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Since ban, persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses is 'worse than ever'

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Since ban, persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses is 'worse than ever'

  • Judges of Russia’s Supreme Court attend a hearing in Moscow on Jan. 23, 2014. (Reuters/Maxim Shemetov)
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 |  May. 18, 2017

Since the Russian Supreme Court labeled Jehovah’s Witnesses an "extremist" group, vandals have targeted followers and their banks accounts have been frozen. Stones were thrown at a St. Petersburg assembly hall and someone tried to burn the Moscow home of a Jehovah’s Witness to the ground, a church spokesman said.

The ruling seems to have emboldened those who resent and fear the Witnesses, a religious minority that has suffered more than most in President Vladimir Putin’s Russia, where the Russian Orthodox Church enjoys the backing of the state and harassment of gays and other marginalized groups has spiked in recent years.

“We were hoping the court would realize that we are not a threat,” said Robert Warren, a spokesman for the Witnesses based in their New York world headquarters. “But now the environment is worse than ever."

The court decision, say Jehovah’s Witnesses officials and human rights experts, has not been fully enforced. Worship, reports from the country indicate, continues at some of the "Kingdom Halls" that serve Russia's more than 100,000 Witnesses.

But the possibility that the government will completely shut down the Jehovah's Witnesses looms.

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While Jehovah's Witnesses prepare an appeal — and take heart in the 

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 from national and international bodies, including the U.S. State Department — they are not optimistic about a reversal of the ruling. And they worry for their brethren over the border in Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic.

“In some ways the situation in Kazakhstan has deteriorated even faster,” said Felix Corley, an Oslo-based religious rights activist who edits the 

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, which tracks abuses in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

Earlier this month, a 61-year-old Jehovah’s Witness from Kazakhstan — a retired bus driver battling cancer — was sentenced to five years in prison and banned from preaching for three years after he gets out.

A 

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 Teymur Akhmedov of inciting “ethnic, social, religious, family, and racial hatred.” Jehovah's Witnesses said he peacefully shared his beliefs with a group of young men who asked him questions about his faith.

Witnesses are working on Akhmedov's appeal and say that since the Russian Supreme Court decision, anti-Witness propaganda has spread in Kazakhstan. Recently a popular television channel there reported that Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia plan a bombing, and speculated that the same could happen in Kazakhstan, said Bekzat Smagulov, a Jehovah's Witness and spokesman on the Akhmedov case.

"Most people are afraid," Smagulov said of Kazakhstan's 18,000 Witnesses.

In Russia, where authorities have officially declared the group illegal, fears run even higher. The surveillance and prosecution of the Witnesses began decades ago and involves all levels of government and law enforcement — from the Justice Ministry to the FSB (the successor to the KGB) to local police.

But Russia can't honestly fear violence from the Jehovah's Witnesses, said Corley. "I cannot believe they think they're going to go out and kill people."

Yet the court last month, after six days and 30 hours of testimony, deemed the Jehovah's Witnesses a threat to the state, commanded a halt to all their activity and allowed for the seizure of their property.

Rachel Denber, deputy director of the Europe and Central Asia division at Human Rights Watch, the international nonprofit, called the case against the Witnesses "absurd."

Specifically, Russian prosecutors accused the group of breaking a 2002 anti-extremism law — a statute human right activists say the government uses to harass groups Putin and his allies disfavor.

That law prohibits any group, except the Orthodox Church and a few other traditions, from claiming the true path to salvation. The Jehovah's Witnesses, like many denominations, make such a claim, Denber said, but not in a way that should land them on the same list of outlaws that includes al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

The Witnesses' Western ties are also particularly suspect in today's Russia, which seeks to challenge the West as an international power broker, Denber said.

More Witnesses live in the U.S. than any other country. And though Jehovah's Witnesses regard Christ as their founder, the modern-day group formed in Pittsburgh, where a group of Bible students in the late 19th century began writing down the Witnesses' beliefs.

Among those beliefs: pacifism.

The world's 8 million Witnesses — who can be found in the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia — eschew violence and don't join the military, which makes some question their patriotism even when they find alternative ways to serve their countries.

But their pacifism also makes the extremist label all the more confounding to those in the Western world who know the Witnesses as the well-mannered people who ring doorbells and ask if they can share a copy of The Watchtower, the group's journal.

And though the Witnesses have been harassed in many nations, in Russia they suffer more acutely and are commonly described as a cult — a group that rejects much of Orthodox Christianity, including its trinitarian understanding of God.

Another attribute of the Witnesses may threaten their persecutors.

"They're very well-organized," Denber said.

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    • "(Revelation 1:1) A revelation by Jesus Christ, which God gave him, to show his slaves the things that must shortly take place. And he sent his angel and presented it in signs through him to his slave John" But the Revelation was given by God to Jesus then to John in the last decade of the first century after Jesus' ascension and He said the things were to take place shortly (2Pet 3:8); not about things that were already in effect like Jesus sitting at God's right hand which occurred in 33CE.    Rev 12:10 is relating with joy the particular salvation referring to the permanent establishment of the Kingdom of God in the hands of Christ Jesus, poised to finish off this system of things and free from the interference of Satan and his demons (birth of Kingdom seen as male child safely caught away to God; and God's will being done in the heavens).  It coincides with Daniel 7:13,14,  (gaining access to be crowned) and will culminate in Daniel 2:35 (living at the time of the feet of the image) and Dan 2:44 (taking action toward the earth).  All these events signify waiting intervals.  You would therefore have to show how these events link up with the expressions of salvation in other parts of the Bible.
    • Just in case anyone might not have been familiar with some of the verses mentioned in the bullet point list at the beginning of this discussion, we could spell out a few and add some more: AUTHORITY (Matthew 28:18) 18 Jesus approached and spoke to them, saying: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth. (Ephesians 1:19-21) 19 and how surpassing the greatness of his power is toward us believers. It is according to the operation of the mightiness of his strength, 20 which he exercised toward Christ when he raised him up from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above every government and authority and power and lordship and every name that is named, not only in this system of things but also in that to come. (Colossians 1:11-16) 11 and may you be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may endure fully with patience and joy, 12 as you thank the Father, who made you qualify to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in the light. 13 He rescued us from the authority of the darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 by means of whom we have our release by ransom, the forgiveness of our sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 because by means of him all other things were created in the heavens and on the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. . . .   POWER (Matthew 26:64) . . .“You yourself said it. But I say to you: From now on you will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 9:1-7) . . .“Truly I say to you that there are some of those standing here who will not taste death at all until first they see the Kingdom of God already having come in power.” 2 Six days later Jesus took Peter and James and John along and led them up into a lofty mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; 3 his outer garments began to glisten, becoming far whiter than any clothes cleaner on earth could whiten them. 4 Also, E·liʹjah with Moses appeared to them, and they were conversing with Jesus. 5 Then Peter said to Jesus: “Rabbi, it is fine for us to be here. So let us erect three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for E·liʹjah.” 6 In fact, he did not know how to react, for they were quite fearful. 7 And a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud: “This is my Son, the beloved. Listen to him.” (Romans 1:3, 4) 3 concerning his Son, who came to be from the offspring of David according to the flesh, 4 but who with power was declared God’s Son according to the spirit of holiness by means of resurrection from the dead—yes, Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 1:16) 16 For I am not ashamed of the good news; it is, in fact, God’s power for salvation to everyone having faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (1 Corinthians 1:24) 24 However, to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. (Ephesians 1:19-21) [already listed under authority]  It is according to the operation of the mightiness of his strength, 20 which he exercised toward Christ when he raised him up from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above every government and authority and power and lordship and every name that is named, not only in this system of things but also in that to come. (Colossians 1:11-16) [already listed under authority] 11 and may you be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may endure fully with patience and joy, . . .13 He rescued us from the authority of the darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 by means of whom we have our release by ransom, the forgiveness of our sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 because by means of him all other things were created in the heavens and on the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. . . . (Hebrews 1:3) 3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact representation of his very being, and he sustains all things by the word of his power. And after he had made a purification for our sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (2 Peter 1:16-18) . . .we made known to you the power and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, but rather, we were eyewitnesses of his magnificence. 17 For he received from God the Father honor and glory when words such as these were conveyed to him by the magnificent glory: “This is my Son, my beloved, whom I myself have approved.” 18 Yes, these words we heard coming from heaven while we were with him in the holy mountain. KINGDOM The topic of Kingdom was already included in another topic a few months ago, listing at least a dozen scriptures. But I will include a couple here: (Matthew 27:11) 11 Jesus now stood before the governor, and the governor put the question to him: “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus replied: “You yourself say it.” (1 Timothy 6:15) . . .He [Jesus] is the King of those who rule as kings and Lord of those who rule as lords, (Revelation 1:5) . . .Jesus Christ, “the Faithful Witness,” “the firstborn from the dead,” and “the Ruler of the kings of the earth.”. . . (1 Corinthians 15:24, 25) 24 Next, the end, when he hands over the Kingdom to his God and Father, when he has brought to nothing all government and all authority and power. 25 For he must rule as king until God has put all enemies under his feet.
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    • I cannot state anything succinctly. But I can start out with a shorter answer and then expand on it later with a longer one. I feel the announcement in Revelation 12:10 did not take place in 1914 because the Bible is VERY clear that this was not the year that the salvation and the power and kingdom of our God the authority of his Christ came to pass. What was the occasion and event through which salvation came to pass? Clearly, at the latest, it was the year when Jesus died and was resurrected. So this chapter of Revelation is apparently referring to the time when the announcement about salvation came to pass. When was it? One might claim that it was when Jesus' birth was announced and it could therefore be announced that Jesus (meaning Jehovah is Salvation) would be bringing salvation to Israel and to the world. Was Satan angry at Jesus' birth? [Yes] Did Jesus come through the nation of Israel as God's woman [Yes], whose symbols were the moon and stars? [Yes] Whether it was at his birth, the announcement through John, his ministry or through his death, there is Biblical evidence that the time period belongs here. Remember that the book of Revelation is the most malleable of all books and has been made to mean almost anything anyone would like to make from it. (Even our most recent book on Revelation is already out of date, and you could probably be disfellowshipped if you insisted on teaching obsolete portions of the 1963 Babylon Book, and you could scarcely find even one full page that's still considered to be true in the Revelation commentary (The Finished Mystery) that was considered to be truth back in 1917.) So the best places to start understanding Revelation are going to be in the parts of the Bible that are outside of Revelation. So we start with the topic of salvation, because the announcement said that salvation came to pass at the same time as the authority and power and kingdom. SALVATION (Luke 19:9-11) 9 At this Jesus said to him: “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of man came to seek and to save what was lost.” 11 While they were listening to these things, he told another illustration, because he was near Jerusalem and they thought that the Kingdom of God was going to appear instantly. (Luke 3:4-6) . . .“A voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of Jehovah! Make his roads straight. 5 Every valley must be filled up, and every mountain and hill leveled; the crooked ways must become straight, and the rough ways smooth; 6 and all flesh will see the salvation of God.’” (Luke 2:30-34) 30 because my eyes have seen your means of salvation 31 that you have prepared in the sight of all the peoples, 32 a light for removing the veil from the nations and a glory of your people Israel.” 33 And the child’s father and mother continued wondering at the things being spoken about him. 34 Also, Simʹe·on blessed them and said to Mary, the child’s mother: “Look! This child is appointed for the falling and the rising again of many in Israel . . . (Luke 1:68-80) . . .“Let Jehovah be praised, the God of Israel, because he has turned his attention to his people and has brought them deliverance. 69 And he has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David his servant, 70 just as he has spoken through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71 of a salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all those hating us; . . . 79 to give light to those sitting in darkness and death’s shadow and to guide our feet in the way of peace.” 80 And the young child grew up and became strong in spirit, and he continued in the desert until the day he showed himself openly to Israel. (Acts 4:12) 12 Furthermore, there is no salvation in anyone else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.” (Acts 28:27, 28) . . .’ 28 So let it be known to you that this salvation from God has been sent out to the nations; . . . (Romans 1:16) 16 For I am not ashamed of the good news; it is, in fact, God’s power for salvation to everyone having faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (2 Corinthians 6:2) 2 For he says: “In an acceptable time I heard you, and in a day of salvation I helped you.” Look! Now is the especially acceptable time. Look! Now is the day of salvation. (2 Timothy 2:10-12) 10 For this reason I go on enduring all things for the sake of the chosen ones, so that they too may obtain the salvation that is through Christ Jesus, along with everlasting glory. 11 This saying is trustworthy: Certainly if we died together, we will also live together; 12 if we go on enduring, we will also rule together as kings;. . . (1 Peter 1:10, 11) 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the undeserved kindness meant for you made a diligent inquiry and a careful search. 11 They kept on investigating what particular time or what season the spirit within them was indicating concerning Christ as it testified beforehand about the sufferings meant for Christ and about the glory that would follow. For the most part the announcement of salvation was the announcement of the "good news" (the "good announcement"). We know that by the time Paul wrote 2 Corinthians, he could announce that "Now is the day of salvation." It would be superfluous to say that another time would come up prior to the judgment and resurrection that somehow superseded this good news about salvation through Christ from the first century. In fact, it could even be said to contradict what Paul and others were saying. So I see no reason to claim that the announcement of Paul and Jesus had only a limited scope, or wasn't really true when they said it, but had to wait until some future date. Also, it would seem very presumptuous and haughty to negate the direct words of the Bible just so that it could be applied to a time when no one even noticed that Jesus had begun a presence, or had begun reigning. POWER, AUTHORITY AND KINGDOM And then we have all the Bible evidence that Jesus began reigning at the time when he began ruling as king -- which Paul says was when he sat down at the right hand of God. And then we also have all the Bible evidence that Jesus was given all power and authority in the same year he died after his resurrection and his being seated at the right hand of God. All this gives the impression that, in order to support 1914, we have been willing to contradict all the scriptures outside of Revelation just so that we can make a claim that fits a theory about a verse inside of Revelation.
    • ბლოგის მეპატრონე ამჟამად გახლავართ მე, გურამ ხიზნაიშვილი. ეს  ბლოგი  კერძოა და არ მიეკუთვნება არცერთი რელიგიური მიმდინარეობის საკუთრებას. ის არაა  რომელიმე რელიგიური მიმდინარეობის ვებ-საიტი ან მისი ალტერნატიულ  ვარიანტი. ბლოგი აგრეთვე არ წარმოადგენს რელიგიური კამათებისთვის განკუთვნილ ფორუმსა თუ ელექტრონულ სივრცეს. ის გახლავთ პირადი გვერდი, რომელზეც, როგორც კერძო პირი, ჩემს შეხედულებებს ვწერ რელიგიურ თემებზე. ამის საშუალებით, მკითხველს ვუზიარებ იმას, რისიც მწამს. ვფიქრობ, რომ ბლოგის ფორმატი, ამ მიზნისთვის შესაფერის საშუალებას წამროადგენს. აქვე მსურს მკითხველს ვაცნობო, რომ ბლოგზე განთავსებული ყველა სტატია არ მეკუთვნის მე. ბლოგზე განთავსებული სტატიების ავტორებთან დასაკავშირებლად, გთხოვთ გამოიყენოთ ელექტრონული ფოსტა: sakontaktod@gmail.com და თუ გსურთ პასუხი მიიღოთ თქვენს ელექტრონულ გზავნილზე, გთხოვთ, მოწერისას თქვენი სახელი და გვარი მიუთითოთ. გახსოვდეთ, რომ ამ ბლოგზე განთავსებული თემები თუ სტატიების უმეტესობა, უმთავრესად გახლავთ ცალკეული ინდივიდის თვალით დანახული და აღთქმული [რელიგიური] ფაქტები. შესაბამისად, აქ განთავსებული სტატიები, არცერთ შემთხვევაში არ წარმოადგენს რომელიმე რელიგიის თუ რელიგიური ორგანიზაცი[ებ]ის ოფიციალურ პოზიციას და შესაბამისად არცერთი რელიგია თუ რელიგიური ორგანიზაცია არაა პასუხისმგებელი ამ ბლოგზე განთავსებულ ინფორმაციაზე. თუმცა  წარსულში მართლმადიდებელი ვიყავი, დღეს უკვე იეჰოვას მოწმე გახლავართ; მიუხედავად ამისა,  მკითხველს ვთხოვ გაითვალისწინოს, რომ ეს ბლოგი არ წარმოადგენს იეჰოვას მოწმეების ორგანიზაციის საკუთრებას. თუ ვინმეს გსურთ  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. , შეგიძლიათ მათ ოფიციალურ ვებ-საიტს ესტუმროთ:  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. . ამ ბლოგზე განთავსებული თემების ქვეშ, მკითხველს საშუალება აქვს საკუთარი კომენტარი გააკეთოს, თუმცა კომენტარებში გათვალისწინებული უნდა იყოს შემდეგი პრინციპები: არ დაიშვება არცერთი პირის, რელიგიის თუ რელიგიური მიმდინარეობის შეურაცხყოფა ან რაიმე სახით კამათში გამოწვევა. აგრეთვე არ დაიშვება ნომინალური ქრისტიანული ეკლესიების მოძღვრებათა ანდა დოგმატური სწავლებების პირდაპირი ან ირიბი სახით ქადაგება/გავრცელება. საიტზე მოქმედებს მოდერაცია, რაც იმას ნიშნავს, რომ ნებისმიერი კომენტარი, რომელშიც არაა გათვალისწინებული ზემოხსენებული პრინციპები, არ გამოქვეყნდება. აქ განთავსებული (სტატიების) გადაწერის, გამოყენების თუ  გავრცელების უფლება, ნებისმიერ კერძო პირს (თუ ორგანიზაციას) აქვს, განურჩევლად რწმენისა, ასაკისა,  სქესისა და ეთნიკური წარმომავლობისა. აგრეთვე აღსანიშნავია ის ფაქტიც, რომ ეს ბლოგი მხარს არ უჭერს ისეთ არაბიბლიურ სწავლებებს, როგორიცაა: დოგმატი „ Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. “ შესახებ ( Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. ,  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. – Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. ), ღმერთ-კაცისა თუ ღმერთ-ქალის თაყვანისცემის თეორიებს, ბედ-იღბლის კონცეფციას, „ Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. , [ნა] Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.  და ა.შ. პატივისცემით: გურამ ხიზანიშვილი Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. <<click Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. <<click