14 February 2013

Conscientious abuse

Unlike many other countries, Russia has enshrined the right of conscientious objection to military service, and of alternative civilian service, in its national constitution. (Article 59.3: "A citizen of the Russian Federation shall have the right to replace military service by alternative civilian service in case his convictions or religious belief contradict military service and also in other cases envisaged by the federal law." Found here.)

Nikita Konev (source: Soldiers Mothers)
Concluding word in court. (Source: this Youtube video.)
However, officials in Tyumen oblast' believe that promotion of this right constitutes "encouraging citizens to refuse to fulfill their civic duties" (story here), and on this basis are continuing to harass local Jehovah's Witnesses.

And today a court in Kirovsk, Murmansk Oblast', fined pacifist Nikita Konev 130,000 rubles (about $4300) for draft evasion and abuse of the law as a consequence of his own decision to appeal conscription violations. (Local news story here; Soldiers Mothers coverage here; in Russian. English-language background story here.) Guess what his religious background is?

Our friend Vitalii Adamenko, who is familiar with conscientious objection in Russia, wrote to me:
My opinion is that these searches and attempts to declare the Jehovah's Witnesses extremists in the courts, and their systematic defamation on television, creating a negative image of them, all the other legal and illegal forms of harassment, in fact represent the state's struggle with pacifism. Who chooses alternative service in the highest numbers? Jehovah's Witnesses. On which denomination do our mass media spout the most abuse? Jehovah's Witnesses. (It is strange that journalists aren't facing legal action for defamation.)

Of course, it doesn't help that their center is in the USA, and that their numbers are increasing too quickly.... But, if it were not for their principled rejection of violence and their refusal to submit to repression, there would be no attempt to present them as extremists.

We all know that the Catholics used the Holy Inquisition to destroy their opponents, but nobody presents them as extremists. Everyone knows that the Old Believers practiced self-immolation, but nobody tries to label them as a totalitarian sect. Why? Because, for the most part, neither the Catholics nor the Old Believers have anything against participation in state violence, state murder. (In saying "for the most part," we do not intend to forget about those few who are exceptions.) But if there were as many Quakers in this country as Jehovah's Witnesses, soon they would be facing daily exposes proving that they are a totalitarian sect and in fact the most important extremists in our country.
Now there's an outreach challenge for us Friends -- to grow into such notoriety! But in the meantime, I'm thinking of those who already face these challenges today. So: to the authorities in Tyumen Oblast' worried that COs degrade civic virtue, I want to quote Proverbs 14, verses 25 and 34--

A truthful witness saves lives,
   but a false witness is deceitful....
Righteousness exalts a nation
   but sin condemns any people.

Vitalii Adamenko, who wrote the letter quoted above, also reminded me of the Santiago Declaration on the Human Right to Peace, a PDF document available through this site.

Michael Snow just left a comment on my post last week concerning evangelical hero Charles Spurgeon and Spurgeon's unequivocal rejection of war. Michael has conveniently made examples available through this site: Charles Spurgeon: On War and Christians.

A shameful unity: Is Islamophobia becoming a security doctrine in both the USA and Russia?

"In First Amendment Fight, Judge Expresses Growing Frustration" with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Insightful and modestly-stated reflections on Benedict XVI from Martha of Ireland.

On doubt, and not squelching our Sunday-school students... Thanks to Eric Muhr for the reference.

Nine minutes of blues heaven.

1 comment:

'Mela said...

Hello Johan,

I was very interested in your story about persecution of JW in Russia...

And thank you so much, for those fifteen minutes and twenty nine seconds of blues heaven!!!