Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded the Order of “Parental Glory” to Valeriy and Tatiana Novik, who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, because they are considered model parents while raising eight children.
Putin's action was surprising, coming just six weeks after Russia’s Supreme Court banned the practice of Jehovah’s Witnesses religion, ruling that the Christian denomination constituted an “extremist” group. The presentation has fueled hope the court could overturn the ban which is being appealed, reported Newsweek.
The ceremony took place in Moscow at the Kremlin on the eve of International Children’s Day.
Instituted by presidential decree in May 2008, the Order of “Parental Glory” honors parents who have raised at least seven children and have shown extraordinary care for their family’s health and education, as well as their physical, mental, and moral development, said the Jehovah’s Witnesses website.
Families awarded the order are considered models that strengthen the family institution.
“We view this award as an acknowledgment that the free Bible education provided by Jehovah’s Witnesses helps parents and their children to be productive citizens not only in Russia but all over the world," said David A. Semonian, a spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses at their world headquarters in New York City.
"We hope that this award presented by President Putin is considered on July 17, 2017, when the Russian Supreme Court reviews the decision to liquidate the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia.”
The Noviks' religion wasn't brought up in the Kremlin’s reporting of the award and the two said it wasn't brought up while talking with Putin.
“There wasn't much time,” Valeriy Novik, a mechanic from Karelia, in the northwest near Finland, told Radio Liberty’s Russian service. “You couldn't say everything. And I wanted to treat the head of state respectfully. A leader is a leader and we have to respect that. You don't express your problems, your complaints to him.”
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