BAGUIO CITY—Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW) in the Philippines have asked the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to intercede on behalf of Filipinos who face arrest or deportation in Russia for belonging to their faith.
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of the Philippines, the legal and corporate arm of JW, made the appeal when it met DFA officials this week on behalf of more than 8,000 Filipino Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia.
Hundreds of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia are affected by a warning issued by the Russian prosecutor general about what it described as the JW’s “extremist activities.”
The law, enforced in 2002, bars “public and religious associations or any other organizations, or of mass media, or natural persons [from undertaking activities]… aimed at the forcible change of the foundations of the constitutional system and the violation of the integrity of the Russian Federation.”
The prohibition covers religious activities that impart “propaganda of the exclusiveness, superiority or deficiency of individuals on the basis of their attitude to religion, social, racial, national, religious or linguistic identity.”
The warning was directed at the Administration Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, following the seizure and liquidation of pocket groups of JW congregations recently. The center serves as JW’s national headquarters in Russia.
Dean Jacek, spokesperson of JW in the Philippines, said they filed a formal protest against Russia at the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
He said the rule may be used to “freeze the Watch Tower Society’s assets” and confiscate office properties and all Kingdom Halls in Russia.
Russia recently banned JW publications, including Bibles, which do not incite to violence, he said.
“We are not engaged in any extremist activity. We simply want to freely carry out our worship and our Bible education work peacefully,” he said. —