by Massimo Introvigne
*Conclusions of the webinar “Tai Ji Men: Fighting for Human Rights,” co-organized by CESNUR and Human Rights Without Frontiers on December 10, 2022, Human Rights Day.
Photo - Police confront protesters in Iran. Photo by Ebrahim Noroozi, Farsnews. Credits.
This year, Human Rights Day is celebrated right in the middle of some of the most heated discussions on human rights in recent years. On August 31, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report accusing China of gross human right violations and what it called “crimes against humanity” in Xinjiang.
Several European countries have asked for an international tribunal that would judge the Russian war crimes in Ukraine, similar to the Nuremberg tribunal that judged Nazi leaders after World War II. The World Cup of soccer is now taking place in Qatar, and several Western teams have tried to use the tournament as an opportunity to publicly protest the violations of human rights in Qatar and other countries with an Islamic majority, including Iran.
New paradigm of solving conflicts - raising from the mind, in the heart. Love, Peace, Conscience.
By Camelia Marin
See whole webinar here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Qz2UZB2Bzo
On the Human Rights Day, in order to fulfil our purpose which is to see the human rights respected all over the world and the human kind being genuinely humane, I would like to start with the necessity of unifying minds and hearts – which is the key element to be taken into consideration both for the individual spiritual evolution and for the social evolution seen from a holistic perspective.
As we can see, Tai Ji Men practice encourages all of us to experience states like love, peace and conscience, which, in their view, should be there in order to become a harmonious society and to raise our level of consciousness.
In one way or another, we need to shift from the old paradigm of solving conflicts – which didn’t take into consideration the already existing state of unity, created by both sides of the conflict being on the same level, of the mind, and which, thus, was in itself a seed of conflict – to a new paradigm, of surpassing the level where conflicts appear, by engaging the hearts in this process.
Validated nowadays by the newest discoveries of science, this new paradigm of conflict management is based on the concept of Concordia or coherence of the hearts.
In 1950, the United Nations declared 10th December a day to celebrate human dignity, equality and respect, a day to remind governments and politicians that the paramount emphasis of all their actions should be the human dimension.
On the Human Rights Day this year, Soteria International will participate to the webinar organized by CESNUR and HRWF to further the scope of the human rights’ discussions and to bring perspectives from various spiritual traditions.
Tai Ji Men case shows us that violations of human rights or better said spiritual human rights are still happening.
by Marco Respinti*
*Introduction to the hybrid webinar “Persecuting Spiritual Teachers: The Tai Ji Men Case,” co-organized by CESNUR and Human Rights Without Frontiers on October 8, 2022, after the World Teachers’ Day (October 5).
Photo: Teachers of the famous medical school of Salerno in a medieval illuminated manuscript. Credits.
The World Teachers’ Day is an annual day of observance established in 1994 by two United Nations agencies, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) to commemorate the signing of the 1966 Recommendation, Concerning the Status of Teachers. That Recommendation relates to a variety of subjects, ranging from working conditions to the continuing education of teachers.
Let me then briefly underline the crucial importance of teachers for a virtuous society. In fact, no one should under-evaluate it.
Teachers are key elements in the transmission of values that sustain a community. In fact, teaching and schooling mean not only communicating a set of notion but offering a particular aid to the general educational task needed in any human community, working with families in a subsidiary way. In this regard, teachers work side by side, at least implicitly, with families, and should never contrast them in their guiding principles. As families are the fundamental and foundational cells of a society, teachers working with families help families to implement their vocation.
by Massimo Introvigne*
*Conclusions of the hybrid seminar “Persecuting Spiritual Masters: The Tai Ji Men Case,” co-organized by CESNUR and Human Rights Without Frontiers in Walnut, California, on October 8, 2022, after the World Teacher’s Day
For reasons I and other scholars have discussed elsewhere, France has a particularly aggressive and government-sponsored system to fight against “cults,” called in French “sectes.” One of its most bizarre features is the use of the word “guru” as if it was a synonym of a criminal religious leader brainwashing and exploiting his or her followers for money, sex, and power. This use is now common in French-language media but is, if you would pardon my French, idiotic.
Not only is “guru” used outside the original context of spiritual masters in the tradition of the Indian religions, but the meaning of the word is totally misunderstood. “Guru” is a word used in the Indian tradition to indicate the best of all human beings. It is an ancient Sanskrit term with a variety of etymologies, which are complementary rather than alternative. A “guru” is first of all a “dispeller of ignorance,” as “gu” means “ignorance” and “ru” means “one who dispels.” A guru is one who has received a special call from the divine and calls others to enlightenment, from the Sanskrit root “giri,” “one who calls.” “Guru” also means one who “has weight,” figuratively but also physically: hence the representations of the Buddha as a fat man and the popular Indian legend that a guru on a scale has a weight much higher than an ordinary man or woman with similar features.
By Camelia Marin, Soteria International
The subject - Persecuting spiritual teachers - is in the same time unbelievable to happen nowadays but, unfortunately very real.
I will start by just pointing out The ongoing case of Tai Ji Men and its leader Dr. Hong Tao-Tze is one of such terrible example of persecution.
With no reason and no proves Dr Hong was unjustly kept in a detention center for 159 days by the Prosecutor Hou Kuan-Jen.
Prosecutor Hou and those who persecuted Tai Ji Men, were politically motivated, but they also wanted to destroy a spiritual community based on moral rules and guided by healthy principles. They did not succeed and Dr. Hong after his release came back to teach his disciples, dizi.
Following his path, Dr Hong continues to successfully teach about conscience, peace, love, and self-cultivation to this very day. However, he and Tai Ji Men continued to be harassed in Taiwan in several ways, particularly through ill-founded tax bills.
I will bring one more example, which shows several similarities - the case of yoga teacher Gregorian Bivolaru and MISA yoga school.
During time, since the communist regime in Romania till nowadays, in persecuting the yoga teacher Gregorian Bivolaru, Romanian authorities skilfully falsified facts, documents, for changing and then “disguising” all political persecutions into common crimes.
See the videorecording of the whole webinar here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mraaTOcg2u4
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.