© Michela Benaglia – Emanuela Colombo
“And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake,
but he who perseveres and endures to the end will be saved”.
On 17th July, 2017 the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation declared the National section of Jehovah’s Witnesses an extremist group, violating what is guaranteed by the Constitution and international standards of human rights about freedom of religion and assembly.
In Russia the JW have already lived periods of strong discrimination and repression in the past. In April 1951 thousands of men, women and children were forcibly taken from their homes in the Western Soviet Union and deported to Siberia “for a permanent exile”. The only reason for these mass deportations was the religion of these Soviet citizens, they were Jehovah’s Witnesses, they refused violence and consequently the military service, and for this reason they went against the state ideology.
With the fall of the USSR in the early 90’s, the JW, formerly deported, were rehabilitated and received official documents saying that they were now defined not as “enemies of the nation”, but innocent victims.
Despite this, their literature has again been declared extremist and banned by the Russian Federation since 2009. With the last verdict on 17TH July 2017, their freedom of assembly and proselytism was cancelled. All 395 places of worship in Russia (the kingdom halls) and the main office in St. Petersburg were closed. The federal police also received the order to keep the JW and their activities under control and to proceed with their arrest if necessary. The intolerance towards the JW is growing and brings back memories of what happened in the past.
There is no political or economic evidence for this repression, if not an authoritarian stand by the Russian government against all those associations which, in some way, could tarnish its authority, as it happened with foreign NGOs that have been declared “unwanted”, for reasons related to national security, since 2015. Without forgetting that the Orthodox Church of the Muscovite Rite has always been a great ally of the current President Putin.