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Why it matters that South Korea imprisons conscientious objectors


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Alternative nonmilitary community service is better than prison, economically, as real benefits accrue from those who refuse to go to war.

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South Korea’s Unjust Treatment of Dong-hyuk Shin. Photo: Courtesy of jw.org, used with permission.

 

Since 1953 the Republic of South Korea—one of Asia’s most advanced democracies—has severely punished #conscientious objectors. In 64 years, more than 19,000 young male Jehovah’s Witnesses there have served prison terms totaling more than 36,300 years of accumulated confinement. Presently 393 are serving sentence, typically 18 months to two years. “The New York Times” says 600-700 go to prison annually and comprise more than 90 percent of imprisoned conscientious objectors worldwide. This policy needlessly harms society in general, not just conscientious objectors:

Society foots incarceration costs for prisoner upkeep.
It loses the valuable alternative work these prisoners could perform as community service.
The national economy loses millions of tax dollar revenues that these healthy young men cannot contribute by holding gainful employment.
Then there’s the incalculable emotional devastation to each prisoner’s family.

 

The struggle to recognize conscientious objection

At a rare juncture in South Korea’s history, according to “The Korea Herald,” both its Supreme Court and its Constitutional Court are dealing simultaneously with conscientious objection.

Various lower-court guilty verdicts have risen through the appellate levels for final judgment. Under scrutiny is whether conscientious objectors should be criminally punished by imprisonment for their stance of 

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. South Korea’s Constitution is also under the microscope, due to pressure by numerous international entities, including the United Nations, which has urged South Korea’s government to adopt legislation that allows for alternative nonmilitary community service.

 

The conscientious objector’s view

To the conscientious objector, #murder is murder. They hate it. Being ordered to murder doesn’t make them hate it any less. Yet theirs is more than a question of personal taste. They believe that no one—not even a high-ranking official barking orders—can give them, or anyone, the right to take another human’s life.

Many believe a Supreme Authority condemns such permission-giving, even in times of war. And we need to keep that view in mind when figuring out what to do about and how to treat those who will not—for moral reasons that form the core of their very being—commit murder.

 

Far from cowardly

It’s easy to think of conscientious objectors as cowards who shirk their patriotic duty and flee from danger. But that’s not the case at all. Conscientious objectors face their responsibility; they don’t dodge it. When the Law issues an order, they obey it. If they can’t, they confront the Law through the proper channels, seeking recourse that allows them to discharge their duty without murdering. When their only options are—in their view—to murder or to disobey the law, they do what they are convinced is the morally right thing to do, knowing full well the grave consequences they will face: loss of liberty, sometimes loss of life. That takes considerable courage. Only the brave retain their dignity. Cowards have none to start with and thus none to lose upon fleeing.

Repeated punishment

Particularly egregious is South Korea’s treatment of Dong-hyuk Shin, who successfully completed military service in 2005 with honorable discharge. That automatically enrolled him in the reserve forces. After studying the Bible, his conscience moved him to change his position regarding military training and service. When summoned in 2006 for reserve forces training, he did not flee. Instead, he informed officials of his new status as a conscientious objector and one of 

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. Military officials ignored his objection—to them, it simply did not exist.

Enough is enough

Altogether, from March 2006 to December 2013, the military summoned Mr. Shin 118 times for reservist training. He has been prosecuted and convicted 49 times, has made trial and appellate court appearances 69 times and has received 35 court verdicts. The Court certainly could better spend its time and resources pursuing true criminals and leave Mr. Shin alone. Courts have fined him more than U.S. $13,300. Six times he has been sentenced to prison terms of six months or longer, later replaced by conditional sentences, including 200 hours of community service. Due to all the court appearances, he has had to change employment seven times. The stress has taken a physical toll on his strength and health. His mother has suffered emotional distress due to all the turmoil, and this has intensified Mr. Shin’s own suffering.

The end of all wars

John F. Kennedy wrote to a Navy friend: “War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.” The inverse of that perceptive prediction is fascinating: When everyone views warfare as murder and conscientiously objects to murder in all its circumstances, then all wars will cease. Warriors may equally dislike taking human lives. Yet their government gives them permission to do so with impunity in certain circumstances. It is the conscientious objector who steels himself (or herself) in face of the State’s demands, to follow the dictates of conscience.

A winning policy, guaranteed

South Korea’s move to adopt alternative nonmilitary service for conscientious objection would be a win-win situation: The nation would benefit from free community services rendered by productive members of society; tax revenues would accrue as conscientious objectors would also be gainfully employed instead of behind bars; with starkly fewer prison inmates, government spending on corrections would drop; and thousands of Korean families would be relieved of the stress and trauma that a family member’s unnecessary imprisonment inflicts on them. International entities worldwide are keenly anticipating the move South Korea will make as a world-leading democracy. 

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      This early release has been possible following the historic decision of the supreme court of 1 November 2018 that recognizes the conscientious objection as "justifiable reason" to refuse to perform military service.




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      Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. The Minister of justice has announced that on Friday, 30 November 2018 all conscientious objectors who have fulfilled at least one third of their 30-month sentence will be placed on probation. Therefore, 57 of the 64 Jehovah's witnesses who are currently in prison must be released. We hope that the other seven brothers will obtain freedom by turning six months in jail.

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      Court set to rule on fate of conscientious objectors later this year, as human rights groups call for forms of alternative service 

      This year, South Korea’s Constitutional Court is supposed to rule on the constitutionality of the Military Service Act, which requires the prosecution of conscientious objectors.This is the third time that the court has tried the case. While the court upheld the constitutionality of the law in 2004 and 2011, there are some cautious predictions that things may turn out differently this time. The Hankyoreh met with people who chose to go to prison instead of serving in the military and heard about their past, their present and what they desperately desire for the future.In March, a lawyer went to prison. Every day, he faces a gray wall in a cramped room, about 4.61 square meters in area. The prisoner is Baek Jong-geon, 32, who passed South Korea’s bar exam in 2008, enrolled in the 40th class at the Judicial Research and Training Institute and was on his way to becoming a lawyer. Baek had violated Article 88 of the Military Service Act, which states that individuals who have been instructed to report for military service and refuse to serve without “justifiable grounds” are to be sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison. Baek was the first lawyer to break this law – which is not what you would expect of someone who by profession has to eat, sleep and breathe the law.
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      “I still have a vivid memory of what happened,” Baek said, recalling his memories. When a Hankyoreh reporter met him in July, he was sitting on the other side of the glass partition in the visiting room. Baek was four years old when he met his father in the visiting room of the Daegu Prison in 1988. His father, Baek Seung-u, 57, had been court-martialed and imprisoned for insubordination. The elder Baek was a doctor – and a Jehovah’s Witness. 

      Lawyer and conscientious objector Baek Jong-geon enters the courtroom at Seoul Central District Court in Nov. 2011 to hear the verdict in his case. (by Kim Jeong-hyo, staff photographer)
      Baek continued in a steady voice. “I deeply respect the hard work and sacrifices of young people who serve in the military. I want to serve my country as they do, just in a different manner. I fought this for six years in the courts, calling for the introduction of an alternative form of civil service, but I eventually lost, and here I am,” he said. Instead of the word “prison,” the Jehovah’s Witnesses use the word “neutral,” meaning that they are maintaining their military neutrality. Instead of saying that they “go to prison,” they say they “go neutral.” Baek is in prison not so that he can shirk his military service, but rather with the belief that he is staying neutral in military affairs. “The prison guards tell us they know we can’t help being here and that we didn’t commit any crimes,” Baek said. The conscience that put him in prison earns him consideration instead of condemnation. Conscientious objectors are generally given work assignments in the prison where help is needed. They are put in charge of looking after and nursing the elderly and those with dementia and of cleaning the offices used by prison staff. Thus, a sort of alternative service is being practiced inside the prison. Conscientious objectors receive a relatively heavy sentence of 1.5 yearsAccording to the 2015 judicial almanac published by the Supreme Court, 14% of people who are tried each year are sentenced to at least one year in prison, and 6% are sentenced to at least three years in prison (in terms of district court rulings). Conscientious objectors receive a relatively heavy sentence of one year and six months. This one year and six months is the desperate measure that judges take to prevent conscientious objectors from receiving another order to report for duty. A few judges exonerate conscientious objectors on the grounds of the “judge’s conscience.” This year alone, judges issued two not guilty verdicts. These are strictly lower-court rulings that do not follow Supreme Court precedent. A judge at one district court described the situation as follows: “All of us feel uncomfortable with these rulings. The issue could be solved by simply creating an alternative service system, but since there’s no law in place, we have to keep convicting conscientious objectors. Whatever preventive effect the punishment once had has vanished long ago. We keep convicting conscientious objectors, and more keep coming. It’s been the same for decades now. That means that the government should get involved and set up a program.”Some prosecutors apologize to conscientious objectors when bringing charges against them, and some judges even shed tears when reading the sentence. Last year, 493 cases were brought against conscientious objectors; as of August of this year, there were 141. Baek is supposed to be released from prison in September of next year. 

      Lawyer Lim Jae-seong holds a placard calling on the Constitutional Court to make a “just ruling”
      “Peace? Why don’t you keep the peace in your own country!” Lim Jae-seong, 36, a colleague of Baek’s, still recalls the tirade he heard from an official at South Korea’s Military Manpower Administration after he refused to report for duty in 2002. “Do you have any idea that your mother came here in tears and begged us to postpone your enlistment because her innocent boy was going to prison?” the employee asked. At the time, Lim was the student body president at a university in Seoul. Hearing about the innocent people dying in the US invasion of Iraq – including a South Korean, Kim Seon-il – further confirmed his decision to refuse to serve in the military. When he was sentenced to one year and six months in prison, Lim remembers the judge addressing him in the following words: “You argue that your refusal to serve in the military is the way to stop war, but there has never been a time in human history without war. Preparing for war is the way to keep the peace.” After prison, becoming a lawyer to help fellow conscientious objectorsLim went to prison in Jan. 2005. After being released, he graduated from university and became a lawyer at Haemaru Law Firm in Apr. 2015. The man who broke the law has now become a lawyer defending others who intend to defy the Military Service Act. “In my spare time, I represent conscientious objectors on a pro bono basis. The Busan District Court is currently trying Kim Jin-man [29-years-old] for breaking the Military Service Act. Just like me, Kim says that he is refusing to serve in the military because of his beliefs about peace,” Lim said. “I’m not defending him so much as I’m giving him plenty of chances to talk in court. For their entire life, conscientious objectors are pestered about why they refused to serve in the military. Having had the chance to speak his mind in court will provide him some consolation when he goes to prison.” At first, Lim’s mother couldn’t understand why he was refusing to do his military service, and for a while she didn’t visit him in prison. But as she was putting away the tofu that friends had given Lim upon his release from prison (according to a Korean custom), she said, “You didn’t commit a crime, so why should you eat tofu? If the government had made a law, this wouldn’t have happened.” Lim plans to remain involved in the peace movement inside the legal establishment. He believes that that’s the right thing to do for his mother and for his country. 

      Kim Hun-tae, a former teacher at Pyeongtaek Elementary School, and a conscientious objector
      Kim Hun-tae, 37, a former teacher at Pyeongtaek Elementary School, was also a pacifist. Since it was his job as a teacher to impart the importance of peace to his students, Kim was keenly aware of the absurdity of the fact that he had to serve in the military. After weighing over his options, he declared his refusal to perform his military service in Mar. 2006. As a result, he went to prison and lost his teaching job. Kim is still not allowed to return to the podium, and he currently earns his living as a researcher for an educational research institute. “It hurt at first. Teaching is a very important job, and I also had a family to take care of. It also meant I had to say goodbye to the students I loved. I believed that I could teach those kids something important by showing them how I was putting peace into practice,” Kim said. Ten years have already passed since Kim declared he would not do his military service. The students who watched their teacher go to prison are now old enough to do their own military service, and Kim still hears from them. “I tell the kids not to hesitate about going to the army. Going to the army is a belief, too,” he said. Ten years ago, Kim’s students sobbed as they begged him not to go to prison. While Kim was sad about having to leave his students, he points out that this gave him the opportunity to stand tall and tell them to be the master of their own lives. Buddhist’s conscientious objection has big impact on other pacifistsLim Jae-seong and Kim Hun-tae’s decisions to refuse to do their military service for non-religious reasons were greatly influenced by the example of Oh Tae-yang, 41, in 2001. Oh was not a Jehovah’s Witness but a Buddhist. He stirred up controversy when he refused to join the military because of the Buddhist prohibition against taking life and because of his commitment to pacifism. Since being released from prison, he has been working as an activist at pacifist organizations. “My beliefs haven’t changed over the past 15 years,” said Oh in a telephone interview with the Hankyoreh on Oct. 6. “Some people ask me if I regret going to prison as a conscientious objector. The thing is, I don’t ask people who choose a career in the military if they’ve ever regretted their choice. They’re acting on their beliefs.”“Here’s what I’ve learned since refusing to serve in the military. People who think that we need an army are just as concerned about their country as I am; the only difference is how we show it.” While Article 88 of the Military Service Act does say that there are “justifiable grounds” for not serving in the military, the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court have consistently ruled since 2004 that the freedom of conscience is not one of these grounds. But there is considerable basis for the view that the government is violating the Korean Constitution when it continues to prosecute conscientious objectors without offering them another option, such as creating an alternative service system. Article 37, Paragraph 2, of the Korean Constitution states that “the freedoms and rights of citizens may be restricted by Act” for reasons of national security but that “no essential aspect of the freedom or right shall be violated.” Increasing international pressure and interest on forthcoming ruling

      TV personality Yang Ji-woon and his third son Won-seok, who will go to prison for conscientious objection
      There is also increasing pressure from the UN. In Oct. 2015, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) recommended that the South Korean government immediately release all conscientious objectors who are serving prison sentences. This recommendation was seen as particularly forceful since it went beyond suggesting an alternative service system and explicitly called for the release of prisoners. According to a report published by the UNHRC in 2013, 723 conscientious objectors were imprisoned in countries around the world at the time, and 92.5% of them were South Koreans. During an interview with the Hankyoreh on Sep. 20, well-known TV personality Yang Ji-woon, 68, and his wife Yun Sook-gyeong, 60, expressed their concern that their third son, Won-seok, 25, might have to join the 92.5% of imprisoned conscientious objectors worldwide who are in South Korea. The couple have already watched their first and second sons go to prison. Yang and his family are all Jehovah’s Witnesses. On Apr. 21, a district court found Won-seok guilty of violating the Military Service Act, and he is currently waiting for his appeal. “I watched as my two older brothers [aged 36 and 26] went to prison. I figured that I would probably go to prison myself one of these days. According to the conscience I learned through the scriptures, I am opposed to serving for any army that prepares for war,” Won-seok said. Beside Won-seok was his mother, Yun, who burst out crying as she listened to him speak. “I would rather go to prison [instead of my son]. You just can’t imagine what it feels like for parents to send all three of their boys to prison. For the past 16 years [since May 2000, when my oldest son went to prison], I’ve had constant nightmares. Every day I see my three boys being dragged away with irons on their legs. I told my son he ought to apply for asylum instead, but he insists on going to prison,” Yun said. “I can’t just leave the country because it would be easier for me. I have to play some part so that the next generation doesn’t have to suffer, too,” Won-seok said as he comforted his mother. “I’m not asking for my son to be excused from his military service; I’m asking for them to come up with some way for him to serve his country for a long time. Isn’t it about time for something like that? There’s a saying that even the law can cry,” said Yang, her forehead scored with wrinkles. The Constitutional Court is planning to make a ruling about the constitutionality of Article 88 of the Military Service Act (the section that calls for the prosecution of conscientious objectors) as early as the end of the year.
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      CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ALLOWS JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES TO AVOID MILITARY SERVICE
      A momentous change has occurred in South Korea. The South Korean Constitutional Court has ruled that a section of the Military Service Act is unconstitutional. The law is one of the oldest laws of the modern Korean government, existing for 65 years. The policy jailed any Korean man who refused conscription for military service as a consciousness objector. As WRN reported, this has imprisoned thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses for decades. The Constitutional Court ruled the section about consciousness objectors was unconstitutional because it did not provide an alternative way to fulfill civic service. Judges will now have to offer alternative options in future cases. Koreans already jailed under the Military Service Act will be released. RESOURCES

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      Turkmenbashi City Court jailed 19-year-old Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Mekan Annayev for the maximum two years for refusing compulsory military service on grounds of conscience. Five others have already been jailed in 2018, one in an apparent show trial. Two more young men face trial in August.
      The city court in Turkmenbashi in western Turkmenistan has handed down the longest known prison sentence so far in 2018 to punish refusal to conduct compulsory military service on grounds of conscience. At the request of the prosecutor, Judge Myrat Garayev handed 19-year-old Jehovah's Witness Mekan Annayev the maximum two-year jail term, he told Forum 18 from the court on 23 July.

      During one meeting at the city's military conscription office in October 2017, officials had called in the city's chief imam to conduct "explanatory work" with Annayev in an apparent attempt to pressure him to undertake military service, even though Annayev is not a Muslim (see below).

      In all five other known jailings of conscientious objectors in 2018, courts handed down one-year jail terms. All those sentenced were – like Annayev – Jehovah's Witnesses (see F18News 30 July 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2400).

      Two more Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors face trial in August. The trial of Isa Sayaev was due to have begun on 9 August in the northern Dashoguz Region. The trial of Ruslan Artykmuradov is due to begin in Lebap Region on 13 August (see below).

      Prosecutor's Offices are considering similar criminal cases against other Jehovah's Witness young men for refusing military service on grounds of conscience, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18.

      The trial of one of those jailed in July was held in the District Military Conscription Office. It remains unknown if this was to show other local young men the punishment for failing to abide by call-up notices (see below).

      Forum 18 wished to ask the Human Rights Ombudsperson Yazdursun Gurbannazarova, who was named by the government-appointed parliament, why individuals who cannot do military service on grounds of conscience cannot undertake alternative, civilian service and why they are jailed. However, her telephone went unanswered each time Forum 18 called on 10 August.

      No conscientious objection, no alternative service

      Turkmenistan offers no alternative to its compulsory military service. Military service for men between the ages of 18 and 27 is generally two years. Article 58 of the 2016 Constitution describes defence as a "sacred duty" of everyone and states that military service is compulsory for men. Turkmenistan ignored the recommendation of a July 2016 legal review of the draft Constitution by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation that it should include a provision for alternative, civilian service (see F18News 3 October 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2220).

      Young men who refuse military service on grounds of conscience face prosecution under Criminal Code Article 219, Part 1. This punishes refusal to serve in the armed forces in peacetime with a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment or two years' corrective labour (see Forum 18's Turkmenistan religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2244).

      In March 2017, at the end of its review of Turkmenistan's record under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee again called on the authorities to end punishments for those unable to perform military service on grounds of conscience and introduce an alternative, civilian service (CCPR/C/TKM/CO/2).

      "The State party should revise its legislation without undue delay with a view to clearly recognizing the right to conscientious objection to military service," the Committee declared, "provide for alternative service of a civilian nature outside the military sphere and not under military command for conscientious objectors, and halt all prosecutions of individuals who refuse to perform military service on grounds of conscience and release those who are currently serving prison sentences."

      Officials refused to explain to Forum 18 why they did not implement the UN recommendation. With the two jailings in January 2018, less than a year after the UN report was issued, Turkmenistan began imprisoning conscientious objectors again after a break of four years (see F18News 23 March 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2363).

      Turkmenbashi: maximum 2-year jail term

      The Conscription Office in Turkmenbashi, a port city on the Caspian Sea, summoned Jehovah's Witness Mekan Orazdurdiyevich Annayev (born 22 June 1999) to Balkan Regional Conscription Office for military service in June 2017 (when he reached the age of 18). The Conscription Office summoned him twice in October 2017 and again in March 2018 and twice in April 2018, according to the indictment seen by Forum 18.

      In response to two of the summonses, Annayev went to the city Conscription Office, telling officers that he could not conduct military service on grounds of conscience. The indictment records that he quoted Jesus' words from the Gospel of Matthew: "Put away your sword, for all who live by the sword shall die by the sword."

      On 26 October 2017, the indictment notes, Annayev "arrived at the military conscription office with his parents and brother. Explanatory work was conducted with him with the participation of the Chief Imam of Turkmenbashi." Annayev repeated his refusal to perform military service on grounds of conscience.

      Curiously, the indictment notes that Annayev is not a member of the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, the country's ruling party.

      On 4 June 2018, after establishing that Annayev was medically and psychologically fit for military service, had no criminal record and was not on the register of alcoholics or drug addicts, Trainee Assistant to Turkmenbashi Prosecutor L. Saltykova brought charges against him under Criminal Code Article 219, Part 1. Annayev's trial was held at Turkmenbashi City Court on 26 June, four days after his 19th birthday.

      During Annayev's trial, the court's chief judge Rustam Atajanov came to the courtroom and interrupted Judge Garayev, who was presiding over the hearing. "Atajanov began rudely questioning Mekan Annayev and accusing him and all Jehovah's Witnesses of being traitors," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. "He even demanded, loudly screaming, to throw two attendees out simply for whispering." After Judge Atajanov left, the hearing continued.

      At the end of the trial, the state prosecutor asked the court to sentence Annayev to two years' imprisonment. "In most other cases, state prosecutors usually ask to sentence young Jehovah's Witnesses to one year of imprisonment," Jehovah's Witnesses noted.

      Judge Garayev acceded to the prosecutor's request and sentenced Annayev to two years' imprisonment in an ordinary regime labour camp. As Annayev had not been under arrest before the trial he was arrested after the verdict was handed down and taken away to begin his sentence.

      Judge Garayev refused to explain to Forum 18 on 23 July why he had punished Annayev for refusing military service on grounds of conscience or why he had given him the maximum penalty. He also refused to discuss the conduct of the trial, including why the chief judge had interrupted proceedings.

      Annayev did not appeal against his conviction to Balkan Regional Court, the court told Forum 18 on 23 July.

      August trials

      Two more Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors face trial in August under Criminal Code Article 219, Part 1 after refusing compulsory military service on grounds of conscience.

      The trial of Isa Sayaev was due to have begun on 9 August at Koneurgench City Court in the northern Dashoguz Region. Forum 18 was unable to reach the court on 10 August to find out if the trial took place as scheduled.

      The trial of Ruslan Artykmuradov is due to begin in Lebap Region on 13 August, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18.

      Was July trial a show trial?

      Three Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors are known to have been jailed in July under Criminal Code Article 219, Part 1. Each was given a one-year ordinary regime labour camp sentence. One of the three, Ikhlosbek Valijon oglu Rozmetov (born 26 November 1997), was convicted on 11 July at Gurbansoltan eje District Court in Dashoguz Region (see F18News 30 July 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2400).

      According to the verdict seen by Forum 18, Judge Sh. Almazov of Gurbansoltan eje District Court held the trial in the conference hall of the District Military Conscription Office. It added that the trial was open. The verdict gives no reason for the decision to hold the trial there.

      Forum 18 was unable to reach Gurbansoltan eje District Court or the Military Conscription Office to find out who had attended the trial apart from the accused, prosecutors, lawyers and witnesses and whether the trial was meant to send a signal to local young men of what happens to those who refuse compulsory military service.

      The verdict notes that Rozmetov had not been under arrest in the run-up to the trial (he had been required to sign a declaration not to leave the area). He was arrested in the courtroom after the verdict was delivered to be taken away to begin his sentence.

      Imminent transfer to Seydi Labour Camp?

      The latest jailed conscientious objectors are likely to be sent to serve their sentences at the ordinary regime labour camp LB-K/12 in the desert near Seydi, in Lebap Region. Many other prisoners of conscience jailed to punish them for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief have been held in the camp.

      The two imprisoned Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors - Arslan Begenchov and Kerven Kakabayev – were sent there after their January convictions (see F18News 23 March 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2363).

      Also held at Seydi Labour Camp is fellow Jehovah's Witness Bahram Hemdemov. He was arrested during a March 2015 raid on his home, after which he was tortured. He is serving a four year prison term from 19 May 2015 on charges of allegedly inciting religious hatred, which he strongly denies, but his real "crime" seems to have been hosting a meeting for worship (see F18News 5 April 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2164).

      The address of the Seydi Labour Camp is:

      746222 Lebap velayat

      Seydi

      uchr. LB-K/12

      Turkmenistan

      (END)

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    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      Jeong Chun-guk, who served the longest time in Korea for conscientious objection, seven years, is now a farmer. [KIM SEONG-TAE]
      For 69-year-old Jeong Chun-guk, whose seven years and 10 months in jail is still the longest time ever served by a conscientious objector to mandatory military service in Korea, the struggle for peace has finally led him to a tranquil plot of land in Geumsan County, South Chungcheong, where he can focus on farming and his faith. 

      “I believed that it was more important to spread the new world I discovered within the Bible,” he says of his decision not to serve in the military. He had followed his mother’s footsteps, becoming a Jehovah’s Witness when he was a freshman studying medicine at Chungnam National University in Daejeon. 

      Jehovah’s Witnesses have traditionally held a view that worship should be only to the “Kingdom of God,” therefore banning allegiance or participation in any national government or politics among their faithful. Though taught to obey the laws of where they inhabit, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been known to disobey the laws that conflict with their doctrines, such as denying blood transfusion and refusing to serve military duties. 

      His father, a prison officer, was at a loss for words upon hearing that Jeong had dropped out of school after only one semester. 

      “The watchtower my father climbed with his lunch box seemed like a great dungeon from some novel,” he says. “I never imagined that I would live in such a place.” 

      When Jeong turned 21 in 1969, he was incarcerated for 10 months, at the height of anti-communist sentiment following the Blue House raid on Jan. 21, 1968, when North Korean commandos attempted to assassinate then-President Park Chung-hee. 

      After the October Restoration of 1972, in which Park assumed dictatorial powers, conscientious objectors and their families were publicly shamed and the penalty was sharply increased with amendments to the Military Service Law and the new Special Acts for Violation of Military Service Law. 

      At 26, Jeong received another draft notice and arrest warrant. He sent Daejeon District court a seven-page appeal, but the appeal judge sentenced him to three years in prison, twice the initial sentencing. 

      Prison guards, he came to learn, were particularly brutal towards Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Fearing that Jehovah’s Witnesses might proselytize, they did not make us work. Instead we were forced to sit down for the whole day. The only times we could stand up were during our three meals and 15-minute exercise sessions,” says Jeong. “We prayed so that we may work standing.” 

      In those days, the Military Service Law did not allow exemptions from service until three years of penal labor had been served. The Supreme Court deemed it legal to repeat this punishment every time military service was declined, so Jeong was sentenced again in 1974. 

      Upon completing his second sentence at 29, he asked the Military Manpower Administration why a university dropout like himself was being drafted. 

      The Military Service Law back then considered candidates eligible for active duty from the time they graduated high school until the age of 28. But for undergraduates, this was extended to 30. 

      The administration replied that even freshman dropouts were considered undergraduates. 

      One day in February 1977, as he was waiting to finally go home, Jeong was taken to the 32nd Infantry Division. 

      He received another four years in jail from the military court on the conviction of “disobeying orders.” “I thought this was the end,” says Jeong, “I remember crying at the sight of my mother’s tear-filled eyes.” 

      His punishment ended in 1981 at the age of 33. 

      “It was strange to see no one stalking me from behind as I walked home,” he says. 

      Recently, a lawyer advised him to re-open his case, but Jeon has decided against this. “It’s not impossible to empathize with those who try to protect society by policing those who step out of line,” he says, “even if they have the strangest reasons.” 

      BY MOON HYEON-KYUNG [bae.seunghoon@joongang.co.kr]

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    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      A performance criticizing the government’s handling of conscientious objectors, at Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Square by Amnesty International Korea, the Center for Military Human Rights, World Without War, and People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) to call for an end to the publishing of personal data on military service evaders, Mar. 28. (by Kim Tae-hyeong, staff photographer)
      Objectors and civic groups calling for government to introduce alternative forms of service, instead of punishment
      On Feb. 23, the Military Manpower Administration (MMA) sent a notice to 23-year-old Park Sang-wook informing him that his personal details were to be made public as a military service evader. Park’s failure to report to the training center on his reported enlistment date of Dec. 26 was defined by the MMA as “evasion of active military service.” Barring special grounds, the notice informed him, his name, age, address, and other personal details would be published online at the end of the year.Park is a conscientious objector. His decision not to perform military service was motivated not by religious reasons, but by his pacifist convictions. On Mar. 28, he took the microphone at a press conference organized at Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Square by Amnesty International Korea, the Center for Military Human Rights, World Without War, and People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) to call for an end to the publishing of personal data on military service evaders.“What is evasion? It means deliberately avoiding a task because of laziness,” he said.“Under the guise of ‘protecting the public,’ the state has established a rigid military state and is massacring its own citizens or deploying them as hired soldiers,” he continued. “Tarnished as it is by defense industry corruption and suspicious deaths, isn‘t it the military itself that is really full of evasion?”Park is awaiting trial after being indicted this month for violating the Military Service Act. Unless he can present special grounds, he will have to spend eighteen months in prison. Barring other circumstances, he will have his name, address, and other personal data made public in December as a military service evader.As a fellow conscientious objector, PSPD secretary Hong Jeong-hoon is in a similar position.“Publishing personal data for someone undergoing trial defies common sense,” Hong said at the press conference.“We need to recognize individuals’ conscience and convictions and institute a system for alternative forms of military service,” he continued.Last year, the MMA began publishing personal information about military service evaders, including their name, age, address, and the nature of their evasion. The Ministry of National Defense instituted the system to prevent evasion at higher echelons in particular and promote an atmosphere of diligent military service compliance. In late 2016, it published the first list of 237 military service evaders who had not reported by December since an amendment to the Military Service Act went into effect in July 2015.The group World Without War noted that “at least 160 of the 237 people were conscientious objectors as Jehovah’s Witnesses, suggesting conscientious objects represent the majority of the system’s targets.”“As a system that seeks to use shaming to force compliance with military service duties, this system has no effect whatsoever on conscientious objectors who feel they cannot defy the dictates of their conscience, even if it means going to prison,” the group said.Speaking at the press conference, Amnesty International Korea secretary Park Seung-ho explained, “The United Nations Human Rights Committee previously said it was a breach of protocol for the South Korean government to impose prison sentences on conscientious objectors without giving them an opportunity for alternative service.”“Now the South Korean government has built up the conscientious objection issue so much that we can talk about conscientious objection being a right in itself,” Park added.“Instead of infringing more on human rights by releasing personal information, what the South Korean government should be doing is honoring its promises to the international community.”By Park Su-ji, staff reporterPlease direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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    • By ARchiv@L
      Support for conscientious objection increases
      (KOREA)
      By Kim Se-jeong
      The number of people in Korea who support conscientious objection has risen significantly over the last decade, a recent survey showed, Monday.
      According to the survey conducted by the National Human Rights Commission on 2,556 people aged 15 or older from May to December, 46.1 percent of respondents said the country should allow conscientious objection.
      The commission has conducted the survey regularly and the support ratio has increased from 10.2 percent in 2005 to 33.3 percent in 2011.
      "Tolerance has improved, but it is clear that conscientious objection is still a contentious issue in Korean society," the commission said in a report. "The number shows it is time for open discussion about it."
      The survey didn't mention what contributed to the change in public opinion.
      All able-bodied men aged 18 or older in Korea are obliged to serve in the military. Objectors are subject to prison terms. According to statistics, almost 600 men are punished every year for refusing to serve.
      Most objectors in Korea cite religion or personal belief in peace as reasons for refusal. Many of them are Jehovah's Witnesses, a Christian denomination.
      They demand the government give them an opportunity to serve the country in other ways by introducing alternative services. But the government has refused to accommodate their request, saying no exception is allowed for compulsory military service.
      The survey results came out hours before a local court ruling in favor of conscientious objection.
      Siding with a 23-year-old conscientious objector surnamed Park, the Jeonju District Court in North Jeolla Province said, "We recognized that the defendant refused to serve on the basis of his religion and values, which is an individual freedom given to all."
      Park, a Jehovah's Witness, was taken to court by the government in June last year after refusing to comply with the mandatory service.
      A dozen other local courts and an appeals court in Gwangju have also ruled in favor of conscientious objectors.
      The Constitutional Court has been reviewing petitions from such people and is expected to make a ruling sometime early this year on whether compulsory military service infringes on individuals' freedoms and whether the country needs to allow alternative services.
      The ruling was originally due by the end of last year, but was put off as the court has been focusing on the review of President Park Geun-hye's impeachment.
      In 2004 and 2011, it ruled against objectors.
      THE KOREAN TIMES

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      Posted : 2017-01-10
      By Kim Se-jeong  
       
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      Courts have sentenced five Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors in 2016 to two-year suspended prison terms for refusing compulsory military service on grounds of conscience. A sixth received a one-year corrective labour sentence. Turkmenistan ignored OSCE calls for the new Constitution to recognise conscientious objection.
      Six conscientious objectors – all of them Jehovah's Witnesses – are now known to have been convicted and sentenced in Turkmenistan so far in 2016 to punish them for refusing to perform compulsory military service on religious grounds. Five received two-year suspended sentences. The sixth received a one-year corrective labour sentence, where he lives at home under restrictions and a fifth of his wages are seized.

      All six young men were sentenced under Criminal Code Article 219, Part 1. This punishes refusal to serve in the armed forces in peacetime with a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment or two years' corrective labour.

      No conscientious objectors to military service are known currently to be imprisoned. Over many years, Jehovah's Witness young men have routinely been convicted for refusing compulsory military service on religious grounds. Although in earlier years some were given non-custodial sentences, most were imprisoned. The last known imprisoned conscientious objector, Ruslan Narkuliyev, was freed under amnesty in February 2015 (see F18News 18 February 2015 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2039).

      Five young Jehovah's Witnesses are known to have been convicted for refusing compulsory military service and given corrective labour sentences in 2014 and 2015 (see F18News 5 July 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2196).

      Turkmenistan offers no alternative to its compulsory military service. Article 58 of the new Constitution describes defence as a "sacred duty" of everyone and states that military service is compulsory for men. Turkmenistan ignored a call from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to recognise the right in the Constitution (see below).

      Military service for men between the ages of 18 and 27 is generally two years. A proposed Alternative Service Law was reportedly drafted in 2013, but officials have been unable to tell Forum 18 if and when it might be adopted (see F18News 29 September 2014 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2002).

      No comment

      No official was prepared to discuss with Forum 18 why young men continue to be convicted for refusing military service on religious grounds and why Turkmenistan has ignored calls by the United Nations (UN) and OSCE for a civilian alternative to compulsory military service to be introduced.

      Following his usual response, Pirnazar Hudainazarov, Chair of the Mejlis (Parliament) Legislative Committee, refused absolutely to discuss anything. "Don't call here," he told Forum 18 from the capital Ashgabad [Ashgabat] on 3 October. "Ring the Foreign Ministry." He then put the phone down.

      Telephones at the Foreign Ministry went unanswered on 3 October. Forum 18 was unable to reach Shemshat Atajanova, a department head at the government's Turkmen National Institute for Democracy and Human Rights in Ashgabad. A colleague refused to put Forum 18 through to her on 3 October and also refused to answer any questions himself.

      Dashoguz: two-year suspended sentence

      Jehovah's Witness Sanjarbek Saburov, from the northern city of Dashoguz, refused military service during the spring call-up. On 17 July he was placed in preventive detention while awaiting trial, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. A complaint regarding the detention was filed with the Presidential Administration, the General Prosecutor's Office, the Interior Ministry and the Turkmen National Institute for Democracy and Human Rights.

      On 10 August, Dashoguz Regional Prosecutor's Office responded to Saburov, stating that they would readdress his complaint to Dashoguz City Prosecutor's Office. The response from Dashoguz City Prosecutor's Office is still pending.

      Saburov was tried under Criminal Code Article 219, Part 1. On 9 August, a Judge handed him a two-year suspended sentence. He was released in the courtroom after more than three weeks' detention.

      Seydi: two-year suspended sentence

      Jehovah's Witness Artur Yangibayev, from Seydi in the eastern Lebap Region, refused military service during the spring call-up. On 2 and 11 May, he sent a written petition to the Military Conscription Office, explaining his conscientious objection to military service.

      On 16 June, two representatives of the Conscription Office, along with the local police officer, went to his home and took him to the Prosecutor's Office, where he was threatened with 15 years' imprisonment. "The officers applied severe psychological pressure and forced him to write a letter retracting his earlier written petition for alternative service as a conscientious objector," Jehovah's Witnesses complained to Forum 18.

      A complaint about the coercion to which Yangibayev was subjected was filed with the Presidential Administration and the General Prosecutor's Office.

      Yangibayev was charged under Criminal Code Article 219, Part 1. On 8 August, he was placed in pre-trial preventive detention. On 30 August, a Judge handed Yangibayev a two-year suspended sentence. He was released in the courtroom after more than three weeks' detention.

      Ashgabad: Four sentences in 2016

      Four Jehovah's Witness young men from Ashgabad are known to have been convicted in 2016 under Criminal Code Article 219, Part 1 for refusing military service on grounds of religious faith.

      The first was Dayanch Jumayev, sentenced in Ashgabad in February to one year of corrective labour. He was ordered to live at home under restrictions, with one fifth of his wages being seized by the state (see F18News 5 July 2016http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2196).

      Three others were subsequently sentenced on the same charges between February and August. Merdan Ochanov, Konstantin Sivkov and Ruslan Rahmetulov each received two-year suspended sentences, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18.

      An official of the chancellery of Ashgabad City Court refused to say if any of the four appealed against their sentences. "We don't give any information by telephone," she told Forum 18 before putting the phone down.

      Further United Nations findings against Turkmenistan

      The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee has found that Turkmenistan violated the rights of five further Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The five latest decisions – issued on 15 and 16 July – bring to 9 the number of such findings by the Committee against Turkmenistan in conscientious objection-related cases.

      In the July decisions, the Committee found violations in the cases of Navruz Nasyrlayev, Matkarim Aminov, Dovran Matyakubov and Shadurdy Uchetov (all of whom had served prison terms), as well as Akmurad Nurjanov (who had received a suspended prison term). All five had lodged their appeals to the UN Human Rights Committee on 7 September 2012.

      In March and October 2015 the UN Human Rights Committee found that Turkmenistan had violated the rights of four further Jehovah's Witness young men by imprisoning them for refusing compulsory military service on religious grounds. The Committee also ruled that beatings and other maltreatment (such as a head being repeatedly bashed against a wall) of Zafar Abdullayev, Mahmud Hudaybergenov, Ahmet Hudaybergenov and Sunnet Japparov is torture and the government needs to provide reparations (see F18News 5 April 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2164).

      In all nine decisions, the Committee found the convictions and sentences for refusal of compulsory military service to be an infringement of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, in breach of ICCPR Article 18, Part 1. In each case, the Committee also determined that the authorities' treatment of the men violated the ICCPR Article 7 guarantee that "no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment".

      In addition, the Committee concluded that what Jehovah's Witnesses describe as the "deplorable living conditions" violated the right of detainees to be treated "with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person," under ICCPR Article 10. 

      Turkmenistan has not yet implemented the Committee's views, Jehovah's Witnesses lamented to Forum 18.

      The UN Human Rights Committee is still considering the appeals by five more Jehovah's Witness former imprisoned conscientious objectors: Akmurat Egendurdiev, Arslan Dovletov, Juma Nazarov, Yadgarbek Sharipov and Atamurat Suvkhanov. Also awaiting a decision is Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Danatar Durdyyev, who was fined. These appeals were lodged in 2012 and 2013 (see F18News 5 July 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2196).

      UN Human Rights Committee questions

      At its July session in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Committee adopted a list of issues for the consideration of Turkmenistan's record under the ICCPR (CCPR/C/TKM/Q/2). The full review is due to take place in Geneva in March 2017.

      In its list of issues, the Committee reminded Turkmenistan's government that it had already called on it in 2012 to introduce a civilian alternative service (CCPR/C/TKM/CO/1). It told the government "please indicate what steps have been taken to: (a) amend the relevant legislation to recognize the right to conscientious objection to compulsory military service and introduce alternative civilian service for conscientious objectors; and (b) halt all prosecutions of individuals who refuse to perform military service on grounds of conscience and release those individuals who are currently serving prison sentences for such a refusal".

      The UN Human Rights Committee also asked Turkmenistan's government to "explain how the restrictions imposed on the exercise of freedom of religion, particularly by the Freedom of Religion and Religious Organizations Act, including mandatory registration of religious organizations and prohibition of activities of unregistered religious organizations, prohibition of worship in private homes, restrictions on religious education and the importing, publication and distribution of religious literature, and the administrative penalties for violations of the legislation in question are compatible with the State party's obligations under article 18 of the Covenant [ICCPR]".

      Turkmenistan ignores OSCE on lack of alternative service in new Constitution

      President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov signed into law a new Constitution on 14 September. Despite government claims, it ignored recommendations prepared by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) that the text should make explicit mention of the right to opt for an alternative to military service.

      Article 58 of the new Constitution declares: "The defence of Turkmenistan is the sacred duty of every citizen. For male citizens of Turkmenistan, universal military obligation has been established." The wording of this Article was identical to the wording of Article 38 of the previous Constitution.

      The OSCE comments on the then draft Constitution were completed on 21 July and published on 1 September (http://legislationline.org/download/action/download/id/6321/file/288_CONST-TKM_21Jul2016_en.pdf). The OSCE recommended Turkmenistan "to include in Article 58 of the Draft Constitution an exception to the compulsory character of military service where such service cannot be reconciled with an individual's religion or beliefs (and to include references to possible alternatives of a non-combatant or civilian nature)".

      Other OSCE concerns on new Constitution ignored

      In its review the OSCE also recommended that the new Constitution make explicit reference "to the right of each individual to give and receive religious education in the language of their choice, and to the right to cultural expression in the field of religion, with specific reference to the rights of members of registered and unregistered religious groups to freely exercise their religion and culture, while ensuring that religious organizations are not precluded from taking part in public affairs". Turkmenistan ignored these recommendations.

      "Under international human rights law," the OSCE review noted, "religious or belief communities should not be obliged to acquire legal personality if they do not wish to do so; the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief must not depend on whether a group has sought and acquired legal personality status."

      In Article 18, which bans religious organisations from interfering in the affairs of state, the OSCE recommended that this be "re-considered or clarified", otherwise it could "misinterpreted" to prevent religious organisations from getting involved in public affairs. The OSCE also questioned why a similar ban on the interference by the state in the affairs of religious organisations was not included. These recommendations were ignored.

      Similarly ignored was the OSCE recommendation for the ban on religious-based political parties to be removed from Article 44 of the new Constitution.

      2010 OSCE review of Religion Law similarly ignored

      The OSCE had earlier urged Turkmenistan to introduce a civilian alternative to military service, including in a review of the then Religion Law made public in December 2010 (see F18News 20 December 2010 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1523). (END)

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    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      By Kim Se-jeong 
       
      An Jung-hyun, 23, is a Jehovah's Witness on trial for refusing to fulfill his compulsory military service. He was found guilty twice in lower courts, and appealed to the Supreme Court in July. Lawyers told him his chances of winning were low given the highest court's precedents, but he is cautiously hopeful.

      This year alone, district courts acquitted nine fellow Jehovah's Witnesses of violations of the Military Law. The most recent ruling came one week ago from the Cheongju District Court which stated, "There are many ways to contribute to the nation without violating a person's basic rights such as social service or alternate work. It is unjust to punish military objectors by criminal law without even making efforts to provide alternatives."

      Another hopeful sign comes from Kim Jae-hyung, a Supreme Court justice nominee who recently expressed his support for such objectors and alternative ways to serve the country. His confirmation hearing will begin in September, and if confirmed, he is expected to add a different opinion on the 13-justice court.

      Ahn Se-young from Amnesty International Korea also showed cautious optimism.

      "These developments certainly reflect growing public support for conscientious objectors," Ahn said.

      While the government has claimed that conscientious objectors do not enjoy public support, Amnesty International Korea and Gallup recently conducted a survey in which more than 70 percent of respondents expressed support for conscientious objectors, according to Ahn. 

      "But, the appeals court and highest court are still conservative," Ahn said. She also doubts Kim will be influential enough to change the opinion of the entire top court.

      Kim Dong-in, another Jehovah's Witness, claimed it's time for the Korean government to take a stance.

      "If you look at the world, fewer countries refuse to recognize conscious objectors. It will eventually happen in Korea. It's time for Korea to voluntarily recognize them instead of being coerced to do so under pressure," he said.

      But those against conscientious objectors claim if they are recognized, many people will abuse the system. "If Jehovah's Witnesses are found not guilty and are allowed alternative services, many young men will join the religious group only to avoid military duty," a blogger said. "There will be no way to sort out whether they are really believers or just misusing the system."

      Now, eyes are on the Constitutional Court, which is expected to rule on an appeal by a conscientious objector later this year. Two previous rulings found it unconstitutional to skip military service because of personal beliefs.

      Between 1950 and 2011, more than 16,000 conscientious objectors have been imprisoned in Korea, according to Amnesty International Korea. Every year, hundreds of objectors, mostly Jehovah's Witnesses, are put on trial for their rejection of military service based on their beliefs. Those convicted are sentenced to imprisonment for up to 18 months.

      "There will be so much I won't be able to do if I have a criminal record," An said. "I am not saying that I will avoid my service to the country altogether. I would like to serve my country, but in a different form." 

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    • By The Librarian
      70 happy JW's who survived imprisonment for being conscientious objectors

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    • Eric Ouellet

      Qu’est-ce que le Jour du Jugement ?

      La Bible dit que Dieu “ a fixé un jour où il va juger la terre habitée ”. (Actes 17:31.) Pour beaucoup, l’idée d’être soumis à un jugement, quel qu’il soit, est désagréable. Voyez-vous les choses ainsi ?
      SI C’EST le cas, rassurez-vous : le Jour du Jugement est une disposition pleine d’amour qui apportera de grands bienfaits à la famille humaine, y compris aux morts (Matthieu 20:28 ; Jean 3:16). Mais pourquoi est-il nécessaire ? Et que se passera-t-il réellement pendant ce “ jour ” ?
      Pourquoi le Jour du Jugement est nécessaire
      Lorsque Dieu a placé les humains sur la terre, il ne la destinait pas à n’être qu’un lieu d’épreuve en vue d’une existence dans un autre monde. Il a créé les humains pour qu’ils y vivent éternellement. Bien que parfaits physiquement et mentalement, Adam et Ève, le premier couple, se sont rebellés contre Dieu. Ils ont alors perdu la perspective de la vie éternelle pour eux-mêmes, et ont transmis le péché et la mort à tous leurs descendants. — Genèse 2:15-17 ; Romains 5:12.
      Le Jour du Jugement sera une période de mille ans durant laquelle les hommes auront la possibilité de retrouver ce qu’Adam et Ève ont perdu*. Remarquez que, selon Actes 17:31, cité plus haut, ce “ jour ” concerne les personnes qui vivent sur “ la terre habitée ”. Celles qui recevront un jugement favorable vivront sur la terre, éternellement et dans des conditions parfaites (Révélation 21:3, 4). Le Jour du Jugement contribue donc à l’accomplissement du dessein originel de Dieu pour l’homme et pour la planète.
      Le Juge que Dieu a établi est Christ Jésus. La Bible révèle qu’il va “ juger les vivants et les morts ”. (2 Timothée 4:1.) Qui sont “ les vivants ” qui seront jugés ? Comment les morts vont-ils revenir à la vie sur “ la terre habitée ” ?
      Jésus juge “ les vivants ”
      Nous sommes maintenant proches de la fin annoncée du présent système de choses, où Dieu va détruire tous les éléments de la société humaine corrompue et supprimer les méchants. Les personnes qui réchapperont seront “ les vivants ” qui seront jugés. — Révélation 7:9-14 ; 19:11-16.
      Durant la période de jugement qui durera mille ans, Christ Jésus ainsi que 144 000 hommes et femmes ressuscités pour vivre dans les cieux dirigeront la terre. Exerçant les fonctions de rois et de prêtres, ils dispenseront les bienfaits du sacrifice rédempteur de Jésus et amèneront progressivement les humains fidèles à la perfection physique et mentale. — Révélation 5:10 ; 14:1-4 ; 20:4-6.
      Pendant le Jour du Jugement, Satan et ses démons ne seront plus libres d’influencer l’activité humaine (Révélation 20:1-3). Toutefois, à la fin de ce “ jour ”, Satan sera autorisé à éprouver la fidélité de tous les humains alors en vie. Ceux qui resteront fidèles à Dieu passeront avec succès l’épreuve à laquelle Adam et Ève ont échoué. Ils seront jugés dignes de recevoir la vie éternelle sur la terre redevenue un paradis. Ceux qui décideront de se rebeller contre Dieu seront détruits pour toujours, de même que Satan et ses démons. — Révélation 20:7-9.
      Le jugement des “ morts ”
      On lit dans la Bible qu’au Jour du Jugement les morts “ se lèveront ”. (Matthieu 12:41.) Jésus a dit : “ L’heure vient où tous ceux qui sont dans les tombes de souvenir entendront sa voix et sortiront, ceux qui ont fait des choses bonnes, pour une résurrection de vie, ceux qui ont pratiqué des choses viles, pour une résurrection de jugement. ” (Jean 5:28, 29). Il n’est pas question ici des âmes désincarnées des défunts. Ces derniers sont totalement inconscients et n’ont pas d’âme qui survive à la mort (Ecclésiaste 9:5 ; Jean 11:11-14, 23, 24). Jésus relèvera sur la terre tous ceux qui se sont endormis dans la mort.
      Seront-ils jugés sur la base de ce qu’ils ont fait avant leur mort ? Non. Les Écritures enseignent que “ celui qui est mort a été acquitté de son péché ”. (Romains 6:7.) Ainsi, tout comme les survivants de la fin du système actuel, les ressuscités pour la vie sur la terre seront jugés “ selon leurs actions ” au cours du Jour du Jugement (Révélation 20:12, 13). En fonction de l’issue de leurs actions, leur résurrection se révélera aboutir soit à l’éternité, soit à la destruction. Nombre de ces ressuscités découvriront Jéhovah Dieu et ses exigences pour obtenir la vie. Ils auront la possibilité de se conformer à la volonté de Dieu et de recevoir la vie éternelle sur la terre.
      Aucune raison d’avoir peur
      Le Jour du Jugement ne sera pas seulement un temps d’instruction divine, mais aussi un temps où tous les vivants appliqueront ce qu’ils apprendront et en verront les bienfaits. Imaginez la joie que vous ressentirez quand vous retrouverez vos chers disparus et progresserez à leurs côtés vers la perfection !
      Imaginez la joie que vous ressentirez quand vous retrouverez vos chers disparus.
      Au terme du Jour du Jugement, Dieu permettra à Satan d’éprouver la fidélité des êtres humains. Il n’y a cependant pas lieu d’être inquiet ou d’avoir peur. Tous seront alors solidement armés pour faire face à cette dernière épreuve. Ainsi, le Jour du Jugement est une étape dans l’accomplissement du dessein divin qui effacera toutes les conséquences de la rébellion originelle contre Dieu dans le jardin d’Éden.

      · 0 replies
    • Eric Ouellet

      Chantons avec coeur et allégresse 
      Psaumes
      146 Louez Jah!
      Que tout mon être loue Jéhovah !
       2 Je veux louer Jéhovah toute ma vie.
      Je veux chanter des louanges à mon Dieu aussi longtemps que je vivrai.
       3 Ne mettez pas votre confiance dans les princes,
      ni dans un fils d’homme, qui est incapable de sauver.
       4 L’esprit de l’homme sort, l’homme retourne au sol ;
      ce jour-là, ses pensées périssent.
       5 Heureux celui qui a pour secours le Dieu de Jacob
      et dont l’espoir est en Jéhovah son Dieu,
       6 Celui qui a fait le ciel et la terre,
      la mer, et tout ce qui s’y trouve,
      celui qui reste fidèle pour toujours,
       7 celui qui garantit la justice aux spoliés,
      celui qui donne du pain aux affamés.
      Jéhovah libère les prisonniers ;
       8 Jéhovah ouvre les yeux des aveugles ;
      Jéhovah relève ceux qui sont courbés ;
      Jéhovah aime les justes.
       9 Jéhovah protège les résidents étrangers ;
      il soutient l’orphelin de père et la veuve,
      mais il contrecarre les projets des méchants
      10 Jéhovah sera Roi pour toujours,
      ton Dieu, ô Sion, de génération en génération.
      Louez Jah !

      · 0 replies
    • REDROCHA  »  T.B. (Twyla)

      Thank you Sister !!!!
      · 0 replies
    • Eric Ouellet

      LES QUALITÉS D'UN BERGER ET LES ASSISTANTS DE L'ASSEMBLÉE 

      PREMIÈRE LETTRE DE TIMOTHÉE

      3 La parole suivante est digne de foi : Si un homme aspire à être un responsable, il désire une belle œuvre. 2 Il faut donc qu’un responsable soit irréprochable, mari d’une seule femme, modéré dans ses habitudes, réfléchi, ordonné, hospitalier, capable d’enseigner, 3 que ce ne soit pas un ivrogne ni un homme violent, mais un homme raisonnable, non querelleur, non ami de l’argent, 4 un homme qui dirige d’une belle façon sa propre famille, qui tienne ses enfants dans la soumission en toute dignité 5 (car si un homme ne sait pas diriger sa propre famille, comment prendra-t-il soin de l’assemblée de Dieu ?), 6 que ce ne soit pas un homme récemment converti, de peur qu’il se gonfle d’orgueil et tombe sous le coup de la condamnation portée contre le Diable. 7 D’autre part, il faut aussi qu’il reçoive un beau témoignage des gens extérieurs à l’assemblée, afin de ne pas tomber dans le déshonneur et dans un piège du Diable.
      8 De même, il faut que les assistants soient des hommes dignes, qu’ils n’aient pas un langage double, qu’ils soient modérés dans la consommation de vin, non avides d’un gain malhonnête, 9 attachés au saint secret de la foi avec une conscience pure.
      10 De plus, qu’ils soient d’abord mis à l’épreuve quant à leurs aptitudes ; puis, s’ils sont exempts d’accusation, qu’ils servent comme ministres.
      11 De même, il faut que les femmes soient dignes, non calomniatrices, modérées dans leurs habitudes, fidèles en toutes choses.
      12 Les assistants doivent être maris d’une seule femme et diriger d’une belle façon leurs enfants et leur propre famille. 13 Car les hommes qui servent d’une belle façon acquièrent une belle réputation et une grande confiancepour parler de la foi en Christ Jésus.
      14 Je t’écris ces choses, bien que j’espère venir bientôt chez toi, 15 pour que, au cas où je serais retardé, tu saches comment tu dois te conduire dans la maison de Dieu, qui est l’assemblée du Dieu vivant, colonne et soutien de la vérité. 16 Oui, il faut avouer qu’il est grand, le saint secret de l’attachement à Dieu : « Il a été manifesté dans la chair, a été déclaré juste dans l’esprit, est apparu aux anges, a été prêché parmi les nations, a été cru dans le monde, a été enlevé dans la gloire. »





      · 0 replies
    • Eric Ouellet

      Bergers, imitez les Grands Bergers
       
      Christ [...] a souffert pour vous, vous laissant un modèle pour que vous suiviez fidèlement ses traces » (1 PIERRE 2:21)

      QUAND un berger s’intéresse de près au bien-être de son troupeau, les moutons se portent bien. Selon un manuel sur l’élevage ovin, « l’homme qui se contente de mener le troupeau au pré puis n’y prête plus attention risque fort, en quelques années, d’avoir de nombreuses bêtes malades qui ne rapportent rien ». Par contre, quand les moutons reçoivent l’attention voulue, le troupeau prospère.
      La qualité des soins et de l’attention que les bergers du troupeau de Dieu prodiguent à chaque brebis dont ils sont responsables influera sur la santé spirituelle de toute la congrégation. Tu te souviens peut-être que Jésus a eu pitié des foules parce qu’« elles étaient dépouillées et éparpillées comme des brebis sans berger » (Mat. 9:36). Pourquoi se trouvaient-elles en si piteuse condition ? Parce que les hommes chargés d’enseigner la Loi de Dieu au peuple étaient durs, exigeants et hypocrites. Au lieu de soutenir et de nourrir les membres de leur troupeau, les guides spirituels d’Israël posaient sur leurs épaules de « lourdes charges » (Mat. 23:4).
      Les bergers chrétiens d’aujourd’hui, les anciens, ont donc une lourde responsabilité. Les brebis du troupeau sous leur garde appartiennent à Jéhovah ainsi qu’à Jésus, qui s’est présenté comme « l’excellent berger » (Jean 10:11). Les brebis ont été « acheté[e]s à un prix », que Jésus a payé avec son propre « sang précieux » (1 Cor. 6:20 ; 1 Pierre 1:18, 19). Jésus aime tellement les brebis qu’il a bien voulu sacrifier sa vie pour elles. Les anciens ne devraient jamais oublier qu’ils sont des sous-bergers sous la surveillance du Fils bienveillant de Dieu, Jésus Christ, « le grand berger des brebis » (Héb. 13:20).
      Comment les bergers chrétiens devraient-ils traiter les brebis ? Les membres de la congrégation sont exhortés à « obéi[r] à ceux qui [les] dirigent ». De leur côté, les anciens ne doivent pas « commande[r] en maîtres ceux qui sont l’héritage de Dieu » (Héb. 13:17 ; lire 1 Pierre 5:2, 3). Alors comment peuvent-ils diriger le troupeau sans le commander en maîtres ? Autrement dit, comment peuvent-ils répondre aux besoins des brebis sans abuser de l’autorité dont Dieu les a investis ?
      « IL LES PORTERA SUR SON SEIN »
      Parlant de Jéhovah, le prophète Isaïe a déclaré : « Comme un berger il fera paître son troupeau. De son bras il rassemblera les agneaux ; et sur son sein il les portera. Il conduira doucement celles qui allaitent » (Is. 40:11). Cette comparaison montre que Jéhovah se soucie des besoins des membres de la congrégation faibles et vulnérables. De même qu’un berger connaît les besoins particuliers de chaque brebis de son troupeau et se tient prêt à les combler, Jéhovah connaît les besoins des membres de la congrégation et est heureux de leur apporter le soutien voulu. À l’image d’un berger qui, si nécessaire, porte un agneau nouveau-né dans le pli de son vêtement, « le Père des tendres miséricordes » nous portera, ou nous consolera, quand nous serons durement éprouvés ou rencontrerons un besoin particulier (2 Cor. 1:3, 4).

      Quel exemple admirable pour un berger chrétien ! Comme son Père céleste, il lui faut être attentif aux besoins des brebis. S’il est au courant des difficultés qu’elles rencontrent et des besoins qui méritent une attention immédiate, il sera en mesure d’offrir l’encouragement et le soutien nécessaires (Prov. 27:23). Il doit donc bien communiquer avec ses compagnons chrétiens. Tout en respectant la vie privée de chacun, il s’intéresse à ce qu’il voit et entend dans la congrégation, avec amour, il se rend disponible pour « venir en aide aux faibles » (Actes 20:35 ; 1 Thess. 4:11).
      Parlons de la mentalité de bergers que Jéhovah a désapprouvés. Aux jours d’Ézékiel et de Jérémie, Jéhovah a dénoncé ceux qui auraient dû s’occuper de ses brebis, mais ne le faisaient pas. Quand personne ne surveillait les brebis, le troupeau devenait la proie de bêtes sauvages et se dispersait. Ces bergers exploitaient les brebis et, plutôt que de les faire paître, « ils se paissaient eux-mêmes » (Ézék. 34:7-10 ; Jér. 23:1). Le reproche que Dieu leur a fait est tout aussi valable pour les chefs de la chrétienté. Mais il souligne également combien il est important qu’un ancien s’occupe avec sérieux et amour du troupeau de Jéhovah.
      « JE VOUS AI DONNÉ L’EXEMPLE »
      En raison de l’imperfection humaine, certaines brebis peuvent être lentes à comprendre ce que le Berger suprême attend d’elles. Elles ne se conforment pas toujours à un conseil biblique ou ont un comportement trahissant un manque de maturité spirituelle. Comment les anciens doivent-ils réagir ? Ils devraient imiter la patience qu’a eue Jésus envers ses disciples quand ils cherchaient à savoir qui parmi eux serait le plus grand dans le Royaume. Au lieu de perdre patience, Jésus a continué à les enseigner et à leur donner des conseils bienveillants sur la pratique de l’humilité (Luc 9:46-48 ; 22:24-27). En leur lavant les pieds, il leur a fait une démonstration d’humilité, qualité que les surveillants chrétiens sont tenus de manifester (lire Jean 13:12-15 ; 1 Pierre 2:21).
      Le point de vue de Jésus sur le rôle du berger n’était pas le même que celui que Jacques et Jean ont un jour manifesté. Ces deux apôtres cherchaient à s’assurer une place en vue dans le Royaume. Mais Jésus a rectifié cet état d’esprit ainsi : « Vous savez que les chefs des nations dominent sur elles, et que les grands usent d’autorité sur elles. Il n’en sera pas ainsi parmi vous ; mais quiconque voudra devenir grand parmi vous sera votre serviteur » (Mat. 20:25, 26, Bible de Darby). Les apôtres devaient résister à l’envie de « commander en maîtres » leurs compagnons ou de « dominer sur » eux.
      Jésus tient à ce que les bergers chrétiens traitent le troupeau comme lui le traitait. Ils doivent être disposés à servir leurs compagnons, pas les dominer. Paul a manifesté une telle humilité. Il a dit en effet aux anciens de la congrégation d’Éphèse : « Vous savez bien comment, depuis le premier jour où j’ai mis le pied dans le district d’Asie, j’ai été avec vous tout le temps, travaillant comme un esclave pour le Seigneur, avec la plus grande humilité. » L’apôtre souhaitait que ces anciens soutiennent les brebis avec dévouement et humilité. Il a ajouté : « Je vous ai montré en toutes choses que c’est en peinant ainsi que vous devez venir en aide aux faibles » (Actes 20:18, 19, 35). Il a par ailleurs dit aux Corinthiens qu’il ne dominait pas sur leur foi. Il était plutôt leur humble compagnon de travail, pour leur joie (2 Cor. 1:24). C’est un bel exemple d’humilité et de courage pour les anciens de notre époque.
      « FERMEMENT ATTACHÉ À LA PAROLE FIDÈLE »
      Un ancien doit être « fermement attaché à la parole fidèle pour ce qui est de son art d’enseigner » (Tite 1:9). Mais il le sera « dans un esprit de douceur » (Gal. 6:1). Un bon berger chrétien ne force pas une brebis à agir de telle ou telle façon. Non, il réfléchit à la manière dont il stimulera son cœur. Il attirera peut-être son attention sur les principes bibliques à considérer avant de prendre une décision importante. Il reverra avec elle ce que les publications ont dit sur la question. Il l’exhortera à réfléchir aux conséquences de tel ou tel choix sur ses relations avec Jéhovah. Il pourra aussi insister sur l’importance de demander à Dieu sa direction avant de prendre une décision (Prov. 3:5, 6). Ensuite, il la laissera prendre elle-même sa décision (Rom. 14:1-4).
      La seule autorité que les surveillants chrétiens détiennent leur vient des Écritures. Alors ils doivent absolument se servir de la Bible avec habileté et adhérer à son contenu. Ils se garderont ainsi d’un éventuel abus de pouvoir. Car ils ne sont que sous-bergers ; chaque membre de la congrégation est responsable devant Jéhovah et Jésus de ses propres décisions (Gal. 6:5, 7, 8).
      « DES EXEMPLES POUR LE TROUPEAU »
      Après avoir déconseillé aux anciens ( prêtres )« commander en maîtres ceux qui [leur] sont échus en partage », l’apôtre Pierre les exhorte à « devenir des exemples pour le troupeau » (1 Pierre 5:3, note). De quelle façon sont-ils des exemples pour le troupeau ? Prenons deux des choses requises d’un frère qui « aspire à une fonction de surveillant ». Il lui faut être « sain d’esprit » et « présider de belle façon, sa propre maisonnée ». S’il a une famille, il doit la présider de manière exemplaire, car « si quelqu’un [...] ne sait pas présider sa propre maisonnée, comment prendra-t-il soin de la congrégation ( assemblée) de Dieu ? » (1 Tim. 3:1, 2, 4, 5). Il doit également être sain d’esprit, c’est-à-dire comprendre clairement les principes divins et savoir comment les appliquer dans sa propre vie. Il est calme et équilibré et se garde de porter des jugements hâtifs. Autant de qualités qui inspirent confiance aux membres de la congrégation.
      Les surveillants donnent également l’exemple en prenant la tête dans l’œuvre de prédication. Jésus lui-même leur a donné l’exemple à cet égard. La prédication de la bonne nouvelle du Royaume a occupé une grande partie de son activité terrestre. Il a montré à ses disciples comment il fallait l’accomplir (Marc 1:38 ; Luc 8:1). Qu’il est encourageant, de nos jours, de prêcher aux côtés des anciens, de constater leur zèle pour cette œuvre salvatrice et d’apprendre de leurs méthodes d’enseignement ! Leur détermination à consacrer du temps et de l’énergie à la prédication malgré un emploi du temps chargé insuffle du zèle à toute la congrégation. Enfin, les anciens donnent l’exemple en préparant les réunions de la congrégation et en y participant, mais aussi en prenant part à des activités comme le nettoyage et la maintenance de la Salle du Royaume (Éph. 5:15, 16 ; lire (Hébreux 13:7) 
      « SOUTENEZ LES FAIBLES »
      Quand une brebis se blesse ou tombe malade, un bon berger vole à son secours. Pareillement, quand un membre de la congrégation souffre ou a besoin d’une aide spirituelle, les anciens doivent réagir rapidement. Un chrétien âgé ou malade a sans doute besoin d’une aide pratique, mais il a surtout besoin d’un soutien spirituel et d’encouragements (1 Thess. 5:14). Les jeunes rencontrent peut-être des difficultés. Résister aux « désirs de la jeunesse » en est une (2 Tim. 2:22). Le berger doit donc rendre régulièrement visite aux membres de la congrégation dans le but de comprendre les épreuves qu’ils traversent et de les encourager par des conseils bibliques bien choisis. Quand ces visites pastorales sont faites au bon moment, beaucoup de problèmes peuvent être résolus avant qu’ils ne s’aggravent.
      Et si les difficultés d’un chrétien s’aggravent au point de menacer sa santé spirituelle ? « Quelqu’un parmi vous est-il malade ?, a demandé le rédacteur biblique Jacques. Qu’il appelle à lui les anciens de la congrégation, et qu’ils prient sur lui, l’enduisant d’huile au nom de Jéhovah. Et la prière de la foi rétablira celui qui est souffrant, et Jéhovah le relèvera. De plus, s’il a commis des péchés, il lui sera pardonné » (Jacq. 5:14, 15). Même quand un chrétien « souffrant » « appelle à lui les anciens », ces derniers doivent lui venir en aide dès qu’ils sont au courant de son état. Les anciens qui prient avec sont là pour le fortifier et aussi tout frères en difficulté, et ils les soutiennent, se révèlent une source de réconfort et d’encouragement (lire Isaïe 32:1, 2).
      Dans tout ce qu’ils font au sein de l’organisation de Jéhovah, les bergers s’efforcent d’imiter « le grand berger », Jésus Christ. Grâce à l’aide de ces hommes dignes de confiance, le troupeau se fortifie et prospère. Tout cela nous réjouit profondément et nous pousse à louer le plus Grand Berger sans pareil,  notre Dieu Jéhovah



      · 1 reply
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