Jehovah’s Witnesses seek help from Kremlin
Vasily Kalin, the leader of the Russian branch of Jehovah's Witnesses, has requested Mikhail Fedotov, the head of the Russian human rights council, to prevent what he fears is a complete ban on the religion. According to the Russian branch, this conservative section of Christianity has approximately 170,000 Russian faithful spread all over the country.
Jehovah's Witnesses have suffered increasing scrutiny in the recent years. A ban has also been imposed on distributing its literature. This ban was legitimized by invoking broad meaning anti-extremism laws in Russia.
Russian authorities ended an investigation last February, inspecting the Jehovah's Witnesses headquarters located in St. Petersburg. The action, many believe, will lead to an eventual ban. Kalin said such a ban will send the wrong message.
The Russian Government has formulated a set of anti-terrorism laws which are deemed as controversial by legal experts all over the world. Russian anti-terrorism laws have the potential to end the spread of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the country. The laws were a long time coming. For a number of years, Russian authorities at the border had refused to let Jehovah's Witnesses into the country. Other coercive methods like raids during the time of Sunday services and shutting down houses where the order generally met were also used by Russian law enforcement. The religious leaders of the group said their condition has become critical.
Russian prosecutors, however, have a different story to tell. They accuse Jehovah's Witness members of indulging in extremist activities. They also allege that the group has indoctrinated a number of young individuals and tore away families.
Members of Jehovah's Witness in Russia beg to differ. The 170,000-member community in says they only want to spread God's word. They added the posture taken by the Russian Government will lead to its supporters being targeted by extremists. The group was banned by Taganrog, a Russian city in 2014. A number of other bans were also implemented, like in the cities of Abinsk and Samara.
Russia's Jehovah's Witnesses are no strangers to harassment: but now officials are set to shut them down for good https://t.co/9T2HpO411P
— Katie Davies (@katiedavies91) March 7, 2017
This confrontational stand taken by the Russian Government has not escaped the attention of Jehovah's Witnesses International, the global body of the sect. Its spokesperson, Robert Warren, said such a stance can be regarded as a potent threat. He further said this decision could have an influence far outside Russia, and may include the full territory of what was once termed as the Soviet Union.