Russia: Alicino Defends Religious Liberty

Jehovah's Witnesses prevented from practicing in Russia

by Agrippino Castania

Jehovah's Witnesses have been outlawed in Russia because they are considered extremists and also accused of inciting religious discord.

Political and religious animosity against Jehovah's Witnesses has at times led to mob action and government oppression in various countries, including Cuba, the United States, Canada, Singapore, and Nazi Germany.

Their religious activities are currently banned or restricted in some countries, for example Singapore, China, Vietnam, Russia and many Muslim-majority countries

Very serious allegations. There is actually no evidence that can hold up on this thesis, because the Witnesses announce preach the Word of God.

Why do Jehovah's Witnesses preach from door to door?

The Jw.Org website thus answers the question: 'Jesus said to his followers,

“Make disciples of people of all nations” (Matthew 28:19, 20). 

When he sent his first disciples to preach, Jesus told them to go to people's homes (Matthew 10: 7, 11-13).

After his death, first-century Christians continued to spread their message “publicly and from house to house” (Acts 5:42; 20:20).
We follow the example of those early Christians and find door-to-door preaching a good way to reach people. 

We hope that the Russian Federation will free the Christians of the Watch Tower from detention and torture, because they pose no threat to Moscow and any other nation in the world.

We have the honor of interviewing exclusivley professor Francesco Alicino who defends the freedom of religion of Jehovah's Witnesses.

He is Professor of Public Law and Religion; in charge of constitutional law / Constitutional Law; scientific director of the School of Law - school-of-law division; Vice-rector for teaching and member of the Quality Presidium (LUM Jean Monnet - Casamassima, Bari, Italy LUISS School of Government 

Professor Francesco Alicino, Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia are persecuted and deprived of religious freedom. What can be done about it?

First of all, we can try to light up the information beacon by sensitizing public opinion and the international community to a situation that is morally unsustainable and legally scandalous. This is the main intent of a declaration entitled The Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia: An International Human Rights Concern.

A declaration signed in Vilnius in September 2020 by more than 50 scholars from all over the world and of different religious and non-denominational orientations. This conforms to what is attested by the European Court of Human Rights with a substantial and consolidated jurisprudence, with respect to which the Russi remains in default.

Here we could start from these decisions to invoke pressure on the Russian authorities to stop the undue persecution and inhuman treatment of a religious minority.

Rligious Discord

Why is all this happening?

To answer this question, I could easily draw on the reasons written in police reports and in the decisions of state judges; including the now famous 2017 ruling by the Russian Supreme Court which condemned Jehovah's Witnesses of "extremism" and "inciting religious discord."

More serious analyzes instead show that these motivations are the result of a politically distorted use of religion, increasingly fueled by a powerful machine of popular consensus and often with the support of the Russian majority confession. And this is how legislators, judges, law enforcement agencies and the media do not hesitate in that country to embody the most amazing identity of opposites, to quote George Orwell and his 1984: an identity which, as such, is revealed in the distortion of the very meaning of words.

Suffice it to say that in the case of Jehovah's Witnesses the peaceful refusal of military service, the abstention from the right to vote, the non-violent manifestation of the cult are qualified as extremist and terrorist conducts, such as to legitimize the expropriation of property, the deprivation of religious freedom.

Do you think Russia will change its attitude towards Jehovah's Witnesses sooner or later?

I don't know if and when it will change. I only know that with this attitude the rights of a sectarian minority are not at stake. The very meaning of the democratic state is at stake, in its sustainable and non-tyrannical meaning. This is in line with what Guido De Ruggiero said, for whom the right of religious freedom is the seed from which all other fundamental rights have historically germinated. Rights and freedoms that, in relation to democracy, can be compared to the air we breathe: we understand their importance only when it is lacking, as dramatically testified by the poor covid-19 patients who complain of a "hunger for air from intensive care ".

Here, we must remember the importance that fundamental rights have to free themselves from the hungry attitude of new and old forms of authoritarianism, often based on the unsustainable weight of democracy "of numbers" or of the majority alone. But to do this, it is also necessary to give due weight to knowledge which, as Luigi Einaudi said, is the necessary prerequisite for deciding and deliberating in an efficient, secular, reasonable and scientifically sustainable way.

What appeal do you want to make to Putin?

If I could, I would invite him to read the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (possibly accompanied by the aforementioned declaration), asking him to follow up on the relevant requirements.

Jehovah's Witnesses believe we are near the end (Armageddon), many governments believe that the coronavirus could launch a massive attack on the world economy. So if it's true that we're almost at the end, what's the point of getting lost in conflict right now at such a critical time.

For this reason, we hope that Russia will allow Jehovah's Witnesses to return to a certain condition of religious freedom.

Soon we will publish articles that will talk about this events from a Russian prospecting, we are really keen to hear the opinion of  a great country that made the history of the world.

Other Blogs For Society

Here’s a brief list relative to Society .