Orthodox bishop warns against sentencing Jehovah's Witnesses



The Kaliningrad diocese supported the proposal of the Ministry of Justice to close the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, but it spoke against criminal prosecution of adherents of this organization. This was reported to by the director of the Evangelism Department of the diocese, Priest Alexander Permiakov.


"Persecution will lead to energizing the organization and it will begin to grow. This is a characteristic of our mentality. The Russian person always will defend the weak, the oppressed, and one who is bullied; it is not important what kind of faith he has and what political views," Alexander Permiakov thinks. "I am sure that many Orthodox will act in the defense of Jehovah's Witnesses, and some will even join this organization simply because they feel the need to protect the persecuted person. Therefore criminal prosecutions should not be begun in any case."


At the same time, he called closing the central office of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia a good idea. He said this will help the government to regulate their activity. Permiakov thinks that Jehovists are a very closed group that affects society negatively, breaks up families, and arranges persecution of those who desert their ranks.


Ivan Belenko, an employee of the press service of the centralized religious organization Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, told that they still have not received the order regarding suspension of their activity. However searches have already been conducted in several offices. He said that at the present time there are in Russia on the order of 200 thousand adherents of this religious organization. He called the initiative of the Ministry of Justice "unparalleled in the world," and he also expressed the opinion that after the Jehovah's Witnesses, similar accusations will be brought against representatives of other confessions: Baptists, Krishnaites, and Scientologists.


"In the worst scenario it remains only to hope in God and to follow the words of Christ," Belenko said. "And as regards judicial actions, we and our fellow believers in the West will turn to international instances."


According to information from the chairman of the committee of the Kaliningrad organization of Jehovah's Witnesses, Nikkolai Ter-Avanesov, there are on the order of 2,000 adherents in the region, and there is one gathering place of Jehovists in practically every city.


"We are law-abiding people and therefore if we are banned, then there will be no meetings. But perhaps the court will not make such a decision, and therefore we are still not panicking," Ter-Avanesov commented.


It was previously learned that the Ministry of Justice suspended the activity of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. The ministry accused the religious organization of extremism.


In October 2015, inspections by the prosecutor's office and police were conducted in several cities of Kaliningrad province. Two reports were composed regarding administrative violations of law for conducting religious events.


In 2011, 1,700 members of the organization assembled on the territory of a former farm in Polessk district. Police officers broke up the unsanctioned action. (tr. by PDS, posted 29 March 2017)

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