Moscow (AsiaNews) - Measures to combat "extremist sects" are being implemented at a local government level in Russia. These include the idea of creating an army of volunteers to monitor activities in cultural institutions, to establish a sort of checkpoint in cultural centres, cinemas, so that these places give no space to representatives of "totalitarian cults." They are all directives contained in a letter that the Deputy Director of the Department of Labour and Social Security of the autonomous region of Khanty-Mansiisk sent to directors of local cultural institutions, which can be viewed on the website portalcredo.ru.
The letter explains that "destructive sects and groups whose activities are causing irreparable damage to society and the individual” are spreading across Russian Federation territory. The department has thus prepared material "to combat the participation of members of these sects in cultural and social events”.
In addition to initiatives already mentioned, the authorities intend to carry out a media information campaign and make clinics and hospitals record cases of refusal of medical treatment based on "sectarian motivation."
Two lists were attached to the letter: one of the organizations deemed extremist in the Russian Federation and that of the "best known totalitarian groups that have substantial activities in the country. Among them - 265 in all - appears "Herbalife", "Amway" and "Word of Life," which is duly registered at the Federal Ministry of Justice. The list also includes Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, the Church of Scientology and the Seventh-day Adventists.
The initiative of the authorities of Khanty-Mansiisk confirms the difficult situation of certain religious bodies in Russia, faced with actions that behind the justification of fighting extremism, have a character of persecution. Federal justice has particularly targeted Jehovah Witnesses who are accused of being a "cult" with an "unfriendly attitude towards other churches." Authorities probably do not like some of their practices such as conscientious objection to military service, the refusal to use weapons, to surrender to blood transfusions and the demand for total devotion of followers to the community.