Source: New York Times
VOROKHOBINO, Russia — A dedicated pacifist who has never even held a gun, Andrei Sivak discovered that his government considered him a dangerous extremist when he tried to change some money and the teller “suddenly looked up at me with a face full of fear.”
His name had popped up on the exchange bureau’s computer system, along with those of members of Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and other militant groups responsible for shocking acts of violence.
The only group the 43-year-old father of three has ever belonged to, however, is Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian denomination committed to the belief that the Bible must be taken literally, particularly its injunction “Thou shalt not kill.”
Yet, in a throwback to the days of the Soviet Union, when Jehovah’s Witnesses were hounded as spies and malcontents by the K.G.B., the denomination is at the center of an escalating campaign by the authorities to curtail religious groups that compete with the Russian Orthodox Church and that challenge President Vladimir V. Putin’s efforts to rally the country behind traditional and often militaristic patriotic values.