Jehovah’s Witnesses often clash with earthly powers


By ERASMUS

MANY WESTERNERS regard the Jehovah’s Witnesses, handing out tracts on street corners or knocking on strangers’ doors, as somewhere between a colourful eccentricity and a mild irritation. But authoritarian governments have often regarded them as a threat to society. So, at certain times (especially in periods of war), have democracies.

Regardless of their own feelings about the sect, people who monitor religious freedom were shocked by a six-year jail term that a Russian court imposed this week on a Danish follower. The punishment was handed down to Dennis Christensen (pictured), who has lived in Russia for years and led Bible readings in a local branch of the sect. It was widely described as the harshest violation of freedom of belief that the country has seen in recent years, and an ominous throwback to Soviet practices.

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