Interview with Yaroslav Sivulsky, member of governing body of the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia
Portal-Credo.Ru: What are the very first practical consequences of the decision of the Supreme Court of the RF regarding your liquidation?
Yaroslav Sivulsky: One can say with certainty that we will not be able to conduct our big events—district and regional congresses, which we conduct three times a year, because our activity will not only be suspended but it is prohibited according to the court. In essence, this part of the decision is taking effect immediately. And if our houses of worship are confiscated, then regular meetings of congregations, which are conducted weekly, also will be impossible. Most likely, only one option remains—that is to meet in private homes of fellow believers. But this is a serious restriction of freedom.
Have any excesses arisen in the wake of yesterday’s decision and the “informational campaign” to arouse hostility toward Jehovah’s Witnesses in the news media that accompanies it?
–Today we learned that our Hall of Congresses in St. Petersburg was stoned, glass was broken, and serious physical damage was caused. From the regions we are receiving reports that some of our houses of worship have already been sealed. For example, in Crimea just yesterday police came to the house of worship, interrupted a meeting, and sealed the building. But these are only the starters; all this will come to fruition and around the country a wave of violence against Jehovah’s Witnesses is rising.
How is the Administrative Center now functioning?
–In essence, it ceased its usual activity: bank accounts are frozen, and work is not being conducted any longer in the offices. We are following the court’s decision and we cannot do anything else for now.
Will you continue evangelistic work in Russia, and if so, in what forms?
–We call this activity witnessing. Our fellow believers witness about what is written in the Bible, and it seems to me now this should be the personal decision of each of our fellow believers in the country, how they will act in the future. They should take account of certain consequences that participation in religious activity may entail, but practice will show that no decision of courts will be able to restrain a Christian from performing the task which Jesus Christ or God commanded of acquainting other people with God’s standards, with his intentions, and with his personality. Most likely, this activity will continue. Perhaps in a somewhat less explicit form.
The status of the Jehovah’s Witnesses was equated in the Russian federation to the Islamic State . . .
–Actually, the boundary between real and virtual extremism has been washed away. Many times such statements of our defenders have been voiced in the Supreme Court: Jehovah’s Witnesses are accused of virtual or literal extremism. It is clear that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not any kind of extremists; they are very far from this. On the contrary, they proclaim respect for people and love. Jesus said: “By this they will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” and not hatred. Jehovah’s Witnesses treat people of other faiths and other nations with respect. If you come to an international congress of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, you will see the greatest diversity of skin color and the greatest diversity of nationalities—and they all hug each other and get along amicably.
Is it true that on the eve of this court decision you made some attempts to rearrange the property belonging to Jehovah’s Witnesses organizations in order to save it from confiscation?
–Some small attempts were made. But it seems that this was blocked. However before the court’s decision takes effect there is still a lot of time, but all operations with our immovable property are suspended so that we have no chances for rewriting or rearranging anything.
That means that for you there is already nowhere to return to your workplace?
Interview conducted by Vladimir Oivin, Portal-Credo.Ru.
(tr. by PDS, posted 23 April 2017)
(c) 2017 HRWF