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Jehovah’s Witnesses Religious Buildings Seized in Eastern Regions of Ukraine
4 March 2015, 17:50 | Religious intolerance and vandalism | 5 | | Code for Blog | |
As of January 2015, armed groups have forcibly taken possession of 14 Kingdom Halls (houses of worship) belonging to Jehovah’s Witnesses in Ukraine, informs their official page and gives full list of buildings seized. The seized buildings are located in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the eastern part of the country, where a violent conflict has raged for many months. These armed men have targeted Jehovah’s Witnesses because of prejudice and disregard for the Witnesses’ right to freedom of religion and association.
The seizures of Kingdom Halls are not random acts but are discriminatory attacks against the Witnesses and their religious beliefs. The commander of one group of men declared his intention to “get rid of all Jehovah’s Witnesses” because, in his view, the Orthodox Church is the sole religion permitted in the region. Another commander stated, “It’s all over for Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Despite these threats, Jehovah’s Witnesses are determined to remain active throughout Ukraine.
For more than 20 years, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Ukraine have enjoyed freedom of worship. Vasyl Kobel, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses at their branch office in Lviv, stated: “We have regularly gathered in our houses of worship for Bible reading and prayer, and we have always endeavored to be a positive influence in the community in which we live. But in recent months, the lives of the Ukrainian people have been adversely affected by the turmoil in the east of the country. Jehovah’s Witnesses are no exception; we are also victims of the violence.”
Mr. Kobel spoke on behalf of the 150,000 of Jehovah’s Witnesses who live in Ukraine. Thousands of Witnesses have fled the war zone in recent months. But the approximately 17,500 Witnesses who remain in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions are trying to carry on their daily activities in the midst of a violent conflict. Because their Kingdom Halls have been seized, thousands of Witnesses have no building in which to gather for worship, and they are forced to meet in cramped conditions in private homes. Other Witnesses must now travel up to two hours each way to attend religious services.
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