First they came for the Jehovah's Witnesses, then . . .


Who of believers is next in line for liquidation, ban of activity, and prosecution for extremism in Russia?

BBC Russian Service, 13 April 2017


In April in the Russian Supreme Court began proceedings in the case for recognizing the religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses to be extremist and for liquidation of all of its structures in Russia.


The initiator of the proceedings was the Ministry of Justice of Russia, which accuses the organization of conducting extremist activity and demands its prohibition.


In the event of the satisfaction of this lawsuit, adherents of the Jehovah's Witnesses will be liable for criminal prosecution.


At the present time the activity of the organization is suspended until the end of the proceedings in the Supreme Court.


In the course of the hearings, lawyers for the organization have noted that the ban affects about 170 thousand adherents of the movement and about 400 organizations functioning in various regions.


The BBC Russian Service spoke with representatives of other religious associations about the trial of the Jehovah's Witnesses and the consequences of such bans.




Oleg Goncharov, the first deputy of the chairman of the European Division of the General Conference of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church:


"Our church is not afraid of such a prosecution and it does not see a connection with the case of the Jehovah's Witnesses. The accusations are connected with the fact that several Russian courts have ruled literature of this organization to be extremist. We, Adventists, do not have a single such case.


"We have had two precedents because of the law on evangelistic activity: in Chita our minister was fined because of identification markings of a brochure, and also in Nizhny Novgorod province personnel of law enforcement agencies tried to haul in one of our pastors on the basis that he supposedly was engaged in missionary activity, but the case did not go to court.


"We express regret that in our country the trial of the Jehovah's Witnesses is proceeding. Although we do not agree with this organization on many matters, as believing people we sympathize with this group of believing people."




Natalia Alekseeva, director of relations with society of the Center of Administration of Activity for Promotion of Dianetics and Scientology:


"We do not discuss politics. We are outside of it and we obey the law and do not violate anything. We always say that Scientology conducts useful social activity: anti-drug programs, work with youth, restoration of morals in society, and educational activity on human rights. We consider that the government should support such activity and not conduct inspections.


"Certainly we are worried and fearful because of the situation with the Jehovah's Witnesses. Peaceful citizens should not be considered to be extremists. These are people who do not bear arms and who read and study the Bible."




Aleksei Liubchenko, editor of newspaper "Molokane":


"We are not afraid; why be afraid? We are an indigenous Russian confession; we date our beginning from the 17th-18th centuries. There is pressure on us from other confessions, but the more pressure, the stronger our faith.


"In particular, there is pressure on me as a newspaper editor. It comes through activists of the Russian Orthodox Church and apparently through them from the government. I connect this pressure with our activity, but closure is far off. But these are special cases. It is now hard on everybody because of the criminal regime."




Aleksei Smirnov, president of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists:


"At the present moment there is not any pressure on our organization. I am not a strong prophet so as to predict. Experience and history say that in a democratic state, democratic norms should operate in relations of the state with religious organizations, and in order to stop illegal activity law enforcement agencies exist.


"Prohibition of an organization because somebody committed some crime is not an entirely proper act. But the possibility of future prosecution is a question for God and not for us."




Vadim Borison, vice –president of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness in Russia:


"I would not say that we are experiencing against us such tendencies [as Jehovah's Witnesses have] and I hope that we will not experience them. I would not call this pressure, but in the country as a whole some sort of sorting out in all spheres is occurring. But this is not clear to us.


"We are not experiencing pressure, but we are experiencing a natural interest in us on the part of the Ministry of Justice, and therefore we feel that we should be understood and clear as an organization" (tr. by PDS, posted 13 April 2017)


Russian original posted on Portal-Credo.Ru, 13 April 2017

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