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Persecutors Pile on Jehovah’s Witnesses, in Russia and Worldwide


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Guest Indiana

Even Putin has suggested that the campaign against the religious minority may be unwarranted.

Christians are the most widely persecuted religious believers around the globe. They are the most numerous people of faith worldwide. They also tend to evangelize, threatening established religions. Moreover, especially in some Muslim nations, local Christians are assumed to be strong supporters of Israel and agents of America and U.S. foreign policy. The result is an increasingly tenuous existence for Christians in many lands.

However, smaller faiths tend to face more intense hostility. Jews, of course, are the traditional scapegoats for numerous ills. Bahá’is are seen by Muslims as apostates. And Jehovah’s Witnesses now are under sustained attack in Russia.

JWs, as they are known (and call themselves), might seem an odd addition to that list. While active, their numbers remain relatively low, about 8.5 million worldwide. Their largest national home is America. The next two are Mexico and Brazil, which exist in a region with the least religious persecution. JWs reject any political role. They do not threaten the existing order anywhere.

Yet Russia has imposed a six-year sentence on a Danish JW, Dennis Christensen, for “organizing the activity of an extremist organization.” In 2016 the government recognized the JW faith as “extremist”; the following year the country’s supreme court ruled the JW church to be an “extremist organization” and banned it. Although Christensen knew that his faith had been outlawed, explained the prosecutor, the JW unsurprisingly continued to proselytize, hold meetings, and distribute literature. He was arrested in May 2017 at a worship service and is now set to serve six years in a penal colony — which will be decidedly less pleasant than the prisons in Christensen’s homeland.

Unfortunately, he is not the only such victim of Russian persecution. Last year Moscow launched a vigorous nationwide campaign against JWs. Earlier this month the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses published a special report, “Russia: State-Sponsored Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses Continues.”

From September 2017 to January 2019, the church reported, the Putin government has mounted 300 raids, mostly of homes. Twenty-three people have been jailed, 27 have been placed under house arrest, 41 have been ordered to remain in their hometown, and 121 have been placed under investigation. The church has complained that government security agents use “heavy-handed tactics against the Witnesses as though they were dealing with hardened criminals. The authorities point guns in the face of Witnesses, including children and the elderly — and manhandle them.” Property worth $90 million is subject to confiscation. More than 100 properties, including the large administrative center, have already been seized, and some 300 more face confiscation.

The report goes on to list the other JWs facing charges. They should not be forgotten.

Three currently are on trial: Sergey Skrynnikov, Yuriy Zalipayev, and Arkadya Akopyan. (The latter is 71 years old.)

In pretrial detention are Aleksandr Akopov, Vladimir Atryakhin, Dmitriy Barmakin, Konstantin Bazhenov, Sergey Britvin, Aleksey Budenchuk, Sergey Klimov, Vadim Levchuk, Feliks Makhammadiyev, Valeriy Moskalenko, Georgiy Nikulin, Andrzej Oniszczuk, Konstantin Samsonov, Yuriy Savelyev, Andrey Sazonov, Aleksandr Shevchuk, Nataliya Sorokina, Yevgeniy Spirin, Andrey Stupnikov, Shamil Sultanov, Yeveniy Suvorkov, and Mariya Troshina.

Such a campaign might be appropriate against a terrorist organization. But against a group of religious believers whose behavior is decidedly harmless? The armed assaults demonstrate that the Russian government is determined to halt private worship as well as organizational activity.

For targeting JWs and other peaceful religious minorities, Russia has been designated a “country of particular concern” by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. In its annual report on persecutors worldwide, USCIRF observed that the Putin government has “continued to target ‘nontraditional’ religious minorities, including Jehovah’s Witnesses and Scientologists, with fines, detentions, and criminal charges under the pretext of combating extremism. Most notably, the Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned outright, as was their translation of the Bible, and their followers persecuted nationwide.”

Although Russia has gained the distinction of being just about the only majority-Christian country to persecute, it is not the only nation to ban JWs. Twenty-six Muslim nations do so, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and even reasonably liberal Kuwait, as well as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Somalia, and Yemen. Several are Communist, such as China, North Korea, and Vietnam, or formerly Communist. Eritrea, Lebanon, and Singapore are also on the list.

Why such hostility? The sect was founded in the U.S. in the 1870s. Its doctrines, including non-trinitarianism and teachings on the role of Jesus Christ, differ significantly from those of traditional Christianity, both Protestant and Catholic. JWs rely on their own biblical translation, have a unique eschatology, and are noted for rejecting blood transfusions and refusing to celebrate traditional religious holidays. However, being different isn’t reason for persecution. (I have several JW relatives and friends. Their theology is not for me, but they are uniformly warm, decent people.)

More significant, perhaps, is the separationist nature of JWs. An intense community rather like the Amish, they expel members through disfellowship. They refuse to accord government the respect that public officials crave or to honor the state — to say the Pledge of Allegiance in America, for example, or to serve in the military anywhere. Such attitudes may have generated the Russian claim that they are guilty of “social hostility.” Presumably they are seen as focusing on those within their community rather than without.

Moscow denies that it is persecuting JWs for their beliefs. Rather, explained Vyacheslav Lebedev, chief justice of the Russian Supreme Court, “the situation is actually being presented as if these people are being persecuted for their belief and religious activity. Yet the decision, which was made by the Supreme Court amongst others, is unrelated to religion. It is about a violation of the law, which religious organizations have no right to breach.”

The law bans the faith, so punishing them for exercising their faith is merely punishing a violation of the law. This argument is perfectly Orwellian. Translating Lebedev: We declared your religious faith to be extremist, and you are not allowed to be extremists. So we are arresting you for being extremists. But feel free to practice your faith and have a good day.

Some critics appear to imagine that they are dealing with something akin to al-Qaeda. For instance, Roman Silantyev of Moscow State Linguistic University complained that “this sect promotes external and inner extremism, inciting hatred to those who think and believe in a different way and bullying their own members.” He went on to claim that “recognizing this sect as extremist gave a possibility to dozens of our citizens to leave this concentration camp.” Silantyev appears not to understand religion: Despite the threat of arrest and prison, JWs continue to meet, because they are operating out of faith rather than compulsion.

JWs also are known for evangelism, highlighted by their going door to door. This stirs harsh resistance by majority faiths, especially those that are as much political as religious. The Russian Orthodox Church is hostile even to traditional Christian faiths. It would be difficult for its hierarchy to advocate banning Catholic and Protestant churches with roots as deep as its own, but JWs are an easier target.

President Vladimir Putin admitted as much. When asked why his government targeted JWs, Putin dismissed the charge. But, he admitted, “our society does not consist solely of religious sects. Ninety percent of citizens of the Russian Federation or so consider themselves Orthodox Christians. . . . It is also necessary to take into account the country and the society in which we live.” Translation: JW’s are different and don’t fit in. This attitude also may explain attacks by groups and individuals on JWs, their homes, and meeting halls.

Putin offered a glimmer of hope in December when he allowed that one should not “label representatives of religious communities as member of destructive, much less terrorist organizations” and acknowledged that he did not “quite understand why they are persecuted,” so “this should be looked into, this must be done.” Although Putin’s references to human rights should be treated with more than a few grains of salt, he appears to respect religion, and these comments are hard to explain other than as an expression of genuine puzzlement over so much effort being expended to eliminate an evidently nonexistent threat.

Russia’s persecution of JWs pales compared with the punishment, including violence, inflicted on religious minorities elsewhere. Consider the horrors that continue to afflict religious minorities in the Middle East. Conflict zones in Iraq and Syria have shrunk, but Christians, Yazidis, and others continue to be at risk. Both sides of the Sunni–Shia divide, represented by Saudi Arabia and Iran, are inhospitable homes for non-Muslims, as well as for the “wrong” Muslims. American client states, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, are little better.

 

Nevertheless, the precarious status of JWs worldwide shows the breadth and reach of the problem of religious persecution. In Russia, thousands of people, largely ignored owing to their small numbers and relative isolation, are being punished for their faith, persecuted for no plausible reason. The arbitrariness of the state is matched only by the hardship inflicted on the affected individuals and families.

The freedom of Jehovah’s Witnesses should be on the religious-liberty agenda. Indeed, given the concern expressed even by Putin, American and European officials should raise the issue when they meet their Russian counterparts. The agenda with Russia is crowded. However, liberty of conscience is always worth defending. Especially when success doesn’t require armed campaigns and regime change.

https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/03/jehovahs-witnesses-persecuted-russia-worldwide/

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Sigh...how can people be so ridiculous? NOBODY floods the field with letters for every cause under the sun. EVERYONE does it for the cause they hold most dear.

@Srecko Sostar Ramzan Kadyrov has nothing to do with the ban of JWs. He is part of the Kremlin however his dealings with homosexuals is focused on Chechnya. That being said, there is a complete t

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53 minutes ago, Indiana said:

Although Christensen knew that his faith had been outlawed, explained the prosecutor, the JW unsurprisingly continued to proselytize, hold meetings, and distribute literature

They actually don’t distribute literature there. Their proselytizing consists of only speaking from the Bible itself. They have conformed to all laws, draconian though they may be, and the recent incidences of torture are considered by believers to be efforts to manufacture evidence that they are not.

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Oh, and here from the article is another example of 1984: 

“The law bans the faith, so punishing them for exercising their faith is merely punishing a violation of the law. This argument is perfectly Orwellian. Translating Lebedev: We declared your religious faith to be extremist, and you are not allowed to be extremists. So we are arresting you for being extremists. But feel free to practice your faith and have a good day.”

Does it square with other applications of 1984 that you have seen, @James Thomas Rook Jr.?

 

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1 hour ago, Indiana said:

President Vladimir Putin admitted as much. When asked why his government targeted JWs, Putin dismissed the charge. But, he admitted, “our society does not consist solely of religious sects. Ninety percent of citizens of the Russian Federation or so consider themselves Orthodox Christians. . . . It is also necessary to take into account the country and the society in which we live.” Translation: JW’s are different and don’t fit in. This attitude also may explain attacks

Violence of all sort is unacceptable, intolerable. But, we all participate in it in some way, to some extent. Think about it!!

Now please, go to past and recall how God's chosen people, named Israel, dealt with people who didn't fit in their society. 

Now, go in today reality of another God's chosen people aka Jehovah's Witnesses. In their society the  rules     are based on similar or same "principles". Person from out side, aka "worldly people", or "questionable" member, don't fit in also. Yes, JW members do not put problematic member or ex-JW into prison, Siberia etc, but they also have "violent" methods on how to deal with such one. These methods are shunning, ignoring, conditioning.

Yes, exposing another man, your neighbor, even family member, to such types of church punishments because he/she do not fit to your religious ideas and customs (doctrinal matters) is showing strong violence and cruelty, with same or similar effects as physical violence.  

If some JW people try to look in desired future time, according to his/her hope, then we have another level of possible violence that major group, aka all JW worshipers in New World, will show to all individuals who will not fit to JW picture of life in Paradise under JW Society Condition. And what that will be, how will it look like? Maybe we can found out something from history and present time of all this God's Worshipers! 

 

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57 minutes ago, TrueTomHarley said:

They have conformed to all laws,

What reports, who confirms this claim?

JW literature was always give reports and experience how members obeyed more god aka organizational WT instructions than governments. Secret meetings, secret preaching, secret transport of publications, hiding of all sorts. JW History not supports claim you presented.

I am living Witness, because lived in part of the world where JW activity was cca 2/3 free, 1/3 not tolerated.

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It’s pretty well documented that they may removed literature from their Kingdom Halls and public ministry long ago. Whether some have it squirreled away in other places, I wouldn’t know. I would think it unlikely because nobody is crowing about finding it. When police did find some at Kingdom Halls, security cameras clearly showed they had planted it there themselves.

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9 hours ago, TrueTomHarley said:

It’s pretty well documented that they may removed literature from their Kingdom Halls

Possible.  Do you know where they removed literature? In recycling paper boxes? Or in basements?  

9 hours ago, TrueTomHarley said:

When police did find some at Kingdom Halls, security cameras clearly showed they had planted it there themselves.

Maybe police playing this game with "theocratic warfare" rules. 

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13 hours ago, Srecko Sostar said:

Maybe police playing this game with "theocratic warfare" rules. 

I think they are finding it a challenge operating in a land where the constitution says they can be Jehovah’s Witnesses but the law says they can be Jehovah’s Witnesses as long as they are not Jehovah’s Witnesses. This may make perfect sense to you, but I think they are finding it a challenge.

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31 minutes ago, TrueTomHarley said:

in a land where the constitution says they can be Jehovah’s Witnesses but the law says they can be Jehovah’s Witnesses as long as they are not Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Sort of Patriot law, or anti-terror legislative as in other countries. Question is, what inspired, motivated Russian government to put JW on list. JW people "preaching"? JW Religious legislative and teachings can be in some aspects recognized as "extremism". And they are. So, why to be so surprised with measures of states? They protect their interests, as WT protects their interests too.

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On 3/1/2019 at 12:41 PM, TrueTomHarley said:

1984

I love that book. With each chapter, with each situation, you start to realize how things of today mirrors that of the book of George Orwell. That being said, it is very tragic as to how no one sees the timeline, and or the truth of the matter with all things Russia, you'd think people vanishing off the streets in some parts of Russia was a red flag, but no.

The irony is, such ones would applaud Russia and side with them on their actions, but in the end, they would be overwhelmed by the one they called and saw as an ally. Reminds me of the Harlot and the beast, and how the beast turned on her.

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@BillyTheKid46 Russian torture is something that not many Russians talk about. Those who commit these acts would claim it is not true until information and or proof of it surfaces, and then suddenly after it surfaces, it as if it does not exist, but the scars it left on the victims and their family persists. Things such as this example: https://www.rferl.org/a/russian-makarov-prison-torture-claim-walks-free-serving-term/29521051.html

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By now, news of the vicious anti-LGBT campaign in the Russian republic of Chechnya has made its way around the world. The evidence is clear. Hundreds of men have been detained, beaten, humiliated and tortured — for the sole offense of being who they are. Russian reporters have confirmed at least three extrajudicial killings. Victims continue to share horrific accounts of torture facilities. The Chechen government’s efforts to deny its crimes are less than convincing. “You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic,” as one spokesman put it. - https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/democracy-post/wp/2017/04/25/eastern-europe-must-break-its-silence-on-russias-anti-gay-campaign/?utm_term=.d267c18b498e

Would WTJWorg take stand for rights of these community too? They are also "persecuted" by the King of the North, and their human rights are violated.

Inside WTJWorg comunity rules not allowed this way of living for people who are what they are, who not fit in. WTJworg  bans that this sort of people come to be JW members and live and practice their way of living. Is this religious stand also sort of "extremism", Patriot law based on religious beliefs?  

Also, as another examples for illustration, we can count this - WTJWorg intolerant view; on worldly education, interfaith marriage, some medical treatments, social contacts with unbelievers (only for purpose of preaching). Very, very poor or complete lack of charity work for non JW community (preaching is not charity work).  

So, if WTJWorg are firm and ready to defend their view on who and how can be part of their community, WHY is so problematic for JW people to recognize and accept how similar and same right have Russian community, nation?

Answer is; have, get your own country, territory and Land Law that suits to your Way of living and Beliefs

 

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