07/08/2011, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Orthodox nationalists attempt to prevent Jehovah's Witnesses congress

by Nina Achmatova
The event should take place this weekend, but the organization 'Council of the People' asks the attorney general to verify its legality: "The JWs are a dangerous cult and violate the law."
Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Orthodox activists of the nationalist movement 'Council of the People' are trying to prevent a large national convention of Jehovah's Witnesses (JW), scheduled from July 8 to 10 in Moscow. As announced by Russian agencies, the organization - which in Russian is called 'Narodny Sobor' - has asked judicial authorities to verify the legality of the event and prevent "violations of federal law," as it said in a statement addressed to the Attorney General and published by Interfax.

The convention of Jehovah's Witnesses, according to a report in the daily Gazeta Nezavizimaya, should be held this weekend at the Crocus Expo, a large arena for mass events just outside the Russian capital and is expected to host more than 9 thousand faithful. According to the nationalist Orthodox, the Jehovah's Witnesses "have not asked for permission to organize and hold a public religious ceremony ... thus violating the law on freedom of conscience and religious associations," the statement continues.

The Narodny Sobor - whose accusations in the past have led to the conviction of the organizers of the exhibition considered blasphemous 'Forbidden Art-2006' - stresses that the JWs are "one of the most dangerous sects in Russia" who have several criminal and civilians cases hanging over them. Often in Russia religious confessions and denominations that can not be classified among the traditional religions or are unacceptable to the political and Orthodox authorities are often defined as sects or destructive cults. Since 2004, the Jehovah's Witnesses have been particularly targeted, becoming the subject of a real persecution, which the leaders of the community compared to that suffered under Stalin. Several Russian courts have banned many of their publications and outlawed their activities. Assaults and vandalism against the community are becoming more frequent. The organization is also accused of "the violation of the rights of non-believers" through "attempts to enter their homes to pray and aggressive forms of evangelization."

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