03:41 GMT +323 September 2019
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    Members of Jehovah's Witnesses wait in a court room in Moscow, Russia

    Finland Turns Down Asylum Applications of Jehovah's Witnesses From Russia

    © AP Photo / Ivan Sekretarev
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    Despite the fact that Jehovah's Witnesses have been branded as extremists in neighbouring Russia, the Finnish authorities still consider it a safe country for the practitioners of this denomination, which differs significantly from mainstream Christianity.

    Most Jehovah's Witnesses who have fled Russia have had their asylum applications denied in Finland on the grounds that Russia is considered a safe country, the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported.

    Between 2017 and 2019, Migri received a total of about 250 applications for asylum from Russian Jehovah's Witnesses. Of these, 90 have been reviewed so far, and the overwhelming majority have been rejected, Migri's Anu Karppi reported. Only about 10 percent of all requests were granted. According to the newspaper, the decision was grounded in the fact that Russia is considered a "safe country" for them.

    "While individual wrongdoings against Jehovah's Witnesses may occur, the risk of persecution remains low," Karppi told the Finnish newspaper. According to Karppi, there are about 170,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. "The majority of them will have an opportunity to live and practice their religion."

    READ MORE: Finnish Court Outlaws Jehovah's Witnesses' Data Gathering Methods

    In 2017, Russia's Justice Ministry suspended the activities of Jehovah's Witnesses due to extremist activities. Subsequently, the Supreme Court of Russia issued a verdict liquidating the group's headquarters in St. Petersburg and all of its 395 local chapters across the country.

    In February this year, Danish national Dennis Christensen was sentenced to six years in prison for being a community leader of the sect in the Russian city of Oryol and knowingly defying Russian law.

    Active since the 1870s, the Jehovah's Witnesses claim a worldwide fellowship of 8.5 million, of them over a million in the US alone. Their headquarters is located in Warwick, New York. The sect has a restorationist stance and is known for its doctrine of separateness, strong discipline and notorious opposition to blood transfusions.

    Related:

    You're in the Army Now: Jehovah's Witnesses No Longer Exempt From Finnish Draft
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    Christianity, Jehovah's Witnesses, Russia, Finland