'I Do Not Understand Why We Persecute Jehovah's Witnesses,' Putin Says

At a December 11. 2018 meeting with the Council on Civil Society Development and Human Rights, one council member, Ekaterina Shulman, addressed President Putin: “There is a list of organizations, for which there is information that they are involved in terrorism and extremism. There are 489 of them, and 404 of them are Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Pressing her luck, she continued: “Here I will take a sinister pause. There could be an abundance of claims against Jehovah’s Witnesses—they don’t allow blood transfusion, don’t send children to hospitals, [ed: not a charge that I have heard before] but they definitely are not calling for violence or committing it.”

Putin’s response was: “We should treat the representatives of all religions in the same way – this is true, but still, it is also necessary to take into account the country and the society in which we live. True, this does not mean at all that we should include representatives of religious communities in some destructive, or even in terrorist organizations. Of course, this is complete nonsense, you need to carefully deal with it. Here I agree with you.”

Later in the meeting, Putin returned to the topic and added: “Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians, too. I don’t quite understand why they are persecuted. So this should be looked into. This must be done.” The Washington Post and Time picked up on the story the next day, the Post saying that he “has pledged to look into the reported persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Now, what to make of this?

Yaroslav Sivulski, the press secretary for JWs in Russia, stated: “We have noted the president’s reaction with surprise. If he knows about the whole situation, then probably his reaction could change something. We hope that he will give instructions to have the matter examined and something may happen. Though, knowing the realities of our country, there is not much optimism.” Okay, so they’re not breaking out the champagne just yet.

The online community of Jehovah’s Witnesses was a cynical bunch, by and large, with many thinking Putin was just being slippery. In fact, since translating from Russian to English poses challenges, one Witness understood him to say: “Jehovah's Witnesses are also Christians, for which I do not really understand how to persecute them,” as though he was searching for more effective ways to do it. Hmm. Did he say "I really do not understand how to persecute them" or "I really do not understand how they are persecuted"? It is the six-million-dollar question. It is a little like the Twilight Zone episode in which the earthlings were relieved to find the alien's handbook "To Serve Man." ‘Ahh, it means their intentions are good,’ and they breathed easily, but at the show’s end they discovered to their discomforture that it was a cookbook.

I tend to take President Putin’s remarks at face value. There is no reason that he has to say what he does, even expanding it to ‘Jehovah’s Witness are also Christians,’ contradicting prominent religious people who say they are not. When his Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, who was also among the officials that Witnesses contacted via a letter campaign launched in hopes of averting the 2017 ban, was asked a similar question last year, he could not have answered more harshly than he did. I think Putin is being genuine, at last waking up to something that he has barely paid attention to. Maybe it is like the hinge squeaking in the background somewhere that he has barely noticed but now it is driving him nuts. Perhaps he will even pick up his WD-40, go lubricate it himself, and subsequently vent his wrath upon whoever allowed such idiocy to take center stage in the first place, painting his country before all the world as a nation of goons--in the spirit of Ahasuerus avenging Haman.

A president is a busy man. It is popularly believed that anything that goes down in a country will have his fingerprints all over it, but this is seldom so for matters of ‘low priority.’ Of course, this is not low priority for Witnesses, but it can hardly be otherwise for him. At a subsequent news conference, he spoke to the danger of nuclear war, which he hopes the West does not get too cavalier about: “The danger of the situation escalating is being downplayed,” he said, adding that the lowering of thresholds for nuclear capability “could really lead us to catastrophe.” If he loses sleep at night, it is not over the travails of a small religion. It is over the thought of the world going up in flames.

Western media excoriates him, but it cannot be wise to let the propaganda of one king mold our view of the other. I was very careful, in writing the book, Dear Mr. Putin – Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia, not to do that. In the event it was ever read by anyone that mattered, I did not want to sabotage it by being disrespectful or accusing.

It wasn’t that hard to do—for example, by spotlighting the two, likely three, times that Russia, not the United States, saved the world from certain nuclear war. Lieutenant Colonel Petrov spotted an incoming missile from the U.S. on his screen, correctly judged it a malfunction, and against orders, did not relay the report to the excitable Kremlin. Second-in-command Vasili Arkhipov refused to sign-off with his two fellow officers to launch a nuclear attack during the Cuban missile crisis—the decision had to be unanimous. Nikita Khrushchev arguably brought that crisis to a close with his last-minute telegram to President Kennedy.

However, in refraining from criticizing Putin personally, I was not just being expedient. I honestly came to feel it not likely that he was one of the instigators. I admit that feeling wavered in view of the abuses of the last few months, with Witnesses physically accosted by police, but now it intensifies. Promisingly, he is not cut from the same cloth as many in high government. He was not born to privilege in the ruling class. He started from the ground up, as a regular office worker, and lived with his parents during the early days of his working life. He thus probably retains a feel for the interests of the ‘common man’ that his co-rulers do not. In the end, it hardly matters, because ‘the heart of a king is as streams of water’ in Jehovah’s hands. But it helps if it is neither ice cubes nor steam to begin with.

He didn’t have to say it, is the point. He could have issued some boiler-plate beatitude of how ‘the situation is serious and we continue to monitor it closely.’ He certainly didn’t have to say that Witnesses are Christian too, thus showing that he will not be shoved around by ones who insist they are not. His statement makes it much harder for Russia to thumb its nose at any upcoming ECHR verdict, indicating that he has no intention of doing that. How can his words not ease the pressure on Jehovah’s Witnesses in that country? After all, if you were a Russian cop, would YOU violently accost one after what he just said?

Still, he is conscious of the majority. How much freedom of worship will be restored remains to be seen, since he observes that with 90% of the country being of a certain religious orientation, one cannot throw everything overboard so as to please the "sects." It is enough not to persecute them, which he seems inclined not to do. Maybe the brothers will have to tip-toe around for a while, and it will not necessarily be a bad thing for our people to focus on being discreet. That has long been the direction of theocratic training, anyhow. If Putin truly had evil intent, however, he would not have returned to the topic to say that he doesn’t really understand why Jehovah’s Witnesses are persecuted. Now let’s see how well he holds up as the more devious ones labor to remind him. We will see whose resolve prevails. Probably, JW representative Sivulsky has it just right: he is surprised and cautiously optimistic.

In some respects, it may prove a replay, with hopefully different outcome, of the situation with Pilate judging Jesus. Pilate knew that he was being set up. He knew Jesus was innocent. He worked rather hard to free him—that much is clear by reading any one of the gospel accounts, and the conclusion is inescapable upon reviewing all of them. But the scoundrels were so insistent, even hinting that to release Jesus would be treasonous, that he eventually caved. After all, it wasn’t his prime concern. He had a province to run. He tried to do the right thing. That’s how it is with many today. They try to do the right thing, but they only try so hard. When the going gets rough, they opt for expediency.

The Russian Orthodox Church has insisted that it did not instigate the ban and I am inclined to believe them. That is not to say that prominent ones did not squeal with delight, like kids on Christmas morning, or that some instigators did not have Church connections. But the villainy stems from an anti-cult movement, with French connections, that is active in many lands. Conditions in Russia were ripe, that’s all, just like they were ripe for Communism 100 years ago, which was also imported from abroad.

Writing ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ took the better part of a year. There were few publicly available online sources that I did not read during this time, save only for those that were repetitive. The most telling report was one by Joshua Gill, a religion writer, revealing from where most of the trouble came.

“The Russian Supreme Court’s July 17 ban on the Jehovah’s Witnesses was the result of a decades long conspiracy funded by the French government, blessed by the Russian Orthodox Church, and sanctioned by the Putin administration…The latest phase of that plan first garnered international attention with Russian authorities’ arrest of a Danish citizen.” That would be Dennis Christensen, arrested May 25, 2017 for conducting a congregation meeting after the ban had gone into effect, and still in prison at this time of writing, (December 2018) his case only recently coming to trial.

Gill spotlights the role of Alexander Dvorkin, the Russian Ministry’s Expert Council for Conducting State Religious-Studies. That Council exists so as “to investigate religions that deviate from Russian Orthodox teaching and to recommend actions against those religions to the state.” They have recommended taking strong action on non-majority faiths. Mr. Dvorkin is also vice president of the European Federation of Research and Information Centers on Sectarianism (FECRIS), a French NGO dedicated to identifying as a “sect/cult or a guru the organization or the individual which misuses beliefs and behavioral techniques for his own benefit.” It is an organization fully funded by the French government, and it may be remembered that that government tried to eliminate Jehovah’s Witnesses by imposing a 60% tax on their activities in 1998. The tax was steadfastly appealed by Jehovah’s Witnesses until it was struck down by the European Court of Human Rights fourteen years later.

The Daily Caller article reveals the depth of Dvokin’s misinformation and dislike of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Their adepts recruit failed university enrollees, and people on vacation as well; they have a wide range of psychological influence, especially on the unstable minds of adolescents and youths,” he says of them and the Hare Krishnas. He has encouraged the public to “take part in the fight against sects, file complaints and collect raw data so that the local authorities can react quickly.” In a 2009 documentary called ‘Emergency Investigation: Jehovah’s Witnesses,’ he compared Witnesses to drug dealers. The Journal for the Study of Beliefs and Worldviews attributes instances of public violence against Russian Witness members to that documentary, just as the violence visiting Kingdom Halls in Washington State is similarly stoked by the inflammatory use of the C-word. Is the FECRIS mission of identifying as a “sect/cult or a guru the organization or the individual which misuses beliefs and behavioral techniques for his own benefit” not exactly the battle cry of the anti-cultists worldwide?”

Mine was the minority view among the Witnesses I spoke with. “You are a better Christian than I am,” one said. “You always expect the best from people. I don't believe a word a politician says.” Note that his distrust is of “a politician,” not of Putin specifically, though he hardly sings his praises. One could even say that it is a sign of being “insular”—they are all the same to him. Having said that, they are all the same to many—it is hardly just him. Why, long ago Mark Twain even said that politicians must be changed as frequently as a diaper—and for the same reason.

It is true that I try to think the best of people. Am I a “better Christian” in this instance? Or just a dumber one? Time will tell.


JWs, too, are Christians, says Putin. Why are they persecuted?

Putin, at a public forum just yesterday, says he does not understand why Witnesses have been persecuted, adding that they are Christians, too. It shows he won’t be bullied by those telling him otherwise. Distracted by other matters, this may be like the squeaky hinge driving him nuts with time that he is now going to attend to. It is a very good thing.

Of course he has known about it, but he has a country to run. This is huge for us. It cannot have been for him. Maybe he is like Ahaseurus & enemies get him to pass a law that he barely pays attention to until Esther exposes them for what they are. He has listened to bad advice from someone, and it has caused his country to be viewed as a nation of unreasoning goons. There may be hell to pay for someone.

‘What is to be done, o Haman, to the man in whose heart the king has taken delight?’

People hear the charge that Jehovah's Witnesses are extremist. Their interest peaked, they go to the jw.org website, which they might not do otherwise, and they see in a heartbeat that they are not.

Always we should ‘fear the king‘ and treat him with respect. No potshots ought be made. We thus glorify our God, who can turn the king’s heart like a stream of water, as we wait upon him.

Everyone hopes that perhaps their letter did the trick. So do I. But it was probably one from a child:

 


The Anti-Cultists are Directly Responsible

The term for a faith-based community of relatively recent origin is “new religious movement.” But if you really dislike that community, you resurrect a word already reviled and apply it to your target—you say it is a “cult.” That way you don’t have to demonstrate that the group is bad. Your label does your work for you.

Time was that if you fell under the spell of a charismatic leader, withdrew from all normal societal contact, and began doing strange things, you just might be part of a cult. Today, the word is expanded to cover those thinking outside of the box that we are not supposed to think outside of.  If the box of popular goals and thinking undeniably led to fulfillment that might not be such a bad thing, but everyone knows that it does not.

Says religion.wikia.com of the term “new religious movement”: “Scholars studying the sociology of religion have almost unanimously adopted this term as a neutral alternative to the word ‘cult.’” How can it not follow that “cult” is therefore not scholarly but more in keeping with those who want to stir up ill will if not hate?

It is akin to yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. People may act upon it. They particularly may do so if “cult” is coaxed just a little bit further in the public eye to become “extremist.” Such a thing has happened with regard to Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia under the guidance of “anti-cultists." Many other new religious movements are shaking in their boots that their turn will come.  In that country, Witnesses are officially designated “extremist,” a designation shared only with ISIS.

As the human rights group khpg.org points out, “You can’t claim that people are ‘terrorists’ or ‘extremists’ and then simply knock on their doors to arrest them, though in all cases there is nothing at all to suggest that resistance would have been shown. Instead, there are armed searches, most often by masked men in full military gear, with the suspect hurled to the ground and handcuffed, often in the presence of their distressed and terrified children.” This has become the reality for many Witnesses and it is a direct result of those who expand the definition of “cult” to cover people not covered previously.

Note how this meme plays out in the following event. Note also that it has nothing to do with controversies that have dogged the faith in the West: A mass shooting occurred in Crimea and the shooter’s sole parent, bringing him up by herself, is said to be a Jehovah’s Witness. Let us assume that it is true. This is not a safe assumption, for another Witness was recently denounced by Russian media as having a cache of arms. It turned out that her non-Witness husband had a few rusted and inoperable souvenir grenades from World War II. Nonetheless, we must start somewhere. Let us assume mom was a Witness.

Khpg.org here reports: “Whether or not his mother is, or has ever been a Jehovah’s Witness, there is no proof that Roslyakov had any religious beliefs, or that his mother’s alleged beliefs affected him in any way….the entire ‘story’, as presented, for example, on the Russian state-controlled Vesti.ru, is based solely on value judgements which are presented as though they were facts.

“The Vesti.ru report is entitled ‘The Kerch killer was surrounded by supporters of totalitarian sects’.  It claims that Roslyakov’s mother…’forced her son to live by the rules of the banned organization’.

“It then asserts that people who ‘have pulled themselves away from it’ are sending messages of sympathy to the bereaved families and claiming that ‘all that happened was the result of pseudo-religious upbringing.’

“The supposed ‘expert on religious sects’, Alexander Dvorkin, makes allegations about the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ faith that are seriously questionable, as does the Russian Orthodox priest interviewed. None of the claims are in any way checked or analyzed, nor is the viewer offered anything in the way of an alternative point of view. The Crimean Human Rights Group is surely correct in identifying all of this as hate speech, which can result in crimes being committed against the targets of attack.” 

Note that simply being raised as a Witness is said to account for his crime. He simply snapped amidst an intolerable upbringing. It wouldn’t have happened otherwise. There have never been any other mass shootings. “Oppressive” religion is solely to blame.

He must have snapped substantially, for Jehovah’s Witnesses are one of the few groups on earth whose members categorically reject violence for any reason. Yet they are the ones said to be at fault when a young man does a 180 from his taught values. This ridiculous perception prevails because of “anti-cultists,” whose champion in Russia, Mr. Dvorkin, is soul-mate to anti-cultists here, he even having a French NGO connection.

Some enemies of Witnesses in the West, who hurl the “cult” label liberally, are gleeful over this development, even though, in the case of former Witness anti-cultists, it results in machine guns pointed at the heads of their arrested and shackled former loved ones.  More typically, however, they disapprove of it. Some have denounced it. But their verbiage is directly responsible. Their denunciation is akin to the California arsonist denouncing that the state has burned to the ground. One must not be obtuse. Once you release the hounds of hell, you find that you cannot control just how many they maul.

And what have the Jehovah’s Witnesses done to deserve such an outcome? Do they interpret the Bible differently? Do they publicize the view that this grand experiment of human self-rule will one day end, to be replaced by God’s Kingdom? Surely such a view should be allowed to stand, even if ones adopting it change their life goals accordingly. Not everyone will think that the present world sails proudly upon the high seas, with sharpshooters in the bow ready to blast to smithereens icebergs as they approach. Some will think it more likely that the Titanic will hit one. Must that view be stomped out of existence by bullying anti-cultists?

Navy


One Thing We Know About Jesus: He Does Not Go Through Channels

 

It took the religious leaders of Jesus' day no time at all to hate his guts and to put out schemes to kill him. John chapter 11 is very frank as to why. Starting with vs 47:

So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Sanhedrin together and said: “What are we to do, for this man performs many signs? If we let him go on this way, they will all put faith in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” [Protecting their turf is what is was all about with these guys.]

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them: “You do not know anything at all, and you have not reasoned that it is to your benefit for one man to let one man die in behalf of the people rather than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” [He's a contemptuous character, isn't he?] 

He did not say this, however, of his own originality, but because he was high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was to die for the nation, and not only for the nation but also to gather together into one the children of God who were scattered about. [And he's a schemer.]

So from that day on they conspired to kill him.

Imagine! Issuing his own prophesy that Jesus will "die for the nation and gather the children of God, yada yada yada," so that when he killed him, he could put a happy face on it.

During that time, the high priest was not installed in the usual way that the Torah says it should be done. It was a political appointment from the governing authorities. He was serving as high priest "that year." You are not supposed to do it that way because you forget all about God and instead focus on covering your rear end. That is why you don't want a 'house church,' under government control.

For (prime) example, there is the house church in Russia, the Orthodox Church, snuggling up to national leadership and that leadership in return granting it exclusive status. And isn't the result more or less the same as it was back then: the ones closely reading, studying, and applying God's word of instruction and counsel, find themselves, from an organizational point of view, killed?

I like how one of those leaders broke ranks, having come to Jesus previously by night, as covered in John chapter 3:

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This one came to him in the night and said to him: “Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher, for no one can perform these signs that you perform unless God is with him.”

He's not exactly of the same heart with his buddies, is he, and he sticks up for Jesus later on (to no avail).

In response Jesus said to him: “Most truly I say to you, unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him: “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter into the womb of his mother a second time and be born, can he?” Jesus answered: “Most truly I say to you, unless anyone is born from water and spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. What has been born from the flesh is flesh, and what has been born from the spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed because I told you: You people must be born again. The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who has been born from the spirit.”

Now you know, you just know, that Caiaphas and the boys would have snapped: "What is it with these riddles? I don't have time for this nonsense!" But Nicodemus said: “How can these things be?” and he even suffers through a little reproof from Jesus as the latter replies:

“Are you a teacher of Israel and yet do not know these things? Most truly I say to you, what we know we speak, and what we have seen we bear witness to, but you do not receive the witness we give. If I have told you earthly things and you still do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? Moreover, no man has ascended into heaven but the one who descended from heaven, the Son of man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of man must be lifted up, so that everyone believing in him may have everlasting life.

He is speaking awfully plain now (for him) and he goes on to reveal to the unpretentious ruler the most compact, though complete, statement yet of just how God adapts his purpose to the present and future, a purpose he revealed long ago, when he says:

For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life. (vs 16)

It is too cool. He doesn't go 'through channels' because if he did, he would have run this by Caiaphas first (who would have told him to zip it). He never goes though channels. Always he goes over the heads of the pompous ones and speaks straight to the ordinary ones. And this next bit is certainly true (skipping only a verse or two):

Now this is the basis for judgment: that the light has come into the world, but men have loved the darkness rather than the light, for their works were wicked.

And what about this beaut that follows? 

For whoever practices vile things hates the light and does not come to the light, so that his works may not be reproved.

Nobody wants to be reproved and a fine way to reach that end is to shut down any channel that might do it.

Nicodemus doesn't fare well (John 7:51) when he tries to defend Jesus before his co-rulers: “Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and learns what he is doing, does it?” he says.

But they tell him: “You are not also out of Galilee, are you?"

Yep. Rural, backwards Galilee, home of the bumpkins, far from the sophisticated city that they hail from. Galilee, the armpit of the world, and Jesus probably smells like one, too, even if he does raise some lowlife people from the dead every now and again.

 

 

 


When Putin Opens My Letter

When Putin opens my letter, he will be disheartened. He will see several paragraphs. He will want with all his heart to read it, but he has several million other letters to get through. He will toss the letter.

He will then open the next letter and discover, as he suspected from the envelope, that it is from a child. It includes drawings, one of a sad little girl because Putin is being mean to her nice friends, and one from a happy little girl, because he has had a change of heart. Putin will smile faintly, for everyone loves children. He will put this letter aside. Possibly he will show it to his grandchildren someday.

He will open the next letter. It will also be from me—not the same letter but worded and reasoned anew. He will roll his eyes. “Another letter from that windbag Harley,” he will mutter, and toss it in the trash.

(from 2017)

 


He Enjoys Disseminating Inflammatory Narratives and Hate Speech

I tweeted, with photo included, that all Regional Conventions had witnessed scenes of Russian police breaking up Christian meetings.

Instantly, the tweet was liked from three entirely separate parts of the world, none of them in English. There is nothing like the worldwide brotherhood. Admittedly, three is not a million, but the diverse background of the likers partly offsets this.

A prominent human rights person, frequently quoted in the media, picked up the tweet and retweeted it.

If you spend any time on the music video section of JW.org—not the choir part, but the convention interludes and original songs, you cannot but be struck by the international flavor, so different from the general world which too often views anyone significantly different as one of “those people.” For some odd reason, I almost prefer lyrics sung in languages I don’t understand. It adds to the appeal of unity despite differences. Can you view such videos, ranging from small groups to international conventions, and view participants as addled victims of a cult? You have to work at it. You really do.

Online is an enemy that I keep tabs on because he reliably informs me of things I might like to address. To say ‘enemy’ might seems a little mean. I have no doubt that he has to his credit some good qualities, as do most people. But spiritually speaking, we are at 180 degree opposite poles, and it is not through any miscommunication. It is through deliberate choice on both of our parts.

The spiritual component of a person comprises two thirds, at least, of his or her total makeup. Everything else is but so much window-dressing. It is why I wrote of Prince: “I would have enjoyed jamming with Prince. Not musically, of course - I can’t play guitar – but spiritually, in the ministry. We would have been seamless together; we’re on the same page – all Witnesses are. But it wasn’t to be in this system of things. Prince was always busy. And I was – well, no – I would have found the time.”

We would have instantly hit it off. It may be that I might have discovered differences in preferences, it almost certainly would have happened, even on matters of substance, but it wouldn’t have mattered. All Witnesses know how to keep such matters in their place and not allow them to disrupt the peace of the congregation.

My online enemy hears of Russian punishment of Jehovah’s Witnesses for being Jehovah’s Witnesses, this week’s arrest including persons in their 70s, as reported in Newsweek, and feigns sympathy. He does more than ‘feign’ it. I have no doubt he genuinely disapproves of it. But as a dedicated “anti-cultist,” he is sorry for it in the same sense that the arsonist is sorry to see California burning to the ground. We must not be obtuse. Once you release the hounds of hell, you find that you cannot control just how many they maul.

It is his fellow ‘anti-cultists’ who have driven the model to cast Jehovah’s Witnesses in such a bad light before the Russian Supreme Court (in combination with some nationalistic factors), with even some former members of the faith giving testimony, knowing that, if acted upon, innocent people would go to jail. My enemy’s allies push and push the narrative that Jehovah’s Witnesses manipulate people and break up families. Religion writer Joshua Gill has outlined how a French NGO dedicated to protecting people from ideas considered socially destructive by the NGO sent a well-known emissary to Russia who spread that view with missionary zeal, maximizing his existing status with the Russian Orthodox Church.

It worth noting that the European Court of Human Rights didn't buy either charge. It wrote in 2010: “It is the resistance and unwillingness of non-religious family members to accept and to respect their religious relative’s freedom to manifest and practice his or her religion that is the source of conflict.”

As to a charge of "mind control," it wrote: “The Court finds it remarkable that the [Russian] courts did not cite the name of a single individual whose right to freedom of conscience had allegedly been violated by means of those techniques.”

The Russian Supreme Court in 2017 was not chastened by this rebuke and saw no need to cite a name for the April 20th trial, either. They did, however, find every need to not hear representatives of foreign embassies who might, for all they knew, have sided with the European Court.

The NGO itself has come in for censure more recently, in that it “has benefitted from abusive grants that they have used to disseminate hate speech targeting some minority religious groups in the countries of the European Union and beyond.” The occasion was a side event to the Universal Periodic Review of France in Geneva (January 15th, 2018) where several NGOs and an international law expert called upon President Emmanuel Macron and his Prime Minister to revise the financing of the NGO that sends a clear “open hunting season” on religious minorities. 

Of the emissary, a Mr. Dvorkin, it is written that he “enjoys disseminating inflammatory narratives and hate speech. Last year, in the capital city of India, Hindus have held a demonstration outside the Russian embassy to protest against the persecution of their religion and burnt an effigy of Dvorkin.” Nonetheless, his views have carried the day in Russia, the same as they do with my enemy closer to home.

 

IMG_0289


Who Called it First

Jehovah's Witnesses probably came up in 2.5 hours, but only briefly. @Dr_Ariel_Cohen: religious freedom is "burning, but not paramount importance to Trump & Co, given critical geopolitical issues.

I called it first here: http://www.tomsheepandgoats.com/…/ill-take-it-fake-news-or-…

Somewhat increasing odds of Witnesses arising briefly as topic of discussion is that pre-campaign Jerod Kushner bought the Watchtower buildings and said extraordinaryly nice things of them, such as with them "a handshake deal means something"

It was originally on the Witness website. They took it down when Trump began running for President in earnest, probably so that no one would think they were poltiical. But it is picked up here on YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfp1a7k3N7s

Summit


I'll Take it, Fake News or Not

Fake news is everywhere, and some of it surfaced about the Russian ban: ‘Church members of Russia have united! They have launched massive protests against the government in behalf of the Witnesses! President Trump rebuked Russia and invited its entire Witness population to the United States! He visited a Kingdom Hall to worship with them!’ All of it is fake news. It didn’t happen.1

Is “the news” another one of those biblical hills that melt in the last days? Is it now a thing that people of bygone days could depend upon but now need to call in Sherlock Holmes to decipher whether or not it is genuine? Is ‘reading the news’ now the information equivalent of playing Russian Roulette?

Given this apparent new normal, I will take the Trump story, fake news though it is. No, he did not speak out in favor of Jehovah’s Witnesses. But the story plants the clear notion that he should have. Most fake news about Jehovah’s Witnesses is derogatory. It is the ‘every kind of evil’ falsely said against them. It’s about time something went our way. Now it is only a matter of time before some poor body of elders must deal with NBC or somebody attempting to set up shop in their foyer so that they can broadcast “Live from the Kingdom Hall.”

From: 'Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah's Witnesses Write Russia'

The above becomes relevant because today Presidents Trump and Putin meet for summit, and the New York Times tells of an exiled Jehovah's Witness who proposes Trump ask Putin a simple question: "Why are Russians who pay their taxes, follow the law and embrace the Christian values promoted by the Kremlin being forced to flee their country?" 

A simple [and single] question. To propose Trump do this is exactly the non-confrontational style of Jehovah's Witnesses, and is proof in itself that they are not extremist. Moreover, because the goal is so modest, it is not impossible that it could happen. Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia is not everywhere, but where it is, it is draconian, with police dressed in riot gear breaking down doors to arrest them.

Meanwhile (and irrelevant), I did a google search of "New York Times Jehovah's Witnesses." The second hit is an article from 1958, telling of (I think) the largest Christian assembly in history.

 


"We Know that Satan's Coming After Us"

A major American newspaper has published material meant to be damning to Jehovah’s Witnesses, which refers to a group of elders at a 2017 meeting, where they were supposedly advised to destroy handwritten notes of meetings and notes of internal documents due to the potential legal harm such pose. Presumably (though it is not explicitly made clear) these are notes relevant to child sexual abuse investigations.

The reason? A Witness representative reportedly states: “Well, we know that the scene of this world is changing, and we know Satan’s coming after us, and he’s going to go for us legally. We can see by the way things are shaping up.” It is not hard to imagine what certain ones are doing with the explanation that “Satan’s coming after us.”

The reason the Witnesses have whatever child abuse records they do is that they sought to investigate this evil in their midst at a time that others did not. Should they destroy anything, it merely puts them on par with everyone else, who never left a ‘paper trail’ in the first place because they never were proactive. Seen in this light, it does indeed seem that Satan is ‘coming after them.’ It is the quintessential example of the cynical phrase: ‘No good deed goes unpunished.’

On the other side of the world, the Jehovah’s Witness organization during the same year was banned in Russia. Government and media have partnered to whip the public into a froth, hurling many virulent accusations about the faith. Yet, child sexual abuse allegations have played no part whatsoever. Chivchalov states that nobody has heard of it there. Only after the ban did the Russian Embassy, in response to one of my tweets, respond with a Western headline of pedophile charges.

In other words, they found a completely separate reason to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Keep in mind that we are speaking of the faith whose members are universally recognized as ‘pacifist’ – who will on no account resort to violence or support war efforts. It is highly unusual for a large group of people to have absolutely no blood on their hands in this regard, but they do not. It is not inconsequential that Jehovah’s Witnesses are, not just banned in Russia, but labeled extremists. Reports khpg.org (10/24/2018): “You can’t claim that people are ‘terrorists’ or ‘extremists’ and then simply knock on their doors to arrest them, though in all cases there is nothing at all to suggest that resistance would have been shown.  Instead, there are armed searches, most often by masked men in full military gear, with the suspect hurled to the ground and handcuffed, often in the presence of their distressed and terrified children.” Is it so crazy for the Witness spokesman to say: ‘Satan is coming after us?” Given the foregoing, it would almost be crazy for him not to.

Among the most heated charges in Russia are those of Jehovah’s Witnesses refusing blood transfusions, stemming from their interpretation of scripture. It is an issue that has largely been put to bed in the West because of the success of bloodless medicine and the growing recognition that transfusion therapy poses many risks. Still, it does happen from time to time that such refusal costs a Witness his or her life. Russian media rages over this, labeling leaders of the religion murderers.

Surely, somewhere along the line it should be acknowledged that Jehovah’s Witnesses have absolutely no deaths at all attributed to illicit drug abuse, overdrinking, and tobacco use, save only for when someone is slipping into old habits. Witnesses could multiply transfusion deaths 1000-fold and still not not come close to the mortality record of the overall world. Far and away, they are the ‘safest’ religion out there. Yet they are said to be the murderers.

And we are to laugh when they say: ‘Satan is coming after us?’ One thing we know about opposers: they will always overplay their hand, giving honest-hearted persons a heads-up. How can it not be getting near to crunch time?

It is in the free ebook (soon to be in print), ‘Dear Mr. Putin – Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia,’ with chapter 12 devoted to pedophile accusations. I had no idea when I wrote it that the book would so quickly become so relevant.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/815620

With the major outlets increasing dedicated to attacking Jehovah's Witnesses, it is not easy to balance the reports. One can do shares and retweets, but still. When push comes to shove, the Word makes clear that the enemies will have their day in the sun during this system of things.

 


Picking Strawberries

It is just a detail, not at all the main point. But I appreciate that sportwriter Ian Herbert, in his narrative of Russia while covering the World Cup, included an encounter with two strawberry pickers, who are of the same faith as me. This means that I would call them my 'sisters' and I included am saddened at what they are being put through.

It is just a chance encounter for Mr. Herbert. He writes: 

Two women, Anastasia and Elena, who approach in the sunshine of Samara's beautiful Volga embankment to say 'you are English?' turn out to be Jehovah's Witnesses.They talk about their lives. It transpires that mine is far easier than theirs. Russia and North Korea are the only two countries on earth where Jehovah's Witnesses are outlawed. Human Rights Watch reports that one Russian in their number faces a 10-year jail term, as a member of an 'extremist organisation'

Reports are that many members are being sacked from their employment, which will drive more of them to pick strawberries