Not content with banning their religion, their official website, and seizing their property— including their headquarters near St. Petersburg, the increasingly sinister administration behind this state sponsored theft has now banned the New World Translation of the Bible used by Jehovah's Witnesses.
On August 17, the Vyborg City Court in Russia arbitrarily decided to ban the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, creatively circumventing their own legislation which forbids them from banning holy books such as the Bible or Koran, by nefariously arguing the NWT is not a Bible. Presumably the foundation of this argument rests on passages where it deviates from the Russian Synodal Bible used by the Orthodox Church. Even though those deviations can be completely justified by the oldest available manuscripts of the Scriptures, and even though powerful arguments were presented in court rendering absurd the accusation the NWT is not a Bible, the court went ahead and made it illegal.
Wave of Persecution
This latest act of belligerence against the Witnesses comes on a wave of persecution that has been escalating since the mid to late 2000s. Russia has misapplied what began as reasonable laws created for the purpose of combatting murderous terrorist groups, and gradually began misapplying them to pacifist religious minorities, first and foremost, Jehovah's Witnesses.
Anyone who has seen the video of a group of heavily armed Russian police officers decked out in full riot gear, hiding their identities behind black balaclavas, raiding a place of worship in Oryal (south of Moscow) full of peace loving men, women and children would be hard pressed not to see who the real extremists are. Anyone watching this and still insisting the Witnesses are the extremists in this lamentable episode would appear utterly bereft of all reason.
This raid on a peaceful assembly resulted in a Danish national being arrested and kept in jail from May 25 until now. His case has been adjourned until November 23. He faces a possible 10 to 15 years in jail. His crime? Assembling with others to read the Bible. Reflect on the fact, this man in the time he has already been unlawfully kept bound in a Russian prison, has not been permitted even to speak to his wife. Again, it stands out starkly who the real extremists are.
Banning Literature - Planting Literature
For a number of years now, Russian authorities have been adding the Witnesses' literature little by little to their extensive and ever burgeoning list of outlawed extremist materials. Amongst their number is a book of Bible stories designed for children called My Book of Bible Stories. Using tactics in time honoured KGB tradition, the authorities have taken to planting banned literature in the Witnesses' places of worship, then later raiding those same buildings while meetings are in full swing, digging out the 'extremist' literature they earlier planted and opening up legal cases against the framed Witnesses which result in massively disproportionate fines and in many cases loss of employment. On many occasions these undercover operations were caught on camera. When these instances were taken to court, and video evidence was presented by the Witnesses exonerating them and showing clearly FSB agents planting the literature, the courts did not even want to know.
I can't help but be reminded of Churchill's words: "You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police ... yet in their hearts there is unspoken fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts: words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home -- all the more powerful because forbidden -- terrify them. A little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic."
With the current Russian administration tightening up on basic human freedoms and free speech to the extent where even talking about your religion in public could land you in prison, you have to wonder who's next in the crosshairs. One thing seems certain, the recent unlawful and unconstitutional ban on Jehovah's Witnesses and associated ban on their NWT Bible, represents a frightening step into the dark days of Russia's Soviet past.