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Russia's Jehovah's Witnesses Meet in Defiance of 'Extremism' Ban


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As the Kremlin's crackdown on religious minorities broadens, Russia's community of Jehovah's Witnesses have taken to congregating in secret.

Photo: Alexander Demianchuk / TASS

From the Moscow Times, June 2, 2017, updated at 13:41

By Katie Davies @@katiedavies91

The low-rise building, located in Moscow’s leafy suburbs, has the look and feel of being abandoned. Its lower floors are shrouded in darkness. The doors are shuttered. The only clue that anything might be amiss is the recorded piano music that drifts out from the upper floors, audible to anybody listening carefully enough. 

Inside the building, out of sight on the second floor, a group of people are meeting. At first glance, the crowd seems innocuous. Some sit with children; many are elderly. They pray, read the Bible, and sing.

In the eyes of the eyes of the Russian government, each is an extremist threat. 

The group represents just a handful of the country’s estimated 175,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses. On April 20, the group was labeled extremist by Russia’s Supreme Court, a description it now shares with groups like Islamic State. 

Ever since the ruling, Russia’s Jehovah’s Witnesses have been in limbo, with the umbrella organization effectively banned from operating. But across the country, believers are still organizing weekly meetings.

Some in the congregation do not know if the meetings at their Kingdom Hall are legal. One believer, who asked to be identified under the pseudonym Sasha, insisted the informal meetings were covered under the Russian constitution, and its provisions to protect believers’ right of assembly.

Recent developments would, however, suggest that the Russian state views things differently. 

On May 25, Danish national Dennis Christensen was arrested on extremism charges after attending labeled meeting in Oryol. Another man in the remote town of Uchaly was fined for organizing gatherings in a rented room on May 18. On May 24, in the Komi republic, a Jehovah’s Witnesses’ meeting hall was attacked with a Molotov cocktail. 

[…]

https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/ru ... ce-of-extremism-ban-58142

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When under ban it is up to each believer to make up their own mind as to how they will respond to situations such as this. The leaders cannot make you maintain your spiritual routine. This is why it i

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When under ban it is up to each believer to make up their own mind as to how they will respond to situations such as this. The leaders cannot make you maintain your spiritual routine. This is why it is imperative that we build up ourselves now while the climate is favorable for it. We are all going to be tested. This is surly a wake up call to all of us to stay spiritually awake. 

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