On March 15, Russia’s Ministry of Justice filed a claim with the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation to label the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia as extremist and liquidate it.
In addition to the seizure of properties and related actions, individual Jehovah’s Witnesses would become subject to criminal prosecution for simply carrying out their worship activities. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the claim April 5.
The following is a letter of appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the all-male members of the Russian Federation regarding the situation.
It is with the deepest respect the following correspondence is being written. Next month, you face a decision that will affect thousands of law-abiding citizens in your country. These are people who endeavor to lead a calm and quiet life, while showing respect to governmental leaders.
The decision before you distinguished men is the claim that Jehovah’s Witnesses are in violation of Russia’s “Federal Law on Extremist Activity.”
They are not.
Like Jesus and his early followers, Witnesses are often misunderstood despite being known for peaceful activities. To be clear, under no circumstances would Witnesses ever engage in activities that could be considered “extremist” or criminal in nature. They are not terrorists. On the contrary, the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses and their publications promote love for God and neighbor and respect for the superior authorities – which includes the government.
Many secular history references show that Jesus was once brought up on charges of sedition when in fact he, too, was teaching love of God and fellow man. Why the confusion?
One of the foremost reasons was the fledgling Christian congregation was unlike other religions of the day and therefore out of the mainstream and even deemed a threat by some. And as is often the case, people tend to mistrust things they don’t understand. True in Bible times, true today.
Even so, I have confidence you will carefully consider all of the facts in evidence before making a decision that will undoubtedly speak to Russia’s justice system – and heart.
Paul Wyche is news technologies assistant for The Journal Gazette. He was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1994.