Jehovah’s Witnesses have said on their Russian website that their incitement to hatred towards people is foreign to them. They say that they follow the humane precepts of Jesus Christ. They go on to provide FOUR reasons why referring to them as extremist is erroneous. AvoidJW.org has reviewed and commented on these reasons.
Before we review these reasons, let’s review their first statement on their Russian Website. They say that their incitement to hatred towards people is foreign to them and that they follow the humane precepts of Jesus Christ. This is not true. They incite hatred towards members who are disfellowshipped or disassociated. They incite this hatred through shunning. Some might argue that shunning is not hatred. It is. Hatred by definition is to loathe something. Jehovah’s Witnesses are required to loathe anyone or anything that they view as “bad”. All members who leave or are no longer Jehovah’s Witnesses are “bad”. They are viewed with contempt, ill will and ill feeling. This is incitement to hatred. It is wrong. Shunning is practiced in Russia and in every land & country that Jehovah’s Witnesses are free to operate.
1. The more than 100-year history of the religion proves the non-extremist nature of their views. Jehovah’s Witnesses have never taken up arms. In Germany, even at the cost of life & freedom, they refused to serve in the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of German from 1935 to 1945. In the Soviet Union, despite being subjected to cruel oppression, the Witnesses did not hate their persecutors. Now, Jehovah’s Witnesses are a multinational brotherhood that has proven their ability to overcome prejudices that divide people.
Simply because Jehovah’s Witnesses do not take up arms or refused to join armed forces in Nazi Germany, or were subjected to cruel oppression does not provide any reason for being non-extremist. They do have a multinational brotherhood and they have overcome prejudices that divide people. Yet what they fail to point out is that they also have an ever-growing multinational group of people who they loathe and detest and have worked to divide them from their families and friends. These are Jehovah’s Witnesses who have been disfellowshipped, disassociated or have just stopped associating with them. Dividing people from their families and friends is extremism.
2. Nowhere in the world except Russia, have Jehovah’s Witnesses been accused of extremism. The communities of this religion freely operate in more than 200 countries around the world. They are all united by one Bible-based doctrine. Millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses are concerned about the unfounded accusations against their Russian counterparts.
This is not true. There are many who correctly identify as being Jehovah’s Witnesses who accuse Jehovah’s Witnesses of extremism. Unfortunately, other nations have allowed religions free reign without consideration of the human rights these religious groups might violate. Furthermore, Jehovah’s Witnesses might be united by one “Bible-based doctrine” but everyone knows that if you do not agree with the doctrine, you will be labelled an “apostate” and disfellowshipped for apostasy. Millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses might be concerned with what is going on in Russia but the fact remains, the accusations are not all unfounded.
3. The Russian experts in the field of human rights have condemned the application of the law on extremism to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation in his report for 2013, noted: “The problem with the so-called” anti-extremist “legislation is that it is acutely imperfect. The fuzzy statement of the basic concept of “extremism” itself becomes even more blurred when one adds the definition of “religious” to it. What exactly is “religious extremism” cannot be solved even by scholars of religious studies. Yet this “rubber” concept can be easily operated by other law enforcement and judicial authorities in the field, providing its own subjective attitude to a particular denomination. “
Russia is taking “extreme” actions to deal with “extremism”. Jehovah’s Witnesses should not be banned. They should be allowed to exist and believe as they see fit. However, their practices, and the practices of all other religions around the world need to be regulated by competent authorities to ensure that such practices do not infringe on human rights.
4. The international community has condemned the application of the law on extremism to the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. “The Assembly urges the Russian authorities … to refrain from applying the law on extremist activities against all religious communities, especially Jehovah’s Witnesses” ( Resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe number 1896 , p. 25.31 ). The UN Human Rights Committee has repeatedly expressed concern that the Russian extremism law “is directed, in particular, against the Jehovah’s Witnesses» ( CCPR / the C / SR.3157. Concluding observations of the seventh periodic report of the Russian Federation ).
The extremism law is applied in a heavy-handed manner against Jehovah’s Witnesses. This only encourages their persecution complex where they regularly apply John 15:20 to themselves: “If they persecuted me (Jesus), they will persecute you.” Jehovah’s Witnesses will always see such persecution as a sign that their “Great Tribulation” is upon them and that Armageddon is on the way to destroy the whole world, except them. The irony here is that they also believe that secular authorities would turn on the world’s religion first and then direct their attention towards Jehovah’s Witnesses. The way the situation is panning out in Russia isn’t playing out according to their “divine plan”.
The hope is that Human Rights organisations around the world will look at the situation in Russia and will help alleviate Jehovah’s Witnesses from the plight they currently find themselves in. At the same time, we hope that they will review Jehovah’s Witnesses doctrine more closely to address the more extreme practices and help alleviate the pain of millions of ostracized Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world.
If shunning practiced by Jehovah’s Witnesses ended, most critics of Jehovah’s Witnesses would disappear.