By Tom Harley
In early 2017, Jehovah’s Witnesses were invited just once to write Vladimir Putin. Within two months, up to 49 million letters had been sent. They weren’t all to Putin – other officials were identified – but his was the most visible name. Trouble was not averted, yet Russia came to know of one nation on earth where every citizen cares deeply about every other.
On the surface, the letter-writing campaign was a failure. Opposition which would ultimately lead to a Supreme Court ban of the religious organization continued unabated. It has only intensified since. Two and only two groups of children were recognized by authorities as at risk of “destructive psychological influence” - children of ISIS members and children of Jehovah’s Witnesses. At present, the stripping of parental rights for members of the two groups is an unused tool, but it is a tool that has been approved for use.
Witnesses around the world felt and feel the heat on their Russian brothers and sisters as though it were on them. They longed to do something and here was something tangible they could do. By taking part in letter-writing, they fortified their Russian counterparts, who are now in the eye of the storm.
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