YANDE SYAMPEYO, Lusaka
Alarm and agitation have engulfed the Jehovahâ€™s Witnesses (JW) Church in Zambia following a decision by the Russian Government to apply to its Supreme Court to ban the church in that country.
Russiaâ€™s Ministry of Justice has filed a claim in the Supreme Court seeking â€œto declare the religious organisation extremist, ban its activities, and liquidate itâ€.
Cyrus Nyangu, spokesperson of JWs in Zambia, told a media briefing yesterday that the credibility of the church is at stake as the decision by the Supreme Court, if it is in favour of the claim, would not only have dire consequences forÂ the church in Russia, but globally.
â€œOn MarchÂ 15, 2017, the Supreme Court posted a notice on its official website that it had received the claim from the Ministry of Justice. The administrative centre of JW later received a notice that the Supreme Court will consider the liquidation claim and has scheduled a hearing for 10:00 hours on AprilÂ 5,Â 2017.
â€œThe Witnesses could lose properties dedicated to religious worship, almost 400Â legal entities could be dissolved, and each of the over 170,000Â Witnesses could be criminally prosecuted merely for meeting for worship, reading the Bible together, or talking to others about their faith,â€ he said.
Mr Nyangu said the church has been accused of luring minors, interfering with privacy by evangelising, doctrine interfering with work, free time and holidays, inciting citizens to reject civic duties andÂ blood transfusion, which is tantamount to suicide and forcing families to break up, among others.
He said one of the churchâ€™s publication â€˜Listen to God and Foreverâ€™, has since beenÂ criminalised in that country.
JW Zambia Vice-President John Musuba said the church, which has 3,060 congregations and over 2,000 publishers in Zambia, risks being affected if the Supreme Court rules in favour of the Russian Government.
Mr Musuba said the church has been accused of going to â€˜extremesâ€™ to confuse other religions.
â€œThose are our fellow believers. What happens to the eye, the leg also gets affected. The world is a global village. What happens to one part of the world is like bush fire, it can easily spread to other parts of the world.
â€œSo without facts when the news will spread, people may follow unfounded, unjustified accusations and label us as bad people, when we stand for the truth,â€ Mr Musuba said.
He said his church is in the process of engaging the Russian Embassy in Zambia to air their grievances on the matter.
YANDE SYAMPEYO, Lusaka