Sunday, April 11, 2004

Moscow Court Bans Jehovah's Witnesses

I am not a Jehovah's Witness, but I have many friends who are. To me, they are not obnoxious door-knockers who keep coming back wanting to discuss my religion, they are my neighbors, the guy who works at the local hardware store, and his wife, father and mother. They don't celebrate "normal" American holidays, which is great for me, because I usually travel on holidays and need someone to house-sit. They are not just available to house-sit, they are trustworthy and leave the house cleaner than when they came. And yes, we have had several lively discussions of their views of the Kingdom to come and no, I don't subscribe to their beliefs. But I respect their beliefs and their right to express them freely--it can't be easy to be a Jehovah's Witness.

So I was appalled today to learn this from a newsgroup:

In a disturbing setback for religious freedom in Russia, Moscow's Golovinskiy Court recently issued a decision to ban the religious activities of Jehovah's Witnesses in Moscow and to liquidate their legal entity. The Jehovah's Witnesses plan to appeal the decision, and that appeal will stop any immediate action to implement the decision.

The U.S. State Department has urged local Moscow authorities and the Russian Government to honor their commitments to respect the right of all faiths to religious freedom.

The Moscow Court's decision is plainly in violation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:

"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."

The International Foundation for Human Rights and Tolerance continues its work to ensure that every person can enjoy their basic human rights, as listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Please visit the Foundation's website to read the Declaration.

If you believe in God, a prayer would be in order, in support of the Russian Jehovah's Witnesses. If you don't believe in God but do believe in freedom of expression, then write a letter to the Golovinskiy Court and let them know you support freedom of religion and that they should too.

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