Cyprus Mail 2000/ $cientology Cult Recruitment
7 Feb 2002
1 article, 1 editorial -
Friday, March 17, 2000
Fears of 'cult recruitment drive' in Cyprus
By Noah Haglund
FEARS are rising that religious cults masquerading as companies could pose a danger to the psychologically vulnerable, if recent press reports are to be believed.
The US-based Church of Scientology, which its detractors accuse of exercising dangerous forms of mind control, has shown signs of trying to swell its membership in Cyprus, according to a succession of reports in the daily Politis. The paper yesterday published a letter in which a Cypriot woman went as far as to ask a church superior for permission to go to the hairdresser.
On Wednesday, the same newspaper alleged that an unnamed Cypriot diplomat's daughter had fallen into the clutches of a religious cult run by the Church of Scientology.
Scientologists have attracted considerable attention throughout the world, largely because of their success in attracting Hollywood stars to their ranks, including John Travolta, Kristie Alley, Tom Cruise and Lisa Marie Presley.
According to Dianetics, the theory behind Scientology, the purpose of people on earth is to cleanse themselves of passions with spiritual and medical methods so they can travel to the planet from which they came from.
Some, however, doubt the spiritual motives of the organisation, citing Scientology founder and best-selling science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard that "writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion."
Those who pursue the path to 'enlightenment' through Dianetics are encouraged to give large amounts of money to the church and cut off relationships with family and friends.
Politis reported on Wednesday to have found exclusive sources indicating that a new company linked to Scientology had just been registered in Cyprus. The paper said it was comprised of five different commercial logos, all of which could be traced to the US-based church.
The paper claims many Cypriots may already have fallen victim to these 'companies', which present themselves as research centres or help groups offering psychological counselling. Former cult members and police estimate the current number of Scientologists on the island at about 50, but the new companies may suggest an effort to expand.
Yesterday, Politis claimed several Cypriots had handed over their property to companies that could be traced back to the Scientologists.
The group has already obtained a large house worth over £150,000 for meetings every Sunday, the paper alleges, saying the property had belonged to a Cypriot who signed it over to the church after becoming a member.
Politis said it obtained much of its information on the group's efforts in Cyprus when a former member contacted it to report he was in physical and psychological danger after leaving the cult and had had to seek help at a psychiatric clinic.
He claimed that in addition to the effects on his mental well-being, he had lost a lot of money in his quest to travel down the church's path to 'spiritual enlightenment'.
Apparently, President Clerides is aware of the situation and has sent a formal letter to the Education Ministry to take measures.
It is thought the Ministry has asked the Attorney-general to adopt legislation that would allow measures to be taken. The Cyprus Mail was unable to reach anybody at the Education Ministry for Comment.
The Mail contacted the deans of several local colleges, none of whom reported any proselytising by such groups as the Scientologists. The general consensus was that if these groups were hosting meetings that were free and open to the public, then this was totally permissible under most college rules as well as the laws of the Republic.
Cyprus, however, may just be witnessing the start of a trend already well-established elsewhere. Scientology has major centres in every country in Western Europe and North America. A number of these countries, including the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Greece have seen high profile cases where governments have sought legal action against the church and won.
In 1997, a Greek judge ordered a branch of the church of Scientology registered as a company in Athens to close down and pay all the court's legal fees, ruling that the group had obtained a license to operate under false pretences.
Wednesday, March 22, 2000
Cults and the search for that missing 'something' CULTS, like the people that join them, come in all varieties. And those who join them do so for all variety of reasons. What cults have in common is they make rainbow= promises that few, if any, can keep. Despite this, thousands of people each year all over the world are lured into them in hopes of finding something they feel is missing from their lives.
That missing something could be love or acceptance never received from parents or peers. Spoiled, rich kids given everything but love might be equally vulnerable to joining the same cult as poor, orphaned street urchins with criminal pasts. Ostensibly well-adjusted middle-class adults often join cults to give meaning= to lives they feel, for all their material successes, are spiritual deserts. For some, cults offer certainties in place of life's uncomfortable ambiguities. For others, they promise a sure road to some eternal reward that organised religion somehow failed satisfactorily to offer them.
But cults are not without their dangers, physical, psychological and financial. And some are more harmful than others -- to their members, to non-members or to both. So-called Doomsday cults, such as the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, last Friday burned to death some 500 of its members in a Uganda church. The Japanese Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth=) cult killed 12 and injured more than five thousand innocent Tokyo underground passengers in March 1995. And the US-based People's Temple ended in the jungles of Guyana in November 1978 with the murder-suicides of 914 of its members after they drank or were forced to drink a cyanide-laced fruit concoction. Before dying in the jungle, the People's Temple members had given all their cash, property and personal goods to its founder, father= Jim Jones -- a practice all too common with cults.
In recent days, the Scientology organisation has emerged again on the Cyprus scene. It surfaced here about a decade ago, but after some hot pursuit through Church influences, appeared to have lost interest in Cypriot converts. Now, however, news reports are quoting citizens alleging exploitation and intimidation by Scientology members. The group says it is a religion, but many governments in Europe and some US law enforcement agencies consider Scientology to be a dangerous cult.
At least one Cypriot defector from Scientology was quoted by Politis newspaper last week as saying that he had lost a lot of money seeking the group's spiritual enlightenment=. And he said he felt physically and psychologically in danger because he had defected from it. Politis also reported that at least one commercial company with links to Scientology had recently been registered in Cyprus.
The paper also said many Cypriots claim -- probably in search of that missing something= in their lives -- to have fallen victim to Scientology's psychological techniques. According to cult investigators, de-programmers=, law enforcement and mental health experts, these techniques are merely the misapplication of sound psychological principles on vulnerable people -- people in search of something= -- such that they are effectively placed under the group's brand of mind control. Scientology denies this.
Concern that Scientology may have begun a recruitment drive, especially on Cyprus college and high school campuses, has apparently reached President Glafcos Clerides. He is reported to have voiced his concerns in a letter to Education Minister Ouranios Ioannides, who in turn is said to have brought the matter to the attention of the Attorney-general's office.
We would be loath on principle for any group's legitimate freedoms of belief, thought, press or speech to be restricted or intimidated by state agents. We would also be reluctant to see any innocent, vulnerable people -- especially students -- seduced by any kind of cult, and perhaps hurt psychologically, financially and even physically for life in their quest for that missing something= in their lives. A word to the wise is superfluous.
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