Jehovah's Witnesses in the Altay Republic


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From: MINELRES moderator <minelres@mailbox.riga.lv>
Date: Thu, 22 Jul 1999 09:36:57 +0300 (EET DST)
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Subject: Jehovah's Witnesses in the Altay Republic

From: MINELRES moderator <minelres@mailbox.riga.lv>

Original sender: Sabirzyan Badretdinov <SabirzyanB@aol.com>

Jehovah's Witnesses in the Altay Republic


JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES IN THE ALTAY REPUBLIC
 
During the 1990's many Christian churches and sects from the West have
become actively involved in missionary activities in the former USSR. 
The Muslim and Turkic peoples of Russia are among the favorite "target
groups" of these missionaries.  (See, for example, the website of the
Joshua Project 2000, directed, among other peoples, at  the Kazan
Tatars: <http://www.ad2000.org/peoples/jpl954.htm>).
 
What makes such proselytizing successful?  The Muslim religious
tradition among many Turkic peoples is not deeply rooted.  With the
exception of Volga Tatars, who accepted Islam in 922 C.E., all the
other Turkic peoples of Russia converted to Islam only during the last
two centuries.  This lack of tradition facilitates any alternative
religious indoctrination.
 
The June 22 (1999) issue of the magazine "Awake!" published by the
Watch Tower Society (an organization of Jehovah's Witnesses) carries
an  article on the subject of the sect's missionary activities in the
Altay Republic in Siberia.  Here is an excerpt from the article:
 
Altaics are generally proud of their ancient traditions and form of
worship. Most believe in river and mountain spirits - to them a
mountain is the symbol of their gods.  These also worship animals,
even drawing an image of a rabbit on a white cloth and hanging it on a
wall of their yurt.  When the first thunderstorm of the rainy season
comes, they perform a ritual before the image of the rabbit,
sprinkling it with tea, milk, or an alcoholic drink called arrack. 
But especially they worship what they belive to be spirits of the
dead.  Their religious leaders are called shamans.
 
By 1993 a congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses was established in
Ust'-Kan, and some 70 people were attending meetings there.  In April
1998, 120 attended the Memorial of Christ's death.  The village of
Yakonur, a few miles north from Ust'-Kan, was at one time considered
to be the center of shamanism.  But a man named Shamyt  said that when
the Witnesses started preaching there, the shamans started to lose
power.  A group of Witnesses are active in this village now, and many
people are showing interest in the Bible.
 
In the village of Chagan-Uzun, located about 55 miles from the
Mongolian border, it is said that most of some 500 residents read our
publications. And in Gorno-Altaisk, the capital of the Altay Republic,
there are two congregations made up of about 160 Witnesses.
 
Early in 1994, however, many Witnesses, including those from Ust'-Kan,
were summoned to appear in court in  Gorno-Altaisk. They were charged
with such outrageous offences as practicing child sacrifice.  Because
of the opposition, some Witnesses were fired from their jobs and
expelled from Altay.  But in time it became clear that the charges
against the Witnesses were false.  Thus, in May 1994, the justice
department of the Altay Republic legally registered the Gorno-Altaisk
community of Jehovah's Witnesses.  Today the Witnesses and their
literature are well-known throughout Altay.

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