Jehovah’s Witnesses in Saint Lucia are taking part in a global letter writing campaign, appealing to authorities in Russia against moves to ban Witness activities in Russia.
The direct written appeal to Kremlin and Supreme Court officials by the Witnesses here follows an invitation to more than 8, 000,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide by the Governing Body of the religious organization to participate in the campaign.
“The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses wants to heighten attention to this critical situation,” David A. Semonian, a spokesman at the Witnesses’ World Headquarters said in a statement.
Semonian asserted that prosecuting non-violent, law-abiding citizens as if they were terrorists is clearly a misapplication of anti-extremist laws.
“Such prosecution is based on completely false grounds, ” he said.
Witnesses in St. Lucia have dispatched hundreds of letters to Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, expressing concern.
Russia’s Ministry of Justice has filed a claim with the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation seeking to have the Administrative Centre of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia labeled as an extremist organization and liquidated.
The hearing is scheduled to be held on April 5, 2017.
An unfavorable ruling will mean that 400 registered Local Religious Organisations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia would be liquidated, outlawing the services of over 2,300 congregations in the country.
According to the Witnesses, their branch property in Russia, 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, a statement from the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ headquarters in New York said.
There are some 170,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia.
The latest global letter writing campaign is not without precedent.
Some years ago, Witnesses wrote to defend their fellow worshipers in Russia in response to a smear campaign by some members of the government in power at the time.
Additionally, Witnesses have initiated past letter-writing campaigns to motivate government officials to end persecution of Witnesses in other countries, including Jordan, Korea, and Malawi.