Outspoken Orthodox figure defends Jehovah's Witnesses


Deacon Kuraev intercedes for Jehovah's Witnesses from Yalta. RPTs cleric exposes manipulation and lies in TV news

Obzor, 22 March 2019


The well-known Orthodox missionary and archdeacon of the Russian Orthodox Church (RPTs), Andrei Kuraev, pointed out explicit falsehoods in a video of the television channel "Russia" describing the liquidation of a cell of Jehovah's Witnesses in Yalta. In practically every sentence of the news, apparently created with the support of the F.S.B that conducted the liquidation, propagandistic manipulation and distortion of facts are used, which even the Orthodox cleric who is clearly not sympathetic to the Jehovah's Witnesses paid attention to.


Obzor has already written about the arrest of members of the religious organization in Yalta that is persecuted in Russia.


Thus, at the very beginning of the news it is emphasized that every member of the congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, and the congregation itself, have a Ukrainian past. But even the head of Crimea, Sergei Aksenov, and the deputies of the State Duma have a Ukrainian past, as do all parishes. Moreover, the Simferopol and Crimean dioceses remain a part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which is subordinate to Kiev.


The news goes on: "And it turned out that the financing of the essentially extremist organization is conducted from abroad."


"Bunk. It is precisely a principle of this sect that they collect money from their own people and purchase magazines printed in Brooklyn," Father Andrei Kuraev commented about this excerpt on his LiveJournal page, titling the post "They have no shame. . . ."


Actually, Jehovah's Witnesses have a strictly arranged hierarchical structure where rank and file members purchase magazines, which are then distributed to interested people.


"On the bed there were dozens of religious books of the forbidden extremist sect of Jehovah's Witnesses," the clip on the state television reports.


Even in the picture shown it is obvious that among the books is a concordance of the Bible from a Brussels Catholic publisher, and also translations of the Bible; in accordance with Russian legislation, texts of Sacred Scripture may not be considered as extremist and forbidden. Several other books shown in the clip also are not on the list of extremist literature. But this doesn't stop the propagandists.


"Officially, the creator of the Yalta cell worked as a janitor, but during the search operatives found more than a half million rubles in various currencies. Dollars, euros, rubles, and Ukrainian hryvnia. The man admitted these were contributions from abroad for conducting new congresses of the sect on the territory of Crimea," the author of the piece continued, commenting on the operational film provided by the F.S.B.


"Again, bunk. It is clear that the Jehovists are not planning to conduct any 'congresses' in the present situation. And they had already long before collected the money for them within the country. A half million rubles isn't very much for an organization that is forbidden to keep money in the bank," Deacon Kuraev exposes this "attack."


The Kingdom Hall shown in the piece is an ordinary building with retaining walls, which the state television channel describes as a "mansion" and "chic house."


"This building has not been used since 2017, but the members of the extremist organization went underground and they gather in safe houses," the TV channel criticizes the Jehovah's Witnesses. But if parishioners of the Moscow Orthodox church in Ukraine are going to behave in the same way, Russian television will, on the contrary, portray them as martyrs and confessors, who despite the "persecution" (so far, imaginary and not real like that against Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia) are not betraying their convictions.


The piece goes on: "They influence a person's psyche. At first they portray the world in such colors as if the whole world is cruel, but here there is another aspect," a former convert of the sect of Jehovah's Witnesses, Sergei Marchenko, explained.


Deacon Andrei Kuraev objects: all sorts of "elders" in Orthodox monasteries and "Pochaev leaflets" and such literature function in the very same way. On the internet one can find dozens of stories about the fates of Russians who were broken by incompetent spiritual directors, but the television channel is in no hurry to post labels.


"This is Sergei Marchenko, a former devotee of the sect. He says that Jehovah's Witnesses are a totalitarian sect, a very radical organization, that forbids its followers to go out and vote," the Russia television channel continues.


"Actually, a great sin,"  Father Andrei notes sarcastically on his LiveJournal page, "It reduces United Russia's percentage."


The accusation goes on. They say the Jehovah's Witnesses forbid children to study in schools and to have recourse to medical aid, which is an explicit falsehood. Jehovah's Witnesses' children study in regular schools and the only medical aid they refuse is blood transfusion, citing the Old Testament prohibition on using blood.


To illustrate "outrages" at Jehovah's Witnesses' meetings the state television even uses a tape from a meeting of neo-Pentecostal charismatics, which the Jehovah's Witnesses have nothing to do with and who are not banned in Russia. Jehovah's Witnesses' meetings are conducted entirely differently.


Jehovah's Witnesses is an international religious organization with more than 8.3 million adherents throughout the world. In 2009-2010 a widespread campaign against Jehovah's Witnesses was started. Reports about searches, detentions, confiscation of property, and disruption of worship services appeared nearly weekly in news media. In early 2013, courts in Rostov oblast, Altai republic, Kemerovo oblast, and Krasnodar territory ruled 68 titles of their publications to be extremist. On 15 March 2017, the Ministry of Justice filed a lawsuit in the Russian Supreme Court for finding the religious organization "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia" to be extremist and for banning its activity and liquidating it. The lawsuit was granted on 20 April 2017. The organization is considered extremist because of its possession of periodic publications that earlier decisions of courts have ruled to be extremist because of criticism of other religions and of claims that only the faith of Jehovah's Witnesses is true. (tr. by PDS, posted 23 March 2019)


Background article:
Another report of suppressing Jehovah's Witnesses in Crimea
March 20, 2019

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