COLLECTIVE OPEN LETTER FROM WIVES OF CITIZENS DETAINED FOR FAITH
Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 7 June 2018
On 7 June 2018, an open collective letter from wives of citizens who were arrested for faith was sent to the head of and to all members of the Council for Development of Civil Society and Human Rights under the president of the Russian federation. The text of the appeal is published below.
The letter begins with the words: "An open letter to you is our cry of despair. People dear to us . . . have been thrown behind bars on suspicion that they, along with us, our children, and friends read the commandments of the Bible and pray to God."
To the Council for Development of Civil Society and Human Rights under the president of the Russian Federation.
Esteemed Mikhail Alexandrovich!
Esteemed members of the Council on Human Rights!
This open letter to you is our cry of despair. People who are dear to us—husbands, providers, fathers of our children, peaceful, honest, and kind-hearted people-- have been thrown behind bars on suspicion that, along with us, our children, and friends they have read the commandments of the Bible and prayed to God whose name is inscribed in the Bible as Jehovah.
As of the present, seventeen believers are already languishing in investigation holding cells of Russia. One of them has been held in custody for more than a year now. Another dozen of believers in eleven regions of Russia are held under house arrest and on a pledge not to depart. With every day their number is continually growing. Considering that there are in Russia 175,000 adherents of the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses, we are alarmed by the question: how many other tens, hundreds, or thousands of prisoners of conscience will it take to put an end to this unjust criminal prosecution of people for faith in God?
Under the pretext of a struggle with extremism, many of us and even our children, have been threatened by OMON troops with weapons and forced to lie on the floor. Searches have been conducted in our homes and telephones and computers have been confiscated from us, which makes it so that we cannot live and work normally. Family photographs, passports and other documents, and Bibles have been confiscated. Law enforcement agencies are trying to force us to live in fear and to shudder at every knock on the door or sound of sirens, expecting arrest merely for our faith. Some believers have already been expelled from enterprises after many years of unexceptional work merely for the reason that the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia has been forbidden. We cannot find an answer to the question: why in our country do they subject us to such harassment, and which religion's followers will be made to be the next victims after us?
The law enforcement agencies explain the persecution of our husbands for faith in God by the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of 20 April 2017, which liquidated all legal entities of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia.
At the same time, both the Ministry of Justice of the RF during judicial proceedings in the Supreme Court and the government of the Russian Federation after the rendering of the decision have frequently declared officially that this judicial decision does not entail the violation of the rights of citizens to freedom of religious confession.
The aforementioned decision of the Supreme Court actually did not prohibit the religion of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, and it pertains exclusively to legal entities. So then why do law enforcement agencies act contrary to the will of the government of our country? Who in our country now benefits from the massive repression of believers? Why are our relatives accused of a serious crime with the prospect of spending from 6 to 10 years in prison for alleged extremist activity under article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the RF? Why do law enforcement agencies mistakenly interpret peaceful confession of faith in God as participation in an extremist organization?
Esteemed members of the council: help us receive answers to these questions.
In such monstrous circumstances, many of us fear for the future of our children. In our country there have been created preconditions for removing children from their parents, whose faith in God is declared to be "illegal." In this regard it is very alarming to hear reports that in educational and medical institutions information is being collected about children from families of Jehovah's Witnesses. It is not surprising that practically every week whole families of our fellow believers give up everything and, in order to save their children, are fleeing abroad and requesting political asylum.
In exchange for freedom and a peaceful life, we are advised to renounce our faith. This is not a figure of speech. Investigators are suggesting, literally, to sign a paper in order to avoid punishment for "extremism." Otherwise, they say, no lawyers can help us. But we cannot cease believing in God. That is a right that every person possesses from the moment of birth. The Russian Federation is a multi-confessional state, and we, as citizens of Russia, have the right to count on respect and protection of our rights on the part of the state. We do not ask for any kind of special privilege. We ask only for one thing: please, protect our rights.
Esteemed members of the council! Real terror is now being unfolded against a whole religion, one of the largest Christian religions in Russia. Basic human rights are being violated: the right to freedom and personal inviolability, the right to personal dignity, the right to privacy, the right to the inviolability of residence, freedom of conscience, and freedom of thought, freedom of religious confession, and the right to private property.
If the impending catastrophe is not halted, it will happen before your eyes. We are sure that you now are able to prevent this! We urgently ask you to pass this information on to the president of the Russian Federation, and also to use all measures provided by law to restore the rights of believers!
With respect, the wives of persons who are presently in custody:
Alena Vilitkevich (Bashkiria)
Anna Zyablova (Magadan oblast)
Yolia Klimova (Tomsk oblast)
Galina Kochneva (Orenburg oblast)
Irina Kristensen (Orel oblast)
Svetlana Markina (Murmansk oblast)
Tatiana Petrova (Magadan oblast)
Anastasia Puida (Khabarovsk territory)
Natalia Suvorova (Orenburg oblast)
Uliana Trofimova (Murmansk oblast)
(tr. by PDS, posted 7 June 2018)
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