image_pdfimage_print Russia Religion News (17.08.2018) – – More than 200 Jehovah’s Witnesses from Russia have asked for asylum in Finland in 2018. As Radio Liberty reported on 17 August, members of the organization, which the Russian Supreme Court in 2017 ruled to be extremist, have fled from police raids, criminal prosecution, and ordinary street beatings. They were called extremist, not because of the distinctives of their teaching, but because their books and magazines “undermine confidence in Christian religions.”


A Radio Liberty correspondent spent time in a camp of refugees in the south of Finland and spoke with Russians living there.


Here is the story of Daniil Krapotin from Orenburg. In the night of 16 May 2018, he was unable to sleep for a long time: the day before he read news about a search among fellow believers in Shuya and he became upset; he had a feeling that a ring was also closing about his family.


At about seven in the morning Daniil was awakened by a noise outside. He looked out the window of the second floor and he saw that armed personnel of the Russian Guard in helmets were pouring over the fence into the yard of their house. An elderly relative opened the door and police forced him to the ground and placed the butt of a machine gun to his head.


As Alina Krapotina recalls, the search began with a real assault and it became clear that for the law enforcement personnel there was no difference and the believers were actually equated with terrorists. The family spent several days at the dacha of friends, and back on 20 May they surrendered at the department of Finnish police in the border town of Imatra.


The Krapotins prepared to leave at the beginning of the year, after one of their relatives, back in December 2017, was seized on the street, stuffed into a car, and taken away to the police department, where he was stripped and searched. When witnesses who were found on the street asked: “How is each one being treated?” the police replied: “No, they are simply representatives of ISIS [Islamic State].”


When the relatives objected that he has nothing to do with ISIS, they said: “Well, Jehovah’s Witnesses—there’s no difference.”


Soon the family received Finnish visas and bought tickets for the train; the departure was planned for 22 May. This became known to law enforcement, apparently, from wiretaps or from intercepted correspondence. After the search the Krapotins quickly left for Finland by a different route.


In Finland, the refugees do not sit idly. Several Jehovah’s Witnesses from the camp in Konnunsuo opened a small cleaning company. They wash and straighten up the premises. Some have found work through the local congregation and some through the administration of the camp.


Many people say that there was everything in Russia: work, car, friends; and here everything must start all over again, and it is very difficult, especially when you are older than 30. But people are faced with a choice: change your views or go to jail.


We note that there are about 170 thousand Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia.


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