World opinion favors Jehovah's Witnesses versus Russian state


by Viktor Boiarchuk

FTimes, 13 May 2017


The period from 20 April to the present was extremely troublesome for people of faith. Each person found for himself a hidden subtext in the Russian Supreme Court's decision to rule the activity of the "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia" to be extremist, which will entail the closure of the organization. To a great extent, this means that nobody will see on the streets of his city kind elderly women and friendly young people distributing among the populace brochures about the imminent advent of the Kingdom of God, reports.


It would seem that these people could evoke such emotions connected with extremism that would seem such as would not offend even flies. Which is really a rejection of their persistent chatter and peculiar opinion about the role of man in God's purposes. Evidently, the verdict of the Supreme Court of the RF was dictated by serious grounds for its adoption.


Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia: Reaction of the international community


The voice of the noisy "Jehovists," as they are contemptuously called in Russia and other Slavic countries, was immediately heard by their fellow believers in other countries and also by the legal community of Europe. Reaction to the decision of the Supreme Court turned out to be extremely negative. The German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, along with the Minister for Human Rights of the European Union, Joyce Annelay, stressed that if the government of the Russian federation will not give heed to the fundamental human rights and freedom of citizens of their own country, then it should give head at least to its own independently drafted legislation.


And this legislation, in its turn, confirms the freedom of each person to free expression and religious confession. More than 170,000 followers of the faith of the Jehovah's Witnesses experience great dissonance when comparing these words with real facts. Of course, the lawyers of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia can still file an appeal against the decision of the Russian Supreme Court in the European Court for Human Rights. Most likely the appeal will be granted, although it will not be a surprise for anyone if the Supreme Court does not submit to it and the state, even in the event that the verdict is challenged, will implement a tactic of passive displacement of followers of this faith to the margins of society, which still is a violation of human rights.


The development of the conflict within the state will only serve for a yet greater negative view of Russia in the world as a country where such concepts as tolerance and respect for others' faith are alien.


Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia: Earlier episodes of struggle of authorities in Russia with the Jehovists


Sooner or later, this or a similar decision will have to stir up the world community, since pressure on this organization on the part of the state has been conducted for a rather long time at the regional level. If the court's decision fails to be appealed at the supreme instance, then the organization will have to be liquidated and all its property will be transferred to the state. Fellow believers throughout the world are expressing sympathy and are ready to provide help of any type in order to preserve the organization in Russia.


However, back in soviet times Russia was able to fight against the Jehovists. Officially the organization appeared in Russia back in the time of Nicholas II. In soviet times adherents of this faith were persecuted and subjected to repressions and imprisoned in Siberian and Central Asian camps. Jehovah's Witnesses themselves did not offer resistance, since this violates their convictions. In our time the Russian authorities, repeating the persecutions of the early 1990s, in 2004 tried to prohibit the activity of the organization, based on incitement of hatred, manifestation of disrespect to other faiths, and distribution of forbidden materials.


As is known, the brochures "Awake" and "Watchtower" do not contain any extremist materials, so that one can draw the conclusion that the Supreme Court's decision was dictated by abject adherence to popular prejudices and stereotypes. In any case, it is clear that the international community will not let pass such a violation of the rights of believing people. (tr. by PDS, posted 16 May 2017)


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