment que leurs droits sont lésés, mais le chrétien, lui, n’agit pas ainsi.
      Dans de telles circonstances, nous devons, comme nous le conseille l’apôtre, penser à notre Seigneur et Maître et nous souvenir de l’exemple qu’il nous a donné. Nous veillerons à accorder à Jésus Christ le plus grand respect et à lui réserver une place sacrée dans nos cœurs. Étant ses disciples, nous voudrons répondre à n’importe quelle autorité qui nous interroge comme si nous nous trouvions en la présence même de notre Seigneur. Nous devrions présenter les raisons de notre attitude chrétienne respectueusement et calmement.
      UNE HEUREUSE INFLUENCE SUR NOS ADVERSAIRES
       En endurant fidèlement les souffrances, nous pouvons aussi réduire au silence nos adversaires. C’est là une pensée qui, selon l’apôtre Pierre, nous encouragera à garder une conscience pure. Il déclare: “Gardez une bonne conscience, afin que, sur le point même où l’on parle contre vous, soient pris de honte ceux qui décrient votre bonne conduite pour ce qui est de Christ.” (I Pierre 3:16). En observant la patience des serviteurs de Dieu qui ne se plaignent pas, des gens hostiles peuvent se sentir honteux de les avoir calomniés. Cela est particulièrement vrai lorsque nous traitons nos ennemis avec bonté. — Romains 12:19-21.
      Le fait que l’endurance fidèle dans les épreuves pour la justice produit de tels bienfaits, vient appuyer les paroles suivantes de Pierre: “Car mieux vaut souffrir parce qu’on fait le bien, si le veut la volonté de Dieu, que parce qu’on fait le mal.” (I Pierre 3:17). Quel mérite y aurait-il, en effet, à souffrir parce qu’on a volé, escroqué, fraudé le fisc ou défié l’autorité à cause d’un sentiment de piété mal compris ou d’un zèle intempestif? Celui qui serait puni pour de telles actions ne pourrait que jeter l’opprobre sur lui-même et sur ses compagnons dans la foi. Mais si un chrétien supporte avec patience les mauvais traitements qui lui sont infligés injustement, certains seront impressionnés en se rendant compte qu’une force soutient les vrais adorateurs, tandis que ceux qui portent de faux témoignages sur les vérités divines et sur leurs défenseurs pourront être réduits au silence. Puisque Dieu permet que le chrétien subisse des épreuves, c’est à juste titre que Pierre pouvait dire: “Si le veut la volonté de Dieu.”
      COMME JÉSUS, NOUS SERONS RÉCOMPENSÉS
      Le cas de Jésus illustre bien comment on peut recevoir de grandes bénédictions en restant fidèle dans les souffrances. Étant sans péché, il ne fit rien qui justifiât les mauvais traitements dont il fut victime. Cependant, parce qu’il supporta les épreuves jusqu’à mourir d’une mort ignominieuse sur un poteau, il en résulta pour nous de merveilleux bienfaits, et pour lui, une grande récompense. L’apôtre Pierre écrivit:
      “En effet, le Christ lui-même est mort une fois pour toutes en ce qui concerne les péchés, un juste pour des injustes, afin de vous mener à Dieu, ayant été mis à mort dans la chair, mais ayant été rendu à la vie dans l’esprit. C’est dans cet état qu’il est même allé prêcher aux esprits en prison, qui jadis avaient été désobéissants quand la patience de Dieu attendait, aux jours de Noé, pendant que se construisait l’arche, dans laquelle peu de gens, c’est-à-dire huit âmes, furent transportés sains et saufs à travers l’eau.” — I Pierre 3:18-20.
      Comme Jésus resta absolument intègre dans l’épreuve, il put donner sa vie en sacrifice humain parfait. Ainsi, sa mort prépara la voie pour “mener à Dieu” des humains, pour les réconcilier avec le Très-Haut et pour leur offrir la perspective de la vie éternelle. Étant donné que nous retirons de si grands bienfaits du sacrifice du Christ, ne devrions-nous pas être disposés à suivre son exemple et à souffrir pour la justice?
      En outre, comme dans le cas de Jésus, nous pouvons être certains que notre endurance fidèle sera bénie. Le fait que Jésus a été “rendu à la vie dans l’esprit”, c’est-à-dire qu’il a été ressuscité pour une vie spirituelle, constitue une garantie absolue que ses disciples aussi retrouveront la vie. — I Corinthiens 15:12-22.
       Étant sorti victorieux grâce à son endurance fidèle, le Fils de Dieu, désormais créature spirituelle, pouvait proclamer un message de condamnation aux “esprits en prison”. Puisque ces esprits désobéirent à l’époque de Noé, il doit s’agir des fils angéliques de Dieu qui quittèrent leur résidence originelle dans les cieux pour se marier avec des femmes (Genèse 6:1-4). Ils sont appelés des “esprits en prison” parce que leur châtiment inclut certaines restrictions qui leur interdisent définitivement de reprendre leur place parmi les anges fidèles. Jude confirme que ces anges déchus ne pouvaient recevoir qu’une sentence de condamnation; il dit: “Les anges qui n’ont pas gardé leur position originelle, mais ont abandonné leur propre demeure. [Dieu] les a réservés dans des liens éternels, sous l’obscurité épaisse, pour le jugement du grand jour.” (Jude 6). C’est son endurance fidèle jusqu’à la mort qui valut à Jésus d’être ressuscité et de pouvoir ainsi prêcher ou proclamer une sentence de condamnation contre les anges déchus.
       
       Ce message de destruction adressé aux esprits méchants devrait nous encourager à endurer fidèlement quand nous rencontrons des épreuves. Pourquoi? Parce que ce sont ces forces spirituelles méchantes qui contribuent dans une grande mesure à attiser l’hostilité des humains éloignés de Dieu envers les disciples de Jésus Christ. La Bible déclare: “Le dieu de ce système de choses a aveuglé l’esprit des incrédules, de peur que ne les éclaire l’éclatante lumière de la glorieuse bonne nouvelle au sujet du Christ, qui est l’image de Dieu.” (II Corinthiens 4:4). “Pour nous [les chrétiens] la lutte n’est pas contre le sang et la chair, mais contre les gouvernements, contre les autorités, contre les chefs mondiaux de ces ténèbres, contre les forces spirituelles méchantes qui sont dans les lieux célestes.” (Éphésiens 6:12; voir aussi Révélation 16:13, 14). Si donc Jésus Christ ressuscité a pu prêcher un message de condamnation aux esprits mauvais, nous pouvons être sûrs qu’un jour leur influence haineuse sera réduite à néant (comparez avec Marc 1:23, 24). Quel merveilleux soulagement ce sera alors!
      Non seulement Jésus Christ a été relevé d’entre les morts comme un serviteur approuvé de Dieu, ce qui lui a permis de condamner les anges rebelles, mais il a aussi été élevé à une haute position. L’apôtre Pierre nous dit: “Il est à la droite de Dieu, car il est allé au ciel; et anges, et autorités, et puissances lui ont été soumis.” (I Pierre 3:22). Ces paroles sont tout à fait conformes à celles de Jésus lui-même qui, après sa résurrection d’entre les morts, déclara: “Tout pouvoir m’a été donné dans le ciel et sur la terre.” (Matthieu 28:18). Bien des hommes ont accepté de souffrir et de mourir au service de chefs humains infiniment moins puissants que Jésus. Ils considéraient comme un grand honneur de servir ainsi un roi ou une reine. À combien plus forte raison devrions-nous nous sentir honorés de pouvoir endurer des épreuves à cause de notre fidélité à notre Roi céleste, Jésus Christ!
      IMITEZ JÉSUS CHRIST
      Quand vous êtes affligé, prenez toujours pour modèle le Fils de Dieu. L’apôtre écrit: “Puisque Christ a souffert dans la chair, vous aussi armez-vous de la même disposition d’esprit, parce que celui qui a souffert dans la chair a rompu avec les péchés, afin de vivre le reste de son temps dans la chair, non plus pour les désirs des hommes, mais pour la volonté de Dieu.” — I Pierre 4:1, 2.
      Quelle était la disposition d’esprit de Jésus? Il supporta humblement toutes les attaques verbales et physiques et subit finalement une mort douloureuse sur un poteau. En refusant de rendre la pareille, le Fils de Dieu accomplit ces paroles prophétiques: “Comme une brebis il a été mené à l’abattage, et, comme un agneau qui est sans voix devant celui qui le tond, ainsi il n’ouvre pas la bouche.” — Actes 8:32; Ésaïe 53:7.
      Étant serviteurs du Très-Haut, nous voudrons endurer de la même façon les souffrances, sans céder à un esprit de rébellion ou de vengeance. Si nous menacions ceux qui nous persécutent ou cherchions des occasions de leur faire du mal, nous montrerions que nous sommes encore esclaves des passions de la chair imparfaite. Si nous endurons des souffrances de la part des hommes, ce devrait être uniquement parce que nous refusons de suivre les voies égoïstes du monde (Jean 15:19, 25). C’est ainsi que nous pouvons démontrer par notre attitude d’esprit, nos paroles et nos actions que nous vivons "non plus pour les désirs des hommes, mais pour la volonté de Dieu".
      UNE RAISON D’ÊTRE HEUREUX
       
      Au premier siècle de notre ère, la foule idolâtre ne subissait pas de persécutions religieuses. Par contre, quiconque embrassait le christianisme devenait un objet de haine. Ce devait être une expérience étrange, déconcertante même. Voilà qui était bien loin des bénédictions promises à ceux qui acceptaient la “bonne nouvelle”. Ces chrétiens avaient grand besoin d’acquérir le bon point de vue sur cette question. Aussi les paroles suivantes de l’apôtre Pierre leur furent-elles certainement d’un grand secours:
      “Bien-aimés, ne vous laissez pas déconcerter par l’incendie qui est au milieu de vous et qui vous advient pour servir d’épreuve, comme s’il vous arrivait quelque chose d’étrange. Bien au contraire, continuez à vous réjouir puisque vous avez part aux souffrances du Christ, pour que vous vous réjouissiez et frémissiez aussi de joie durant la révélation de sa gloire. Si l’on vous outrage pour le nom de Christ, heureux êtes-vous, car l’esprit de gloire, oui, l’esprit de Dieu repose sur vous.” — I Pierre 4:12-14
       Ne soyons pas déconcertés si le malheur nous frappe, mais considérons plutôt que cela nous prépare à recevoir les bénédictions qui accompagneront la révélation de noootre Maître. Pierre compare les souffrances à un “incendie”. En effet, de même que les métaux sont affinés par le feu, de même Dieu permet que ses serviteurs soient affinés ou purifiés par les tribulations. Évidemment, Dieu ne nous a pas faits pécheurs, mais comme nous le sommes, il peut permettre que nous endurions des souffrances dans le but de nous purifier. Elles peuvent nous rendre meilleurs, plus humbles et plus compréhensifs à l’égard de nos semblables. En outre, quand nous avons nous-mêmes subi de cruelles épreuves, nos paroles de réconfort et d’encouragement ont beaucoup plus de poids. Ceux que nous consolons savent que nous comprenons ce par quoi ils sont en train de passer.
       Puisque le Fils de Dieu a souffert, les tourments que nous subissons confirment que nous sommes bien ses disciples et que nous demeurons en union avec lui. Jésus dit à ses apôtres: “Rappelez-vous la parole que je vous ai dite: Un esclave n’est pas plus grand que son maître. S’ils m’ont persécuté, ils vous persécuteront aussi.” (Jean 15:20). Lorsque nous sommes persécutés pour les mêmes raisons que notre Maître et que nous souffrons comme lui pour la justice, nous ‘avons part aux souffrances du Christ’. Tout comme sa fidélité lui valut d’être récompensé par son Père céleste, de même notre endurance fidèle dans les épreuves nous donne l’assurance que nous serons approuvés lors de la révélation du Fils de Dieu. Nous déborderons certainement de joie quand Dieu nous accordera la vie éternelle dans un nouvel ordre de choses où toutes les causes actuelles de chagrin auront disparu.
      Comme le déclare également Pierre, être outragé pour le nom de Christ, c’est-à-dire parce que l’on est son disciple, devrait être une source de joie. Cela prouve que ceux que l’on diffame ainsi possèdent l’esprit de Dieu, oui, le bel “esprit de gloire” qui émane de Dieu. Puisque cet esprit est saint, il ne peut reposer que sur des personnes qui sont pures du point de vue de Dieu.
      C’est pourquoi il est très important de faire en sorte qu’aucune mauvaise action de notre part ne soit la cause des souffrances que nous subissons. L’apôtre Pierre fait cette exhortation: “Mais qu’aucun de vous ne souffre comme meurtrier, ou voleur, ou malfaiteur, ou comme quelqu’un qui se mêle des affaires d’autrui.” — Celui qui prétend être chrétien et qui commet une mauvaise action contre son semblable ne doit pas s’attendre à échapper à la punition (comparez avec Actes 25:11). Ce châtiment jettera l’opprobre non seulement sur ce chrétien, mais aussi sur toute la famille spirituelle et sur le nom de Christ. Il n’en retirera pas de la joie, mais de la honte.
      Celui qui se mêle des affaires d’autrui peut se rendre haïssable. Le mot grec utilisé par Pierre montre bien comment on peut en arriver à agir ainsi, car il signifie littéralement “surveillant de ce qui appartient à un autre”. Ayant acquis une certaine connaissance des Écritures, un chrétien pourrait se croire capable de dire aux gens du monde comment gérer leurs affaires. Il avancera peut-être son point de vue personnel sur la tenue vestimentaire, les distractions, la façon de se nourrir, de discipliner les enfants, de régler les problèmes conjugaux et sexuels, etc. Quand il s’immisce dans la vie privée des autres, sans y être invité, leur disant ce qu’ils doivent faire ou ne pas faire, il cherche à devenir le “surveillant” de leurs affaires, ce qui les irrite généralement. Quelqu’un dira peut-être carrément à cet importun de se mêler de ses affaires. Il se peut aussi qu’il essuie des coups de la part de personnes qui sont furieuses de le voir s’ingérer dans leur vie privée. Cet homme, qui se mêle d’affaires qui ne le regardent pas, s’attire des ennuis et dénature le christianisme et son message auprès des gens du dehors. Évidemment, même au sein de la congrégation, il n’y a pas de place pour ce genre d’individus. — Comparez avec 1Timothée 5:13.
      Celui qui est dénoncé publiquement comme un délinquant ou comme quelqu’un qui se mêle des affaires d’autrui, celui-là est un objet de honte. En revanche, celui qui souffre parce qu’il est chrétien en est honoré. Pierre écrit: “S’il souffre comme chrétien, qu’il n’ait pas de honte, mais qu’il continue à glorifier Dieu en ce nom.” (I Pierre 4:16). Quand nous sommes persécutés à cause de notre mode de vie chrétien et que nous supportons l’épreuve patiemment, sans nous plaindre, le Très-Haut est glorifié. Cela prouve que ce que nous possédons en tant que chrétiens, — de précieuses relations avec Dieu et avec le Christ, une conscience pure, le bonheur spirituel et une ferme espérance pour l’avenir, — tout cela est un trésor de grande valeur. Nous démontrons que nous sommes disposés à souffrir et, s’il le faut, à mourir pour ce trésor, et le Dieu que nous servons de tout cœur en est glorifié. Par contre, si nous cédions aux pressions et reniions notre foi, nous déshonorerions son nom. Ceux qui nous observent pourraient alors douter sérieusement qu’être disciple de Jésus Christ est vraiment un grand trésor. — Comparez avec Éphésiens 3:13; II Corinthiens 6:3-10.
      UNE FORME DE DISCIPLINE
      Nous avons vu que Jéhovah Dieu, qui est tout-puissant, pourrait épargner aux chrétiens des souffrances injustifiées, mais qu’il les tolère pour de bonnes raisons. Cependant, le Très-Haut n’abandonne jamais ses serviteurs. L’apôtre Pierre développe cette pensée en disant:
      “C’est en effet le temps fixé où le jugement commence par la maison de Dieu. Or, s’il commence par nous, quelle sera la fin de ceux qui n’obéissent pas à la bonne nouvelle de Dieu? ‘Et si le juste est sauvé avec difficulté, où paraîtront l’impie et le pécheur?’ Ainsi donc, que ceux qui souffrent selon la volonté de Dieu continuent à confier leur âme à un Créateur fidèle, tout en faisant le bien.” — I Pierre 4:17-19.
      En tant que “maison de Dieu”, la congrégation chrétienne a été fondée en l’an 33. Depuis lors, ses membres sont en train d’être jugés par Dieu. La façon dont ils se plient à sa volonté, leur attitude d’esprit, leurs paroles et leurs actions face à tout ce que Jéhovah Dieu permet qu’il leur arrive, sont autant de choses qui influeront beaucoup sur le verdict final de Jéhovah. Parfois, Dieu tolère qu’ils soient éprouvés très sévèrement. Mais il peut faire en sorte que la persécution constitue une forme de discipline pour le bien de son peuple. — Hébreux 12:4-11; voyez aussi Hébreux 4:15, 16, où il est montré que les souffrances qu’endura Jésus Christ le préparèrent à devenir un grand prêtre compatissant.
       Des hommes dirigés par Satan peuvent essayer de détruire notre foi en nous brutalisant. Mais Jéhovah est capable de faire échouer leurs funestes projets. Oui, tout en haïssant lui-même ce qui est mauvais, notre Père céleste peut faire en sorte que ce qui était destiné à nous faire du mal s’avère en définitive très utile. Prenez l’exemple de Joseph, le jeune fils de Jacob. Ses demi-frères, qui le haïssaient, le vendirent comme esclave. Pendant des années, Joseph connut bien des malheurs; il fut même emprisonné injustement. Pourtant, par la suite, Jéhovah Dieu tira avantage de cette situation pour préserver la famille de Jacob. Joseph déclara à ses demi-frères:
      “À présent, ne soyez pas peinés et ne soyez pas irrités contre vous-mêmes, de m’avoir vendu pour ici; car c’est pour la préservation de la vie que Dieu m’a envoyé en avant de vous. Car ceci est la deuxième année de la famine au milieu de la terre, et il y aura encore cinq ans sans labour ni moisson. Aussi Dieu m’a-t-il envoyé en avant de vous afin de mettre, pour vous, sur la terre, un reste et vous garder en vie par une grande évasion. Ainsi donc, ce n’est pas vous qui m’avez envoyé ici, mais c’est le vrai Dieu, pour m’établir comme père pour Pharaon et comme seigneur pour toute sa maison et comme quelqu’un qui domine sur tout le pays d’Égypte.” — Genèse 45:5-8.
      "Or je désire que vous le sachiez, frères: mes affaires ont plutôt tourné au progrès de la bonne nouvelle, si bien que parmi toute la garde prétorienne et parmi tous les autres il est devenu notoire que mes liens ont un rapport avec Christ; et la plupart des frères dans le Seigneur, rendus confiants par mes liens, se montrent d’autant plus courageux à parler sans crainte de la parole de Dieu.” — Philippiens 1:12-14.
       Puisque Jéhovah Dieu tolère que ses fidèles serviteurs subissent de cruels traitements pour qu’ils soient affinés et pour qu’ils lui prouvent leur attachement, comment imaginer qu’au dehors de la congrégation chrétienne, ou “maison de Dieu”, “l’impie et le pécheur” puissent “paraître” devant lui en compagnie du “juste”? Le psalmiste déclare: “Les méchants ne se mettront pas debout devant le jugement, ni les pécheurs dans l’assemblée des justes.” (Psaume 1:5). Non, les méchants ne seront pas approuvés mais condamnés. Ils n’auront jamais la faveur de Dieu. Eu égard à tout ce qu’il leur faut affronter dans ce monde, les croyants doivent faire beaucoup d’efforts et manifester une foi et un amour profonds dans la voie de la droiture pour parvenir au salut et à la vie éternelle. C’est donc “avec difficulté” qu’ils acquièrent le salut. Par conséquent, il incombe à chaque membre de la congrégation chrétienne (“la maison de Dieu”) de veiller à ne pas devenir “impie” et “pécheur” en ce “temps fixé” de “jugement”. — I Pierre 4:17, 18; Proverbes 11:31.
       Nous pouvons subir des épreuves qu’il nous serait impossible de supporter avec nos propres forces. Mais aussi dramatique que puisse être notre situation, Jéhovah Dieu a le pouvoir de nous soutenir et d’annuler complètement tout le mal qui nous est infligé. Quand nous nous en remettons entièrement à lui, il peut nous donner assez de force, au moyen de son esprit, pour supporter les souffrances. Il est, comme le dit Pierre, un “Créateur fidèle”, un Dieu en qui nous pouvons avoir confiance et qui n’oubliera jamais sa promesse de venir en aide à ses serviteurs (I Pierre 4:19). Cette connaissance nous aidera à ne pas réagir envers nos persécuteurs d’une façon qui déshonorerait Dieu. Plutôt que de lutter contre eux et de leur rendre la pareille, nous voudrons continuer à faire le bien. — Luc 6:27, 28.
      Si nous acceptons humblement toutes les choses qui peuvent nous survenir dans notre vie, tout en gardant la même disposition d’esprit que le Christ, nous pouvons être sûrs que Jéhovah nous élèvera. Aucune épreuve ne durera indéfiniment. Toutes prendront fin. Tant que sous les mauvais traitements nous nous conduisons en harmonie avec la volonté divine, nous demeurerons sous la main de Jéhovah. Or, sa main peut nous élever au rang de serviteurs éprouvés et approuvés. Aussi Pierre nous fait-il cette recommandation: “Humiliez-vous donc sous la main puissante de Dieu pour qu’il vous élève en temps voulu, tout en vous déchargeant sur lui de toute votre inquiétude, car il prend soin de vous.” — I Pierre 5:6, 7.
      Qu’il est réconfortant de savoir que Jéhovah se soucie vraiment de nous! Son amour nous réchauffe le cœur, son esprit nous fortifie et nous soutient. Lorsqu’une épreuve est passée et que nous nous rappelons la sollicitude de Jéhovah à notre égard, nous nous sentons plus proches de lui. Notre situation est alors comparable à celle d’un enfant reconnaissant qui a pu constater l’amour et la sollicitude affectueuse de ses parents pendant qu’il était gravement malade. Sa confiance et son amour pour eux s’en trouvent grandis. Certes, lorsque des circonstances très éprouvantes se présentent, nous ne pouvons pas tout simplement nous y soustraire, mais nous pouvons nous décharger sur Jéhovah Dieu de nos inquiétudes. À quoi bon nous tourmenter en nous demandant pendant combien de temps nous serions capables de supporter les mauvais traitements d’une foule déchaînée et impitoyable, des viols répétés ou d’autres atrocités? Avec l’aide de notre Père céleste aimant, nous pouvons, si nous lui restons fidèles, endurer les épreuves et remporter une victoire morale sur ceux qui nous persécutent. Cette assurance nous libère de l’anxiété qui pourrait nous priver de la paix de l’esprit et du cœur si nécessaire pour rester fermes dans les épreuves.
      Toutefois, ce n’est pas parce que nous nous sommes déchargés de nos inquiétudes sur Jéhovah que nous devrions maintenant être trop sûrs de nous ou insouciants. Nous avons un ennemi. “Gardez votre équilibre, soyez vigilants, écrit Pierre. Votre adversaire, le Diable, comme un lion rugissant, circule cherchant à dévorer quelqu’un.” — I Pierre 5:8.
      Selon ce conseil de l’apôtre, nous ne pouvons pas nous permettre d’être insouciants face à l’épreuve. L’adversaire guette la moindre occasion de nous faire tomber. Si Satan peut nous amener à douter de la fidélité de nos frères ou nous affaiblir spirituellement par tout autre moyen, il ne manquera pas de le faire. Cesser de fréquenter la congrégation chrétienne ou de faire la déclaration publique de sa foi équivaudrait à se laisser dévorer par Satan, le “lion rugissant” toujours à l’affût de proies imprudentes.
      Pour rester vigilants il nous faut, entre autres choses, nous rappeler constamment que nous ne sommes pas les seuls à endurer des souffrances. Sur la terre entière, nos frères chrétiens subissent toutes sortes d’épreuves et, avec l’aide de l’esprit de Dieu, ils parviennent à les surmonter victorieusement. Cette pensée nous aidera à ne pas tomber dans les pièges de Satan, car elle nous donnera l’assurance que nous pourrons endurer l’épreuve nous aussi, grâce à la puissance de Jéhovah. Alors, “tenez-lui tête, solides dans la foi, sachant qu’en fait de souffrances les mêmes choses s’accomplissent dans la famille entière de vos frères dans le monde”. — I Pierre 5:9.
      Puisque Jéhovah Dieu veut que nous surmontions les obstacles pour parvenir au salut, nous pouvons lui demander son aide en toute confiance, tout en considérant les épreuves qui nous adviennent avec sa permission comme une discipline utile qui fera de nous des chrétiens complets et forts dans la foi. L’apôtre Pierre exprime très bien cette pensée lorsqu’il déclare:
      "Après que vous aurez souffert un peu de temps, le Dieu de toute faveur imméritée, qui vous a appelés à sa gloire éternelle en union avec Christ, parachèvera lui-même votre formation, il vous affermira, il vous rendra forts. À lui la puissance pour toujours! Amen.” — I Pierre 5:10, 11.
      Tout comme Jésus a souffert un peu de temps sur la terre et a été élevé à une haute position, de même les disciples du Fils de Dieu attendent une récompense glorieuse. Si les souffrances que nous pouvons être amenés à endurer de par la permission de Dieu affermissent notre attachement aux principes bibliques et font de nous des disciples plus humbles, plus compréhensifs et plus compatissants, cette formation aura alors atteint son but. Pour qu’il en soit ainsi, nous devons compter entièrement sur notre Père céleste en étant confiants que tout ce qui peut nous arriver avec sa permission contribuera finalement à notre bonheur éternel, si toutefois nous nous y soumettons humblement (Romains 8:28). Dans le même esprit que l’apôtre Pierre, nous pouvons élever nos voix et dire: “Grâce soit rendue à Dieu de nous avoir permis d’être formés par les épreuves et de nous aider à devenir des serviteurs fermes et forts, approuvés par lui, ayant l’espérance de la vie éternelle!”

      · 0 replies
    • Eric Ouellet

      Suivons les traces de celui qui est la source de vie
       
      Avec amour, Jéhovah invite des personnes “ de toutes nations et tribus et peuples et langues ” à l’adorer (Rév. 7:9, 10 ; 15:3, 4). Celles qui acceptent cette invitation peuvent “ contempler le charme de Jéhovah ”. (Ps. 27:4 ; 90:17.) À l’instar du psalmiste, elles élèvent la voix pour louer Dieu par ces termes : “ Adorons et courbons-nous ! Agenouillons-nous devant Jéhovah notre Auteur. ” — Ps. 95:6.
      Un culte d’une grande valeur
      Étant le Fils unique-engendré de Dieu, Jésus avait eu largement la possibilité de découvrir la pensée, les principes et les normes de son Père. Par conséquent, il pouvait avec assurance enseigner aux autres la bonne façon d’adorer Jéhovah. Il a déclaré : “ Je suis le chemin, et la vérité, et la vie. Personne ne vient vers le Père sinon par moi. ” — Jean 1:14 ; 14:6.
      Jésus nous a laissé un exemple parfait en restant humblement soumis à son Père. Il a indiqué : “ Je ne fais rien de ma propre initiative, mais [...] comme le Père m’a enseigné, moi je dis ces choses. ” Il a ensuite ajouté : “ Je fais toujours les choses qui lui plaisent. ” (Jean 8:28, 29). De quelles manières Jésus a-t-il plu à Jéhovah ?
      En premier lieu, le Fils était entièrement dévoué à son Père. C’est d’ailleurs ce qu’implique fondamentalement adorer Dieu. Jésus montrait qu’il était personnellement attaché à son Créateur en lui étant obéissant, en accomplissant sa volonté, même si cela lui demandait de grands sacrifices (Phil. 2:7, 8). Il consacrait beaucoup de temps à enseigner et à former ses disciples. C’était là un aspect important du culte qu’il rendait à Dieu, à tel point qu’il était appelé Enseignant tant par les croyants que par les non-croyants (Mat. 22:23, 24 ; Jean 3:2). De plus, Jésus se dépensait pour autrui. Son esprit de sacrifice lui laissait peu de temps pour lui-même, mais il était heureux de servir les autres (Mat. 14:13, 14 ; 20:28). Bien que très occupé, il prenait toujours le temps de parler à son Père céleste dans la prière (Luc 6:12). Sans nul doute, Dieu accordait une valeur inestimable au culte que Jésus lui vouait !
      Des efforts soutenus pour plaire à Dieu
      Jéhovah a remarqué la conduite de son Fils et a exprimé son approbation (Mat. 17:5). Mais Satan le Diable également a observé la fidélité de Jésus. Jésus est donc devenu sa cible privilégiée. Pourquoi ? Parce qu’aucun humain n’avait jamais réussi à rester totalement obéissant à Dieu et, de ce fait, à l’adorer de la manière qui lui convient vraiment. Aussi le Diable voulait-il empêcher Jésus de rendre à Dieu le culte qui Lui revenait de droit. — Rév. 4:11.
      Satan a essayé de corrompre Jésus en lui faisant une offre tentante. Il l’emmena sur “ une montagne extraordinairement haute et lui montra tous les royaumes du monde et leur gloire ”. Puis il lui dit : “ Toutes ces choses, je te les donnerai si tu tombes et fais un acte d’adoration pour moi. ” Quelle fut la réaction de Jésus ? Il répondit : “ Va-t’en, Satan, car il est écrit : ‘ C’est Jéhovah ton Dieu que tu dois adorer, et c’est à lui seul que tu dois offrir un service sacré. ’ ” (Mat. 4:8-10). Quels que soient les avantages qu’il aurait pu en retirer, Jésus comprenait bien que se prosterner devant Satan, c’était commettre un acte d’idolâtrie. Il refusait d’accomplir ne serait-ce qu’un acte d’adoration devant quelqu’un d’autre que Jéhovah.
      En ce qui nous concerne, Satan ne nous proposera pas tous les royaumes du monde et leur gloire en échange de notre adoration. Néanmoins, il essaie encore d’empêcher les chrétiens sincères de rendre un culte à Dieu. Le Diable veut que nous adorions quelqu’un ou quelque chose d’autre. — 2 Cor. 4:4.
      Jésus Christ s’est montré fidèle jusqu’à la mort. En restant intègre, il a glorifié Jéhovah comme aucun humain ne l’avait jamais fait. Aujourd’hui, nous qui sommes de vrais chrétiens, nous nous efforçons d’imiter la fidélité de Jésus en mettant le culte de notre Créateur à la première place dans notre vie. Sans conteste, nos bonnes relations avec Dieu sont ce que nous avons de plus précieux.
      Les bénédictions que procure le culte que Dieu agrée
      Favoriser “ le culte qui est pur et sans souillure ” du point de vue de Dieu apporte de nombreuses bénédictions (Jacq. 1:27). Par exemple, nous vivons à une époque où de plus en plus de gens sont “ amis d’eux-mêmes, amis de l’argent, arrogants ” et “ sans amour du bien ”. (2 Tim. 3:1-5.) Par contraste, au sein du peuple de Dieu, nous avons le privilège de côtoyer des personnes pures et de saine compagnie qui s’efforcent de respecter les normes de Dieu en matière de culte. N’est-ce pas là une source de réconfort ?
      En outre, nous tenir à l’écart des souillures de ce monde nous procure une conscience pure. Nous voulons qu’elle reste pure, et c’est pour cela que nous nous soumettons aux principes justes de Dieu et que nous obéissons aux lois de César qui ne sont pas en désaccord avec les lois divines. — Marc 12:17 ; Actes 5:27-29.
      Un culte rendu à Dieu de toute son âme apporte d’autres bénédictions. Quand nous nous soucions d’accomplir la volonté de Dieu plutôt que la nôtre, notre vie a un sens véritable et elle est plus gratifiante. Au lieu de dire : “ Mangeons et buvons, car demain il nous faudra mourir ”, nous entretenons l’espoir certain de la vie éternelle sur une terre transformée en paradis. — 1 Cor. 15:32.
      Le livre de la Révélation attire notre attention sur le moment où ceux qui seront demeurés purs devant Jéhovah “ vien[dront] de la grande tribulation ”. Le récit précise que “ Celui qui est assis sur le trône étendra sur eux sa tente ”. (Rév. 7:13-15.) Celui qui est assis sur le trône n’est autre que Jéhovah Dieu, le Personnage le plus glorieux de l’univers. Imaginez quelle joie ce sera quand il vous accueillera comme l’hôte de sa tente et vous protégera pour qu’aucun mal ne vous soit fait ! Et dans une certaine mesure, nous bénéficions dès à présent de cette protection.
      De plus, tous ceux qui rendent à Dieu le culte qu’il agrée sont décrits comme étant guidés vers “ des sources d’eaux de la vie ”. Ces sources revivifiantes représentent toutes les dispositions prises par Jéhovah pour que nous puissions obtenir la vie éternelle. Assurément, grâce à la rançon du Christ, “ Dieu essuiera toute larme de leurs yeux ”. (Rév. 7:17.) Tandis que les humains seront élevés à la perfection, tous connaîtront une joie indicible à la perspective de vivre éternellement sur la terre. Dès maintenant, les adorateurs heureux de Dieu poussent des cris de joie, exprimant leur profonde reconnaissance envers Jéhovah et lui vouant un culte en compagnie de ses serviteurs au ciel qui chantent : “ Grandes et prodigieuses sont tes œuvres, Jéhovah Dieu, le Tout-Puissant. Justes et vraies sont tes manières d'agir, Roi d’éternité. Qui ne peut te craindre et ne pas glorifier ton nom? Car toi seul tu es fidèle! Car toutes les nations viendront et adoreront devant toi, parce que tes décrets justes ont été manifestés. ” — Rév. 15:3, 4.



      · 0 replies
    • Patiently waiting for Truth

      I am seriously looking for TRUTH. Yes I do feel lost in the wilderness. 
      But, when Jerusalem was about to be destroyed (70C.E) didn't some return 'home' there, only to perish when the Romans slaughtered them. They returned to Jerusalem because they lost their faith in Almighty God and in the words of Jesus. And therefore they died through lack of faith.
      I do not lack faith in Almighty God or in Jesus Christ. But I do lack immediate direction. However, at this moment in time, I would not return to the Jehovah's Witnesses Org.  In my opinion that Org will be either made clean or destroyed. Either way, right now I would not want to be part of it. 
      I also do not pay any attention to those on here that condemn me to death or tell me that I have no hope left.  
      My faith is not in earthling man. My faith in Almighty God through Jesus Christ. 
      · 0 replies
    • Esther  »  Eric Ouellet

      Bonjour Éric
      Je recherche un discours pour une étudiante. Le thème c'était "Dieu approuve-t-il une religion en particulier ? " 
      Si tu l'as en audio ou écrit, c'est assez urgent car je la vois cet après-midi. 
      Merci beaucoup mon frère
      Esther😉
      · 1 reply
    • folens  »  Esther

      Bonsoir Esther et-ce celui-ci?

      Dieu accepte-_t-_il toutes les religions.docx
      · 1 reply
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