Author: Willy Fautré
Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers
Minority religious or belief groups around the world are often victims of suspicion, prejudices, stigmatization, discrimination, fabricated charges, miscarriage of justice, intolerance and even physical violence although they teach and practice peace and love for all human beings without any distinction.
This is the case for Ahmadis in Pakistan where they are considered heretics.
This is the case with Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia where they are stigmatized as extremists and have been banned for five years.
This is the case for all faiths in China where atheism is the doctrine of the CCP.
But this is also the case in our European democratic countries with minority groups which were created in a recent past. Media outlets and public authorities stigmatize them as cults, harmful or dangerous and that has quite a negative impact on the lives of their members.
MISA is one of such groups in Romania.
MISA (Movement for Spiritual Integration in the Absolute) is a non-profit organization registered in 1990 in Bucharest. It was founded by 27 people, including their spiritual master Gregorian Bivolaru. Its first objective is “to raise the cultural and spiritual level of people through an adequate, deeply beneficial preparation, to popularize knowledge in the fields of yoga”.
MISA is a loose network of training centers, yoga schools and ashrams. Before the 2004 police crackdown, it numbered about 37,000 practitioners. In addition, there were about 40 ashrams in Romania where some 750 people were living and practising yoga. After the 2004 events, the number dramatically decreased due to the social panic instilled by the media.
The project to destroy any ‘unwelcome’ or socially/politically rejected group in societies which have a problem with the otherness concept usually follows a well-known pattern:
These three strategies were chronologically used against MISA and Gregorian Bivolaru.
In this presentation today, I will focus on the fabrication of the criminal case against Gregorian Bivolaru as a way to try to get rid of MISA.
Author: Rosita Šorytė
FOB (European Federation for Freedom of Belief)
ABSTRACT: An important precedent was established by the Supreme Court of Sweden on October
21, 2005, when it stated that “cult” leaders accused of common crimes not directly related to religion
cannot expect a fair trial in countries where an obvious prejudice against their religious beliefs and
practices exist. They may thus be eligible for asylum abroad. Extradition was denied in the case of
Gregorian Bivolaru, the leader of MISA (Movement for the Spiritual Integration into the Absolute), who
was wanted by Romania for sexual abuse and human trafficking. The decision opened the way to asylum
in Sweden, which was granted two months thereafter. The article analyzes the Swedish case, and
discusses its relevance as a precedent whose principles may be applied in other countries as well.
On December 31, 2005, Gregorian Bivolaru, the founder and leader of MISA, the Movement for the Spiritual Integration into the Absolute, was granted asylum in Sweden. This followed a decision of October 21, 2005, of the Supreme Court of Sweden denying a request of extradition to Romania (Supreme Court of Sweden 2005; I also rely on files on the case made available to me by CESNUR, the Center for Studies on New Religions).
by Susan Wang-Selfridge*
*An in-session response to the papers presented by Holly Folk, Donald Westbrook and Rosita Šorytė in the session “‘Cults’: The International Return of a Dubious Category,” at the 83rd Annual Meeting of the Association for the Sociology of Religion, Los Angeles, August 7, 2022.
The original “Madama Butterfly,” 1904. Credits.
Certain words are used to create and perpetuate prejudice. I have studied and taught music all my life, first as a lecturer at the University of California Los Angeles, where I had earned my PhD, and then as a private teacher. Music can teach us something about stereotypes, labels, and prejudices too.
I would mention only one example. “Madama Butterfly” by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini premiered in 1904 and is among the six most performed operas in the world. Yet, recently it has been criticized by some, including in The New York Times, as perpetuating racist and orientalist prejudices.
An event organized by Soteria International, Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), European Federation for Freedom of Belief (FOB) and Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF) on MISA, or the Movement for Spiritual Integration into the Absolute,. With Camelia Marin – Massimo Introvigne – Willy Fautré –Gordon Melton - Alessandro Amicarelli – Rosita Sorite - Konrad Swenninger – Mihai Stoian (Advaitananda) – Eileen Barker
The webinar is introducing a recently released book of Prof Massimo Introvigne – “Sacred Eroticism in MISA”. And also is raising the concern on the human rights violations, institutional discrimination, social and media marginalization on MISA yoga students and the yoga teacher Gregorian Bivolaru.
If we take individually such case of a spiritual community accused of criminal intent, we can remain passive in front of the dark side presented in media, or in the doubtable evidences presented by prosecutors. Just because seems to be a particular situation.
But when we look to a larger perspective, observing the similarities from such cases, worldwide, noticing the same pattern of accusation on fraud, or human trafficking or sexual abuse, then we feel to take a stand and wish to find the truth and to support the spiritual communities in need.
This is why we are here today, and thank you again to all our distinguished guests for their research and efforts done.
During time we studied cases from different countries in Europe, as for example Ananda Assisi and Arkeon – Italy, OKC – Belgium, Poetrie Esoteric Institute – Czech Republic, MISA – Romania ... and others.
What happened and why MISA yoga school and Gregorian Bivolaru were under unprecedented attack from authorities in Romania and how that Mr Bivolaru case became a precedent of non-respecting Geneva Convention in EU?
Our guests offer their expertise in the field – see the video.
On April 27, 2022, webinar!
from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. Brussels time
Access link on zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86168730740
This event is organized by Soteria International, Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), European Federation for Freedom of Belief (FOB) and Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF) on Movement for Spiritual Integration into the Absolute - MISA.
The webinar will bring a synthesis on the discrimination and persecution happened on MISA school and students.
Also the webinar will aim to bring a perspective upon the teaching of MISA school and their perspective upon eroticism, which is the main reason for the social context and misunderstandings around MISA school.
The event will bring together distinguish scholars and experts from all around the world: Camelia Marin, Massimo Introvigne, Willy Fautré, Gordon Melton, Susan Palmer, Alessandro Amicarelli, Rosita Šorytė, Konrad Swenninger and special guests.
The webinar will be on zoom and also LIVE on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/soteria.rights
On December 10 we celebrate the Human Rights Day. Such a celebration always is a source of hope and optimism in solving different issues regarding the human rights, raising the humanitarianism and morality in the world.
This year, 2021, Soteria International, was invited to participate to a webinar – “Human Rights and Anti-Corruption: The Tai Ji Men Case”, organized by International Forum for Human Rights, in the celebration of the human rights day and also to raise awareness and celebrate December 9th – the Anti-corruption Day.
Soteria International was represented by the Deputy Director, Camelia Marin. Here is her presentation:
“Today, rule of law is challenged not only from arbitrary application of the law within certain states, but increasingly by how the tools regulating the interaction between different national judicial systems lacks a precision to hinder abuses and misinterpretations. Thus, the very tools for securing the rule of law open a risk for its corruption.
"During a cold night, a man whose last name starts with the letter K. arrives in a Central European village dominated by a mysterious Castle. He claims to be the new land surveyor, invited there by the Castle.
So starts one of the most famous novels of European literature, “The Castle,” that German-speaking Czech novelist Franz Kafka started writing in 1922 and left at his death in 1924 in the unfinished form in which it was published in 1926.
The novel continues with K. meeting the mayor, who informs it that his appointment as the local land surveyor was due to what initially he calls a mistake. But then the mayor corrects himself, explaining to K. that “One of the principles that governs the work of the administration is that the possibility of a mistake must never be contemplated. […] Mistakes are not made, and even if this happened by exception, as in your case, who could say in the end that it was really a mistake?” Besides, K. is told, the question is not whether a bureaucratic decision is reasonable or stupid. If it is properly stamped, it should be obeyed.
By Alessandro Amicarelli
On November 15, 2021, on the eve of the International Day for Tolerance, CESNUR and Human Rights Without Frontiers co-organized one of the bi-monthly webinars on the Tai Ji Men case, with the title “Witnessing for Tolerance: Scholars, NGOs, and the Tai Ji Men Case.”
Camelia Marin, Deputy Director of Soteria International, introduced the webinar, noting that intolerance is prevailing in several countries, and spread by the media, against certain new religious and spiritual movements, and is present even where many would not expect it, including in Taiwan, as the Tai Ji Men case, of which she offered a short summary, proves. She also introduced a video where specific, and in some cases tragic, victim cases evidenced the prevalence of tax injustice and the use of taxes as a tool for intolerance in Taiwan.
The full video of the webinar. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=7&v=sWoW-YEZFbI&feature=emb_logo
Two events organized by CESNUR and Human Rights Without Frontiers to celebrate the 2021 International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief. With Camelia Marin – Massimo Introvigne – Willy Fautré – René Wadlow – Christine Mirre – Rosita Šorytė – Alessandro Amicarelli – Hans Noot – Thierry Valle – Eric Roux – Kenneth A. Jacobsen – Konrad Swenninger, and witnesses from Tai Ji Men.
August 22, 2021 – Two webinars (no registration needed)
10 a.m.-12 noon Brussels time: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84836642427
7-9 p.m. Brussels time: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88145723947
By Luigi Berzano (University of Torino, Italy), Boris Falikov (Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow, Russia), Willy Fautré (Human Rights Without Frontiers, Brussels, Belgium), Liudmyla Filipovich (Lesya Ukrainka Eastern European National University, Lutsk, Ukraine), Massimo Introvigne (Center for Studies on New Religions, Torino, Italy), and Bernadette Rigal-Cellard (University Bordeaux-Montaigne, Bordeaux, France)
In 2020, the USCIRF (United States Commission on International Religious Freedom), a bipartisan commission of the U.S. federal government, identified the anti-cult ideology as a major threat to international religious liberty (USCIRF 2020).
The anti-cult ideology, or anti-cultism, is based on the idea that “religions” and “cults” are different. “Cults,” it claims, are not religions, although they may falsely claim to be religious. While religions are joined freely, “victims” join “cults” because of the latter’s coercive practices.
International terminology needs a preliminary clarification. The derogatory English word “cult” should not be translated with “culte” in French, and similar words in other languages. As scholars of religion have noticed from decades, the French word having the same derogatory meaning of the English “cult” is “secte,” rather than “culte.” “Cult” should be translated with “secte” in French, and in turn “secte” should be translated with “cult”—not with “sect,” which does not have the same negative meaning (for example, the different mainline Buddhist schools are often referred to in English as “Buddhist sects,” with no negative judgment implied).