Members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses faith here have expressed concern about the plight of fellow Witnesses in Russia, which is seeking to ban the religious organization altogether.
Russia’s Supreme Court Thursday upheld the decision of a Russian city to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses as an extremist group.
The millenarian restorationist Christian church has come under increasing pressure over the past year, with the authorities there banning its distribution of literature deemed to violate Russia’s anti-extremism laws, and an outright ban in the Far East city of Birobidzhan.
Prior to Thursday’s ruling, Media Services Representative Nigel Evason told Barbados TODAY he was worried about the fate of the 170,000 adherents in Russia.
“If the Supreme Court rules against the Jehovah’s Witnesses denomination it will criminalize their activity. Their activity of meeting together to read and study the Bible would be seen as criminal activity.
“We are concerned about the plight of our brothers and sisters in Russia which was brought to our attention . . . . If the ruling comes against the Witnesses the state will confiscate the over 2,000 Kingdom Halls dotted across the country,” Evason said.
He explained that it was difficult to fathom why the Russian government would target the religious group, which objects to military service, refuses to salute national flags, and rejects blood transfusions, and which is committed to the belief that the Bible must be taken literally, particularly its injunction, Thou shalt not kill.
“We do not get involved in politics, but we do not oppose the government of the day. We are law-abiding and pay our taxes. We follow all of the legal requirements, but we do not engage in hostilities between our country and another. We would engage in civic service so long it is not militarily related. We are happy to do anything for the community,” he said.
The church official saw the development as a throwback to the days of the Soviet Union, when Jehovah’s Witnesses were hounded as spies and malcontents by the KGB, which banished thousands to Siberia.