17 Jan 2011

Murder of Jehovah's Witnesses couple by son highlights growing problem of sects in Armenia

Armenia Now - November 11, 2010

Murder in God’s Name: Son says he killed parents according to Jehovah’s command

By Gayane Mkrtchyan | Armenia Now

The murder of two parents by their own son, who is a member of Jehovah's Witnesses sect, caused heated public discussions in Armenia.

Arman Torosyan, 23, killed his parents – 64-year-old Khachik Torosyan and 57-year-old Marietta Torosyan in their apartment in Sevan, as he says, “fulfilling the commandment of Jehovah.”

A criminal case was filed according to the Article of the Criminal Code of Armenia (“murder of two or more people”) in Sevan.

The murderer must undergo a psychiatric examination; meanwhile a new wave of complaints against sects and the negative impact of their activities upon people rose in Yerevan.

‘Yerevan-Moscow-Tbilisi-Kiev’ teleconference, held on Wednesday, discussed the issue of the real threats sects carry, and the means of struggle against them.

According to Alexander Amaryan, head of Center for Rehabilitation and Assistance to Victims of Destructive Cults, the number of people involved in sects in Armenia reaches 368,000.

“The main goal of sectarian organizations is the ‘reprocessing’ of people. There are no corresponding specialists in Armenia; there are no independent centers, which may carry out a struggle against preachers,” Amaryan says.

Psychiatrist Aram Hovsepyan, technical coordinator of the Armenian Psychiatric Association, says that murder and suicide cases, committed under the influence of sects, increases (even though there are no official data).

“Such patients develop a kind of disorder of mental dependency upon other people,” Hovsepyan says. “We have acute psychotic disorders, which lead people to unconscious aggressive actions.”

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Armenia Now - November 17, 2010

JW Response: Man who killed parents “not, never has been” a Jehovah’s Witness

By Gayane Mkrtchyan | ArmeniaNow reporter

Armenia’s Jehovah’s Witness officials are vehemently protesting the linkage of a recent patricide in Armenia with the religious group after a barrage of criticism and disparaging reports were spread in the local media.

An Armenia representative of Jehovah’s Witness – viewed skeptically as a cult or a sect, but themselves claiming to adhere truly to the Bible and best known for door-to-door proselytizing – has strongly denied that the 23-year-old man who killed his two parents in the town of Sevan on November 8 is or has ever been a member of the organization (which claims 10,500 members and 24,000 followers in Armenia).

The man, Arman Torosyan, allegedly said he committed the double murder “fulfilling the commandment of Jehovah.”

The case – and especially the alleged link of the suspected criminal with Jehovah’s Witnesses – caused an uproar in Armenia and was widely covered by the local media, with follow-up TV talk shows, teleconferences, press conferences of psychologists, sociologists, clergy and generally “people concerned about the influence of decadent cults” in Armenia staged in its wake.

ArmeniaNow also reported news on the suspected double murder that within a few days attracted scores of comments (critical or supportive of Jehovah’s Witnesses). That report quickly became the most “read, commented or emailed” story on the current website, revealing the controversy that exists around the issue.

In a rare letter sent to Armenian media, and ArmeniaNow in particular, on Tuesday the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization said the man suspected of murdering his parents “is not a Jehovah’s Witness, has never been one and has nothing to do with Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

The letter signed by the head of the local JW Board Chairman H. Keshishyan further stresses that “Jehovah’s Witnesses respect their parents, value life, therefore for them depriving another person of his or her life or commit suicide is an unacceptable idea. And they also respect other people’s rights and dignity.”

Soon after the reports came about the crime in Sevan Armenia’s Ombudsman Armen Harutyunyan urged media to stop presenting the suspect as a Jehovah’s witness.

The Ombudsman’s office said the details of the case would be clear only after the completion of the ongoing investigation.

Earlier, media picked up unverified claims and reports quoting Torosyan’s neighbors as saying he was known as a “Jehovah’s Witness” and constantly had quarrels with his parents – Khachik Torosyan, 64, and Marietta Torosyan, 57.

The letter disseminated by the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization also particularly stresses that they are not a sect, but are “a Christian religious organization registered in the Republic of Armenia on the state level.”

While the church is constitutionally separated from the state in Armenia, the country’s Basic Law still recognizes the “exceptional role of the Armenian Apostolic Church as national Church in the Armenian people’s spiritual life, development of national culture and preservation of national identity.”

The Church, meanwhile, regards Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religious groups registered in Armenia as sects.

Surb Hovhannes (St. John) Church priest Ter Shmavon Ghevondyan says in any country where there is a traditional church, other religious organizations are considered to be sects.

“A sect is a sect no matter how hard you try not to call it one. They act like petty looters during a disaster, looters who want to get as much as they can during the time of trouble,” he says.

There are no verified data on the number of people who adhere to religious denominations other than Armenian Orthodox Christian in Armenia. Some sociologists in recent days have claimed the number of such people in Armenia could be as high as hundreds of thousands.

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1 comment:

  1. JWs see overtures from Armenian government after successes at ECHR

    By Gohar Abrahamyan, ArmeniaNow reporter

    The religious minority group in Armenia, Jehovah’s Witnesses, has again been in the focus of public attention in the past several days after two of its members won cases against the government at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). In addition, the Public Television of Armenia last week made a rare retraction of its earlier “false statements” about a double murder linked to Jehovah’s Witnesses.


    Meanwhile, in a related development the Public Television of Armenia on June 5 provided a retraction of false statements made about Jehovah’s Witnesses more than a year ago when it cited unverified reports linking an alleged double patricide to this religious organization. That reporting then caused public discontent aimed at the religious group in Armenia.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses took legal action against the broadcaster resulting in a corresponding settlement agreement last month.

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