The Russian Justice Ministry is moving to label Jehovah's Witnesses as terrorists and ban their worship, sparking a global letter- writing campaign appealing to Kremlin and Supreme Court officials for relief.
Some 8,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in Trinidad and Tobago are being encouraged to write letters to Russia.
The Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses is inviting the over eight million Witnesses worldwide to participate.
According to a statement from the Jehovah's Witnesses New York, USA, office, on March 15, 2017, Russia's Ministry of Justice filed a claim with the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation to label the Administrative Centre of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia as extremist and liquidate it.
The claim also seeks to ban the activities of the Administrative Centre.
The statement added that if the Supreme Court upholds this claim, the Witnesses' national headquarters near St Petersburg, Russia, will be shut down.
Some 400 registered Local Religious Organisations would be liquidated, outlawing the services of over 2,300 congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia.
The release stated that the branch property, as well as places of worship used by Witnesses throughout the country, could be seized by the State.
Additionally, individual Jehovah's Witnesses would become subject to criminal prosecution for merely carrying out their worship activities. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the claim on April 5.
Witnesses in Russia
Frank Pantin, an official of the Trinidad Association of Jehovah's Witnesses, in a telephone interview with the Express yesterday said that some 105 congregations in Trinidad have all been invited to send letters to Russia.
He said there is an average of about 80 to 100 members at each congregation.
This movement against Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, he said, has been raging for some time and will affect some 170,000 Witnesses in Russia.
“There are Jehovah's Witnesses in all parts of the world and we are the most peaceful people,” he said as he expressed alarm and concern over the religion being labelled “terrorist” in Russia.
Pantin said 20 years ago there were also efforts to ban Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia under a different regime, “and Witnesses also wrote letters at that time to defend their fellow worshippers in Russia”.
Witnesses have also initiated past letter-writing campaigns to motivate government officials to end persecution of Witnesses in other countries, including Jordan, Korea, and Malawi.
Pantin said any possible ban on Witnesses in Russia does not affect Witnesses here directly as he noted that a passport does not state that one is a member of the Jehovah's Witness faith.
“There is no direct effect except these are our brothers in Russia, so it affects it us,” he said noting that while Jehovah Witnesses are banned in some 30 countries, this is the first time they are being labelled as terrorists and extremists.
“We are all saddened by it, we know what we do not pose a threat to anyone, we are not involved in any rebellion or protests,” he said.
He said that it is possible that other totalitarian countries can be influenced by Russia's position against Witnesses and the upcoming court ruling.