What is Moscow’s problem with Jehovah’s Witnesses?

Russian authorities raided and arrested several members of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow and twenty other regions. An investigation has been launched into the religious headquarters of a religious organization near St. Petersburg for “extreme activity.” In a related video from the Federal Investigation Authority (FSB), a flat in Moscow was slapped.

The FSB did not know how many people were arrested, in its communication pointed out that in the apartment in the video, members of a religious organization held “secret meetings”, “studied religious writings” and “recruited new members”. The video also shows the seizure of religious documents and various foreign currencies,

However, Jehovah’s Witnesses are notoriously pacifist organizations, due to their refusal to serve in the 20th century. In the 20th century, in many countries, including Hungary, they had trouble with the authorities. And a belief system that opposes the normal functioning of society or offers an alternative to it often leads to followers of a particular religion withdrawing from worldly life and accepting allegiance to their church instead of the state. The Kremlin doesn’t really like it. Moscow, however, argues that there is religious freedom in Russia.

Not only are the Russian authorities taking tough action against Jehovah’s Witnesses, the phenomenon is also taking a hard line against small churches at the national level associated with the Orthodox Christian faith. Most recently, for example, Jesus of Siberia was “disposed of”.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, which have about 175,000 believers in Russia and previously had many meeting rooms, have been hampered since 2009 and nearly made impossible by the 2016 anti-terrorism package. The law forbade missionary activity, restricted the utterance of the word, and itemized the preaching in dwellings. And by classifying the denomination as extreme in 2017

The Russian Supreme Court ruled that all elements of the organization were extreme, including the last pamphlet.

However, the question arises: why are witnesses not allowed to share in the love of Jesus Christ when the majority of the country already belongs to the Orthodox Christian Church? After all, both churches are Christian.

In December 2017, a St. Petersburg court ordered the seizure of community properties in St. Petersburg. The real estate, valued at about $ 15 million, was owned by the New York-based Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, Jehovah’s Witnesses. This also includes the seizure by the Russian state the property of the denomination as it could.

Moscow has hardened against foreign presence or perceived or real influence since 2012, the year the Foreign Agents Act was enacted. Under the law, which has since undergone several amendments and allows for a broad interpretation, NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that receive foreign funding and engage in “political activity”,

If they fail to do so, the Department of Justice will do it for them. And once someone is a foreign agent, you can also count on the control, raids and harassment of the Russian authorities to get the last penny checked: from where, to whom, for what purpose. In eight years, the work of many civil and advocacy organizations has been made difficult or impossible.

For years, the Kremlin has been tightening control over Russian society. Media and privacy laws have also curtailed the press and internet services. However, Jehovah’s Witnesses are by no means in line with Russian policy, in many respects.

The Orthodox Church is not pacifist in the least; this is also evidenced by the following footage of the main church of the armed forces near Moscow.

(Cover image: Jehovah’s Witnesses sing in Rostov-on-Don in 2015. Photo: The Washington Post / Getty Images Hungary)

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