Veteran rights advocate supports Jehovah's Witnesses


by Lev Levinson, 14 April 2016


The Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia received an official warning, signed on 2 March by a deputy prosecutor general of the RF. Viktor Grin characterized the activity of the Jehovah's Witnesses as "extremist" and he prescribes a two-month period for removal of all "violations." "Otherwise the center will be subject to liquidation," the press service of the Administrative Center reports.


The threat of liquidation is no longer to a separate local organization (of which there already are many examples) but to the entire community of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, by means of declaring their organization extremist. This places believers of this confession in a situation that is worse than it was in the years of the Khrushchev persecutions. At that time they were branded as "anti-state, anti-soviet, and a fanatical sect;" members of the community were held to account and were placed under continuous surveillance while their leaders and activists were subjected to forced exile. Under Stalin, there were no special repressions against that religious movement because they were subject to elimination along with other believers and the people as a whole. If the prosecutor general carries out the declaration and a court supports these insane demands, then any public confession by Jehovah's Witnesses of their faith, whether it be a meeting, a sermon, distribution of literature, or material mutual aid—all of this will become criminal activity on a whole mass of antiextremist articles of the Criminal Code and will place the believers in the very same situation that Jehovah's Witnesses were in in Hitler's Germany. And there they were in the same situation as the Jews.


"On the territory of the German reich, the course was taken of systematic destruction of Jehovah's Witnesses. In the early 1930s they numbered more than 20,000 persons. They were all declared enemies of the nation, state, and society and the teaching of this religious organizations was declared 'dangerous for the German race. . . .' In the years of Nazism, many, many thousands of believers wound up in concentration camps, and they were forced into hiding or escape from Europe" (I.M. Sovetov. "Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia: from Persecution to Recognition," Freedom of Conscience in Russia: Historical and Contemporary Aspects: Collection of Reports and Materials of District Academic Seminars and Conferences, 2002-2004. Moscow: Russian Association of Researchers of Religion, 2004. page 454)


It is safe to predict that after some time Jehovah's Witnesses will again receive in Russia certification as victims of political repressions. Many believers of the older generation have such certification, issued with the participation of that same prosecutor general's office. Including the coordinator of the Guidance Committee of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, Vasily Mikhailovich Kalin.


In the world there are more than 6 million "extremist" Jehovah's Witnesses. Everywhere they operate freely, except in such countries as Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and North Korea. Why is this one of the most peaceful Christian churches so hated by totalitarian regimes? In the first place, for their doctrinal pacifism—unconditional refusal of military service. Hanging over the Jehovah's Witnesses is the threat of persecution, the consequence of the militarization of Russian society. But it is just they, principled antimilitarists, who are protected by the Russian constitution, which guarantees the right of refusing military service on the basis of religious confession and other worldview reasons. In the more than 10 years of the operation of the law on alternative service, it is Jehovah's Witnesses who have constituted the majority of those opting for civilian social service. Since appealing to membership in an extremist organization will be impossible, if it is deemed to be extremist followers of this religion will be threatened with prison again on this basis: for refusal to serve in the army. (tr. by PDS, posted 15 April 2016)

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