by Massimo Introvigne — There is a different administration from last year in Washington DC but the yearly survey of religious liberty produced by the U.S. Department of State in 2021 (covering events of 2020) is as strong as last year’s report, or stronger. Secretary Blinken introduced the report on May 12 by singling out China as a country that “criminalizes religious expression” in general. Blinken did not avoid two politically significant definitions: “crimes against humanity” for how China treats religion, and “genocide” for what is being done to “Uyghurs and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups.”
RUSSIA: A case of violation of the right to freely practice one’s faith in community pending in Strasbourg
by Willy Fautré (HRWF) — The case against a Protestant pastor deprived of his right to organize religious meetings in his home in Russia is pending at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The case was filed by ADF International and is under review of the Court. Over the course of several years, a registered group of Evangelical Christian Baptists used to gather in a private house in Verkhnebakansky in Southern Russia. In September 2018, the local authorities filed a lawsuit against the former owner of the building asking the court to ban its use for religious purposes. The administration claimed that there were violations of fire safety and anti-terror provisions, that the building was registered as a residential house and could not be used as a church.
by Halya Coynash — A Russian-controlled court in Simferopol has placed 42-year-old Ukrainian Taras Kuzio under house arrest following mass armed searches of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ homes in occupied Yalta. The occupation regime has slightly varied the charge this time, although Kuzio is facing the same persecution as other believers for practising his faith. The hearing on 12 March at the ‘Kievsky District Court’ took place behind closed doors, and with a lawyer appointed by the ‘investigators’.
by Massimo Introvigne — Imagine if Cheng Quanguo, the CCP Secretary in Xinjiang who is under sanctions in the United States for his crimes against humanity, appeared in the West claiming he is persecuted by the Uyghurs and their friends in the democratic world, and hailing his concentration camps as model practices other countries should imitate. Or, in the 1930s, if Heinrich Himmler and Joseph Goebbels had lectured at a conference in Paris introducing themselves as victims of a persecution by the Jews, their American supporters, and the scholars who had written against Nazi anti-Semitism. Comedians who would propose this as a satirical show would be accused of bad taste.
One of the tragic aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic is the limitation of individual freedoms at almost all latitudes. In some countries this adds up to the deplorable and blamed limitations on freedom of belief. The 2020 report on the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia tells of a long history of abuses that do not seem to diminish, indeed, they seem to be getting worse and worse.
Below is a 2020 year-end report illustrating the scope of Russia’s crackdown on Jehovah’s Witnesses. For its incessant persecution of Witnesses, among other offenses, Russia is listed on UN Watch’s 2020 “Top 10 Human Rights Abusers.”
As of December 31, 2020 (Russia and Crimea):
Despite criticism it has received from mainline international scholars of new religious movements, anti-cultism is a dominant force in Russia. Its origins date back to the repression of groups labeled as sekty in the Russian Empire. In Soviet times, the State dealt directly with religious groups it regarded as dangerous, and offers of collaboration by the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) were rejected. However, cooperation between the ROC and the State in the fight against “cults” was resumed in the 21st century, and focused particularly on Jehovah’s Witnesses.
On December 10, 2020, we announced an appeal signed by 14 NGOs, including FOB, to the authorities of China, Iran and Russia to release the religious prisoners, at risk of being infected with COVID-19. This appeal was based on HRWF's annual report: “In Prison for Their Faith 2020”. Today we are publishing a brief summary of the HRWF report.
HRWF (10.12.2020) – Fourteen human rights NGOs call upon the authorities of China, Iran and Russia to release religious prisoners under threat of being infected by COVID-19. These are the three countries that have the highest number of believers of all faiths behind bars, according to Human Rights Without Frontiers’ (HRWF) database of FoRB prisoners which documents thousands of individual cases.
Washington, DC, November 10, 2020 – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released the following new report: “The Global Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses” Issue Update. This update describes official discrimination against Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world, with a particular focus on countries where members have been imprisoned for their beliefs.
A 66-year-old Jehovah's Witness has already been given nearly two years in pre-trial detention. From the mists of this controversial judicial case now comes to light an outrageous detail that confirms the worst hypotheses feared by the defenders of religious freedom: the Vice President of the French FECRIS (Fédération Européenne des Centres de Recherche et d'Information sur le Sectarisme, i.e.
by Aaron Rhodes — China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia and Uzbekistan – all notorious for abusing human rights – were among the 14 states elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Oct. 13, bringing the proportion of nondemocratic states on the world’s top human rights-promoting body to 60%. Cuba received 170 votes, or 88%, in the secret-ballot General Assembly vote.
But the Human Rights Council’s problem isn’t simply the presence of bad actors. The real issue is the intrinsic moral relativism embedded in any all-inclusive, multilateral human-rights system.
by Steno Sari — Under certain circumstances, being intolerant is not so out of place. Murder, theft, rape, child abuse and kidnapping are all considered intolerable in most societies, and with reason. However, in the course of the centuries in Christianity, deplorable forms of intolerance towards heretics and schismatics have been justified: real persecutions in no way justifiable.
Torino, Italy (l.c.) — Fifty leading international scholars of religion have signed an appeal calling for the immediate end of the persecution of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, a country where members of the religious organization are routinely arrested and sentenced to terms in jail, and where all activities of their congregation are forbidden.
“Anti-extremism” legislation and religious freedom in the Russian Federation. The case of Jehovah's Witnesses
by Germana Carobene — associate professor of Ecclesiastical and Canon Law at the University of Naples "Federico II", Department of Political Sciences; councillor of FOB. — The application of "anti-extremism" legislation to minority religious groups in the Russian Federation has led to a progressive institutional tightening of the persecution and heavy discrimination, especially against Jehovah's Witnesses.
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).
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.”
«U.S. Government: Publicly censure Alexander Dvorkin and the Saint Irenaeus of Leon Information-Consultation Center (SILIC)) for their ongoing disinformation campaign against religious minorities.» U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recently published the report entitled “The Anti-cult Movement and Religious Regulation in Russia and the Former Soviet Union”.
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".