In Russia, the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses is estimated to about 175,000. Less than a year ago, Russia's Supreme Court ordered the disbanding of the Jehovah's Witnesses on Russian territory. Now, members of the Russian National Guard are on the hunt for them.
The Barents Observer writes that:
On Friday, Murmansk regional authorities’ newspaper Murmanski Vestnik reported about raids made by FSB and the National Guard of Russia (Rosgvardia) in Polyarny on the Kola Peninsula.
Two local residents were detained under suspicions of being members of the administrative center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, organizing teaching and meetings where reading of banned religious literature took place. Searches were carried out at six addresses in Polyarny.
The town is home to a naval yard and several of the diesel-powered submarines and other warships of the Northern Fleet have Polyarny as [their] homeport. …
Viewed with skepticism for [refusing] military service, voting and refusal to take blood [transfusions], the members are seen as … a threat to themselves, their children, and public safety.
BBC reported in 2017 that Russian officials have accused Jehovah’s Witnesses of “destroying families, propagating hatred and endangering lives.” One pamphlet distributed by the group quoted the novelist Leo Tolstoy as describing the doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church as superstition and sorcery. The Jehovah's Witnesses group was founded in the United States in the 19th century. They take most of the Bible literally and refuse blood transfusions. They are not seen by traditional Christian Churches as a mainstream denomination. As the Soviet Union collapsed, there was a revival of Christianity in Russia and the ban on Jehovah's Witnesses was lifted in 1991. But attitudes hardened again and in 2004 it was accused of recruiting children and preventing believers from accepting medical assistance.
Regardless of the attitudes Jehovah’s Witnesses have about medical treatments, it’s unlikely that they pose a military threat of any kind, especially because non-violence is part of their core doctrine.
According to the Barents Observer, the extremist law banning Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia provides for maximum sentences of 6 to 10 years in jail. Meanwhile, waves of practicing Jehovah’s Witnesses are fleeing Russia. More than a thousand people are now seeking asylum in several European countries, including Finland, the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported earlier this winter.
Photo Credits: Geograph Britain and Ireland