by Steno Sari — A few weeks ago I talked about fake news, starting the article with a quote from George Orwell on the courage of truth. Even today I would like to ask Orwell for help in resuming the talk left pending: "True freedom of the press is telling people what people don't want to hear." In other words, a journalist must know how to go against the tide if necessary. And it's not exactly easy.
On July 9, 2020, the Swiss anti-cult associations JW Opfer Hilfe (Aid to the Victims of Jehovah’s Witnesses) and Fachstelle infoSekta (Center for Information on Cults) issued a press release, announcing that a 2019 decision of the District Court of Zurich had become final, which acquitted Dr. Regina Ruth Spiess, a former employee of infoSekta and current representative of JW Opfer Hilfe, from criminal charges of defamation brought by the Swiss Jehovah’s Witnesses, (JW Opfer Hilfe and Fachstelle infoSekta 2020).
A seminar conducted via Zoom has been organized by CESNUR (Center for Studies on New Religions), Vytautas Magnus University, Vilnius, Lithuania, and New Religions Research and Information Center, Vilnius, Lithuania. At the end of the seminar a Final Statement and a White Paper "The New Gnomes of Zurich" on Jehovah's Witnesses were released.
On July 13, 2020, armed officers raided 110 homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Voronezh Region. This was the largest number of coordinated raids on Jehovah’s Witnesses in modern Russia. Unfortunately, this action marks an escalation in the persecution of the Witness community following the April 20, 2017, ban imposed by the Russian Supreme Court on the Witnesses’ national organization and its 395 regional divisions on grounds of “extremism.”
There have been numerous declarations of condemnation of the discriminatory and illiberal attitude that the Russian Federation has shown for years towards Jehovah's Witnesses. Among these statements, the one issued on 11 December 2018 by Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation, stands out, in which he states that "Jehovah's Witnesses are also Christians and I do not understand why they should be persecuted".
On March 3, 2020, Mr. Artëm Gerasimov, a member of the Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, was sentenced by the Yalta Court (Crimea) to a penalty of 400,000 rubles (about € 5,300) on charges of practicing his religion, a crime sanctioned by the wretched Yarovaya law which labels Witnesses and other religious minorities disliked by the dominant Orthodox religion as "extremist". Gerasimov did not lose heart and appealed, but on June 4, 2020, the Crimean high court sentenced him to six years in prison, again on the basis of being a "dangerous extremist".
Holocaust victims, derided, discriminated against, subject to virulent attacks by anti-cult organizations and fake news fabricated ad hoc, Jehovah's Witnesses have always been an example of integrity and altruism that materialized with epochal human rights achievements. This was the case for the freedom of therapeutic choice and for the right to conscientious objection, now recognized as an inalienable right.. A survey promoted by the national headquarters of the Christian Congregation of Jehovah has brought to light the heroic efforts sustained by young Witnesses during the period spanning from 1960 to 1990.
Prof. Nicola Colaianni, member of the FOB Scientific Committee commented on the decision of the Court of Appeals of Rome: "I agree with the decision of the Court of Appeals. I am puzzled by measures such as that of the juvenile court. Evidently the path of religious freedom is struggling to progress and stops before Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
The killing of thousands of Jehovah's witnesses in the Nazi Camps officially remembered in Italy with the affixion of a plaque in Trieste at the "Risiera di San Sabba", a former rice mill transformed into the only Italian concentration camp equipped with a crematorium, where the Italian JWs were executed.
In fact along with the Jews, also political opponents, the Roma, LGBT people and Jehovah's witnesses were killed by Hitler's regime with the help of accomplices in other countries.
During the last OSCE sessions on Freedom of Religion or Belief, we exposed the harmful activities of FECRIS (the European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults and Sects) in Russia and its integral financing by the French Government. Members of FECRIS and of its Russian branch, the Saint Ireneus of Lyons Centre for Religious Studies which is affiliated to the Orthodox Church, have been waging for years a campaign against non-Orthodox minorities in order to eradicate them from the Russian territory.
Orel Oblast court upholds sentence of Dennis Christensen
Orlovskie Novosti (23.05.2019) – On 23 May, the Orel oblast court left in force the sentence of the Zheleznodorozhny district court with respect to Danish citizen Dennis Christensen, who was found guilty of extremism and sentenced to six years imprisonment, an Orlovskie Novosti correspondent reports.
In these days the international press reports about tortures suffered in Russia by members of the congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. The Washington Post of March 2 speaks of “Russia’s persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses is reviving dark practices of the past”. The last two years have been really difficult for the Jehovah's Witnesses (even if the discriminatory acts against them date back to at least the 90s) since, implementing the controversial Yarovaya law, the Russian Supreme Court has labeled them "extremist organization".
Police in at least seven cities across Russia have conducted aggressive raids against Jehovah's Witnesses. In what appears to be a coordinated campaign, special police forces (OMON), at times wearing masks and carrying machine guns, raided Witnesses' homes, pointed guns at them, and detained both young and old for interrogations.
Court case on Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia and creation of the “Academy of Orthodox Politicians”. Exclusive interview with Professor Massimo Introvigne
(Unsolved Crimes [Odessa])
Professor Massimo Introvigne, an internationally well-known Italian sociologist and director of CESNUR, has been at the forefront of several international initiatives protesting the “liquidation” of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. In international conferences in Italy, Israel, and the U.S. he called it “one of the most serious assaults to religious liberty in recent times. He kindly gave an exclusive interview to the “Unsolved Crimes” newspaper.
We cannot fail to utter our most lively worry for what is happening in Russia versus the religious minorities as well as for the disturbing similitude between nowadays draconian application of a law for national safety, so become freedom-killing (the Yarovaya law) and what happened less than one century ago not just in the soviet sphere but also elsewhere in the world, in countries later become the stage of the worst historical facts and the most heinous tragedies of the twentieth century. However, it is also mandatory to investigate the occurrence so as to understand the root of it.
Putin wants to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses from Russia
Under the guise of the fight to terrorism, in Putin’s Russia a new war has started for some time, not a cold war indeed, versus several religious groups.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, Adventists, Pentecostal, Baptist, Scientology, Hare Krishna, are only a few of the targets of this attack started over fifteen years ago through federal laws “against extremism and terrorism” as wanted by the now-deceased former president Boris Eltsin and the Orthodox Church.
After World War II, the word “Righteous Among the Nations” (Hebrew: חֲסִידִי אֻמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם, khasidi umót ha'olám "righteous (plural) of the world's nations") was a term used in rabbinic Judaism to refer to non-Jews who acted heroically, putting their own life at risk to save jews from nazi genocide of Shoah.
It is also an award bestowed from the Yad Vashem, the national institute for the Shoah memory, since 1962.
Yad Vashem has given these prestigious awards to 19 Jehovah Witnesses.