Staunton, December 17 – At some point in the future, Moscow writer Boris Kolymagin says, those who are persecuting the Jehovah’s Witnesses today will have to stand before a court and answer “the simple question: why did you take part in such crimes against humanity?” (https://credo.press/234687/).
They will likely reply that they were only following orders and the laws of the country they lived in, he continues; and some of the more thoughtful among them may even insist that similar crimes were carried out in other countries. “Unfortunately, that is the case. But evil is still evil” and must be identified and punished.
Kolymagin notes that for the last several years, the police, often backed by the FSB, have carried out attacks on the Jehovah’s Witnesses that “at times remind one of reports from the front line of a war.” They routinely break into the homes of believers, beat those who show no resistance, arrest and then give these people long terms in prison.
So far, he continues, “more than 1,000 families” have been subjected to this abuse; and they have become so commonplace that they are all too often ignored. Police and FSB officers score points for enforcing the law, and they have won support from many in the Russian Orthodox Church hierarchy, although far less than they have expected from the Russian people.
All of this followed a decision by the Russian Supreme Court in April 2017 to declare the Jehovah’s Witness organization in Russia an extremist group and to ban all 396 religious bodies its members had formed. But since that time, the powers that be, with the support of the Orthodox Church, have extended their attack to Jehovah’s Witnesses simply for praying.
As Anatoly Pchelintsev, a lawyer and religious specialist points out, in all this, “for the siloviki what is important as before are the statistics.” The more raids and arrests, the more promotions they can count on. And since the Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t resist with violence, they make for an easy target.
But they have been egged on by those in the Russian Orthodox hierarchy who view the Jehovah’s Witnesses as just another “sect” and promote an “anti-sectarian” ideology in the hopes of reinforcing their own authority and weakening all other religious groups. What they should be doing is repenting of their words and actions, Kolymagin says.
Anti-sect notions, first put about by Russia’s leading “sect fighter,” Aleksandr Dvorkin, have expanded and become the basis for actions by Russian police, prosecutors, and courts. They feel themselves beyond the reach of anyone and are regularly celebrated and even paid by Orthodox hierarchs.
On the very day the writer’s article appeared, Vladimir Putin repeated his frequent claim that it is “extraordinarily important” to note that Russia has never persecuted any group for its faith (nazaccent.ru/content/34741-putin-v-rossii-ne-bylo-repressij.html, a claim that the experiences of the Jehovah’s Witnesses shows to be untrue.
As of today, the World Headquarters of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in New York report that the police and FSB in Russia have raided 1240 homes of believers, including 443 since the pandemic began, that 423 believers remain under criminal investigation, that over 220 have been behind bars before trial, that 31 remain under house arrest, and that 45 are currently in prison.
One can only hope that those who are behind such crimes will soon have to answer the question Kolymagin suggests is coming.
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