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Thursday, March 30, 

Worldwide Letter-writing Campaign Protests Proposed Religious Ban

A huge news story is being almost completely ignored by the media.
Post offices across the country are running out of international stamps. Facebook is blowing up with pictures of people writing letters. The Guinness people are watching to see if this letter-writing campaign will make it into their Book of World Records. (The current record-holder for a letter-writing campaign is 900,000 letters written for Amnesty International.) What’s the story?
While the news is busy arguing about to what extent Russia may have interfered in the recent American election, Russia has been quietly, dramatically restricting the freedoms of one specific group of their citizens.
Maybe you read that and say, ‘Well, it is Russia, after all; aren’t they always restricting their citizens?’ No, actually. After the Soviet Union ended, Russia became a democratic society, with a constitution and everything. Section One Chapter 2 of that document reads:
“Everyone shall be guaranteed the right to freedom of conscience, to freedom of religious worship, including the right to profess, individually or jointly with others, any religion, or to profess no religion, to freely choose, possess and disseminate religious or other beliefs, and to act in conformity with them.”
That’s even clearer than the freedom of religion guaranteed by the United States constitution. 
In spite of that guarantee, the government of Russia has petitioned their Supreme Court to brand Jehovah’s Witnesses as extremists, in the same league as ISIS. If that move succeeds it will become illegal for the 170,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in that country to meet for worship, to discuss the bible with others, or even to read the bible in their own homes. The case is scheduled to be heard on April 5, 2017. 
In response, the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses has asked all 8,000,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide to write to six key officials in Moscow, including Vladimir Putin himself. 
From the United States, mailing those six letters to Moscow costs about $7. In some other countries, it could cost a family a significant portion of their monthly income. Yet, based on reports on Facebook, Jehovah’s Witnesses, their friends and business associates are pitching in with a will. Total cost of postage, according to one Facebooker, will be over $55 million, based just on the U.S. rate. 
If 8,000,000 people each send six letters, another Facebook mathematician calculated, the Moscow post office can expect a stack of mail nearly 19 miles high! 
A handful of other websites have circulated the news about the impending court decision and the letter-writing campaign against it:

Rochester, NY: Jehovah’s Witnesses plead for freedom, mercy, in Russia crackdown 

The University of Missouri’s Religion News Service: Jehovah’s Witnesses Fear Russian Government may Ban Them 

Michigan’s Mission Network News: Religious Freedom and the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia
Spokane, Washington: Jehovah’s Witnesses protest label
Trinidad and Tobago: Russia: Witnesses a terrorist group
Ghana, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and Zambia websites also reposted the news release from jw.org.
Headlines from pro-Russian news sources have a somewhat different outlook. Russia’s English-language Sputnik reads:
Enough is enough! Jehovah’s Witnesses face Ban
On Tuesday, the Helsinki Commission, which includes U.S. Senators and congressmen, condemned the planned Russian legal move. 
While their sentiments are appreciated, the millions of letters pouring in from around the world are far more likely to sway Moscow than a handful of American politicians. 

If your local news outlet hasn't covered this story, please feel free to send them the link to this column.
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