We faced some challenges with construction of worship sites. In particular, we applied to Mayor’s office for construction of three halls in different areas of the city, however they provided the same answer for all three cases, rejecting the applications.
– Mr. Harutyunyan, last year changes were made in the RA Law on Alternative service, after which members of Jehovah’s Witnesses organization applied for performing alternative labor service. Can you express your opinion on how many people applied for alternative service; how did the Republican Committee work; in what establishments do they serve? Also what do you think about the current law?
-To date, 99 Jehovah’s Witnesses have applied for alternative labor service. The Republican Committee has now made decisions on the applications of 57 persons; the remaining applications are pending. The persons assigned to alternative labor service were assigned to the locations mentioned in the Government decision provided to you. Those are nursing homes, orphanages, psychiatric centers, rescue services, where the alternative servants must perform different works. They started their service since January 13, 2014. We do not have the complete picture on how their service goes. Everything just started and time will show how things will work out. As for the new Law on ACS we have a positive opinion so far due to the fact that currently there is no imprisoned conscientious objector.
– What challenges do you have to face with regard to construction of worship sites? As far as we are aware, you have had issues with building halls in Yerevan.
-We faced some challenges with construction of worship sites. In particular, we applied to Mayor’s office for construction of three halls in different areas of the city, however they provided the same answer for all three cases, rejecting the applications. They stated that those sites are located in residential neighborhood which could cause the discontent of neighbors, whereas you can see worship sites of different religious organization or churches even in densely populated areas. This approach is discriminatory, for that reason we applied to Court. We hope that the solution of this issue will bring positive results.
-Do children face opposition and pressures at school? Please explain.
-This matter has not been fully explored yet. Main problems are caused during Church History Classes at school because teachers start the lesson with a prayer. Children are able to defend their beliefs showing respect toward the teacher. And that brings such positive results as teachers’ respect and understanding. However it is not always the case.