A month after Russia’s Supreme Court labeled Jehovah’s Witnesses as being an ‘extremist’ group, a series of raids by the FSB has threatened the existence of the community in the country.A Jehovah’s Witness has been arrested in Russia for engaging in a religious ceremony , despite the ban placed on the organization for being an ‘extremist group.’ The man arrested is a Danish man named Dennis Christensen. He was removed from a worship service last Thursday, followed by a raid carried out by Russian forces searching many homes belonging to Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Now as a faith that isn’t officially recognized by Russia, members of the group are facing increasing oppression by the Russian authorities. Last month, the Supreme Court officially banned the group, which led to the closure of local chapters, confiscation of every religious property and a full ban on their religious practices.
This latest incident happened in the Russian city of Oryol when a group of at least 15 heavily armed law enforcement officers barged into the prayer meeting and arrested the Dane. The officers, members of the Federal Security Service (FSB), took down written statements from the attendees and recorded their names. In addition, the officers even confiscated the phones and electronic gadgets of those present. The FSB is Russia’s primary security agency. The Jehovah’s Witness’ positions on voting, governmental administration, and military service are what put them in an unfavorable light in Russia.
— Simon Botes (@SimonBotes) May 27, 2017
Besides oppression by law enforcers, the community has also been facing an increased rate of targeted crimes by common people as well. For example, a home and several cars belonging to people from this community were attacked by vandals last month. The Sova Center, an NGO that acts as a watchdog against discrimination in Russia, condemned these legally backed acts of violence, calling them blatantly open acts of discrimination.
The Jehovah’s Witness Office of Public Information has published an interim report on the negative effects of the ban in the past six weeks, including raids on at least 18 religious services, and two acts of arson.
Although Russia grants freedom of religion, the freedom is limited only to faiths Russia considers to be part of its tradition., such as Orthodox Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam, leaving minority religions susceptible to discrimination.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have written a letter to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, who monitor the execution of European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) judgments. The letter informs the ECHR of the April 20 ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia and states that it is in clear defiance of ECHR’s June 10, 2010 judgment.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have written a letter to the Committee informing them that Russia’s April 20th Supreme Court decision to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses nationwide and liquidate our administrative center, along with 395 LROs, is in clear defiance of the June 10, 2010 judgment by the ECHR.