Brother Dennis Christensen has spent over 525 days in prison for practicing his faith and has appeared in court nearly 50 times. The Zheleznodorozhniy District Court in Oryol, Russia, which is considering Dennis’ case, has scheduled hearings through mid-December. Although his detention has dragged on for over 18 months, Dennis has never lost his positive attitude. No doubt this is evidence that Jehovah is sustaining him in answer to millions of prayers by our worldwide brotherhood.
Dennis has received hundreds of cards and drawings from fellow Witnesses in Russia and other countries expressing their loving support. At his October 30 court hearing, Dennis displayed through the glass of his detention booth some of the cards and pictures that children have sent to him, so that all who came to support him could enjoy seeing them.
In addition to our worldwide brotherhood, the international community has shown great interest in Dennis’ case. On July 21, 2017, the Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Centre granted Dennis political prisoner status. On June 20, 2018, Russia’s Human Rights Council requested that the Prosecutor General’s Office verify the lawfulness of the criminal prosecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses. On September 26, 2018, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom formally adopted Dennis as a “religious prisoner of conscience.”
Russia guaranteed in open court that the ban on the legal entities of Jehovah’s Witnesses would not affect the rights of individual Witnesses to practice their faith. Local and federal law enforcement agencies have disregarded this guarantee and misapplied the law to justify arresting Dennis and many others, charging them with “extremist” activity. This year, Russia conducted scores of raids across the Federation. As of this posting, 25 brothers and sisters are in prison, 18 are under house arrest, and more than 40 are under a variety of other restrictions. The outcome of Dennis’ criminal trial will therefore set a precedent for the more than 90 other Jehovah’s Witnesses, in approximately 30 regions of Russia, who are awaiting the results of their criminal investigation.
We know our international family will keep praying that Jehovah continues to strengthen and encourage our dear brothers and sisters facing criminal charges for their faith, as we eagerly look forward to the day when he will “cause justice to be done” in their behalf.—Luke 18:7.