by Camelia Marin
Making a short research on the angles that Netflix takes in its documentaries about spiritual movements, we can notice that Netflix follows playbook of anti-cult movement to make all new religious movements look bad.
In May this year was published an interesting article named: „Is Netflix a Threat to Religious Liberty?” by Dr. Massimo Introvigne https://bitterwinter.org/is-netflix-a-threat-to-religious-liberty/, in which he present about „Sensational TV series about religious leaders sentenced for sexual abuse are broadcast without considering that they wreak havoc in the lives of their innocent followers.”
A step in finding the truth is to raise an interest on the subject, watching the series produced by Netflix.
Are these series just another way of raising scandal, sensational, drama, etc., without caring about real people? Does Netflix become a tool in spreading information that can affect lives of spiritual practitioners?
The article mentioned above refers to members of different spiritual communities, such as Providence, of the Mexican megachurch La Luz del Mundo, of the Czech Guru Jára Path, of the Buenos Aires Yoga School in Argentina which either lost their job or had serious problems in their workplaces. The same happened to "devotees of Shincheonji in South Korea after the accusation (later declared false by the local Supreme Court) that their religious movement had willingly spread the COVID-19 virus, or members of the Unification Church/Family Federation in Japan."
The Netflix platform offers an abundance of new and exciting series, saying that „Documentaries and docuseries about cults expose not only their warped power dynamics and chilling secrets, they also explore the voices and lives of those involved.”
It is easy to find the documentaries about spiritual communities and leaders, just search “Documentaries on cults” and already some titles, and their short explanation pop up.
Several of such series are based on apostates, former students’ statements, and they play around a subject. The easy way to sell and make it sensational and scandal is about sexual abuse.
In such series, one or more women claim, in some cases many years after the facts, that they had consensual sexual relationships with the leaders, but they gave their consensus because they were “brainwashed” by the religious movements.
by Massimo Introvigne
Posters for the Netflix series “In the Name of God.” From Twitter.
Last month, I interviewed in Australia a young girl I would call Grace (not her real name). A brilliant company executive with an unimpeachable curriculum, she had just been called by her employer and asked just one question, “Are you still a member of Providence Church?” When she answered yes, and added she did not plan to leave the church in any foreseeable future, she was immediately fired.
The employer had known for years that Grace was a member of the Providence Church, and that the church leader had been sentenced for sexual abuse, as the story had been reported in Australian media. However, he decided to fire her after a Netflix TV series on Providence and its leader had gathered millions of viewers.
I collected similar stories in several countries. Members of Providence, of the Mexican megachurch La Luz del Mundo, of the Czech Guru Jára Path, of the Buenos Aires Yoga School in Argentina either lost their job or had serious problems in their workplaces. The same happened to devotees of Shincheonji in South Korea after the accusation (later declared false by the local Supreme Court) that their religious movement had willingly spread the COVID-19 virus.
Members of the Unification Church/Family Federation in Japan went through the same ordeal after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by a man who claimed that the church, to which Abe was friendly, had ruined his mother, who is still a member. Although the dynamics are similar, I will focus here on cases where the leaders have been accused of sexual abuse, rape, or inducing members to prostitution.
The city of Nice is home to “a number of extremely serious facts, which took place in several buildings” (“plusieurs faits extrêmement graves qui se sont produits dans différents établissements”). This is what Christian Estrosi, mayor of the Côte d’Azur pearl, in Mediterranean France, wrote in a June 15, 2023, letter to French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne. What that “number of extremely serious facts,” worth a national alarm and the public denunciation by the authorities, was? A few children, aged 9 to 11, prayed.
Religious liberty is threatened all over the world in different ways, grades, and shapes. In democratic societies the persecution is often indirect. It may be of an administrative or fiscal kind, as the case of Tai Ji Men in Taiwan shows. Sometimes, it is cultural. Tolerant France may become intolerant, as the paradigmatic case of Nice proves.
In some schools some children “prayed according to the Muslim rituals in the courtyard” of the schools they attend(ed), “or managed to observe a minute of silence in memory of the prophet Muhammad” (“ont fait la prière musulmane dans la cour de leur établissement ou ont organisé une minute de silence à la mémoire du prophète Mahomet dans leur école”). In detail, on May 16, 10 pupils of Saint-Sylvestre elementary school in northern Nice and three on June 5 in Fuon Cauda elementary school, in the center of the city, prayed before lunch. On June 8, a child in a third elementary school, Bois de Boulogne in Nice’s Moulins neighborhood, organized a silent remembrance of Prophet Muhammad, as the French daily “Le Figaro” and state-owned Radio France reported. Moreover, also in Nice, three students prayed in a secondary school, the Collège Picasso de Vallauris-Golfe-Juan, and a girl wore the “abaya,” a traditional robe used my Muslims especially in the Arabian Peninsula, in the Estienne d’Orves high school. The three students were excluded permanently from the schools, and the girl suffered the same fate for five days.
By Camelia Marin
The struggle for religious liberty has been ongoing for centuries, and has led to innumerable, and often tragic, conflicts. The twentieth century saw the codification of common values related to freedom of religion and belief in numerous international treaties, declarations, and conventions.
The United Nations recognized the importance of freedom of religion and belief in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18. Similar provisions can be found in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as other regional and specialized human rights instruments. However, attempts to develop an enforceable, binding document specifically related to the freedom of religion and belief have been unsuccessful.
After twenty years of debate, intense struggle, and hard work, in 1981 the General Assembly made strides towards achieving the goal of introducing a treaty on freedom of religion and belief, adopting (without a vote) the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (1981 Declaration). While the 1981 Declaration lacks any enforcement procedures, it remains the most important contemporary codification of the principles of freedom of religion and belief.
Religious tolerance and pluralism made great gains in Western Europe after World War II and in Eastern Europe after the Cold War.
The end of the Cold War in 1989 "liberated" religions in Eastern Europe from Communist restraints. It opened up new possibilities for minority religions and unprecedented freedom of religion and conscience.
On U.N. International Day of Living Together in Peace, scholars and human rights activists called for acknowledging injustice and restoring justice for Tai Ji Men.
by Daniela Bovolenta
The poster of the webinar.
On May 16, 2023, United Nations International Day of Living Together in Peace, CESNUR and the Brussels-based NGO Human Rights Without Frontiers co-organized one of their bi-monthly webinars about the Tai Ji Men case, under the title “Will Tai Ji Men Finally Be Allowed to Live Together in Peace?”
Karolina Maria Hess, a researcher at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, introduced the webinar and a video on the history of the International Day of Living Together in Peace. It was included among the U.N. international days of observance in 2017, the video explained, but the original initiative came from Sheikh Khaled Bentounès, the head of the Algerian branch of the Muslim Sufi brotherhood Alawiya.
On 16 May 2023, CESNUR and Human Rights Without Frontiers co-organized a webinar about the Tai Ji Men case, under the title “Will Tai Ji Men Finally Be Allowed to Live Together in Peace?”
Soteria International, represented by Camelia Marin, contributed by expressing the concern about the Tai Ji Men case and the endless bureaucracy that is affecting the spiritual community:
United Nations Declaration refferes to International Day of Living Together in Peace as "Working together with religious leaders to promote tolerance and understanding among human beings"
For a spiritual community to live in peace means that all its environment, social and political.
The community is created by individuals. Many factors are influential in the formation of the individual personality. Families and media, as well as cultural and religious communities themselves, should support the development of open-minded individuals, capable of critical thinking and of constructive dialogue with others.
Education is combating ignorance, breaking down stereotypes, building trust and mutual respect and promoting sincere support for the shared values of living together.
For this, institutions of the states develop projects in collaboration with religious communities to promote shared values and “living together”.
In Taiwan, we can see among others, the example of Tai Ji Men spiritual community and their participation to national and international events, calling for Love, Peace, Conscience, helping people unite in the hearts and encouraging the search for their inner peace and harmony.
Still, we can notice situations when national or international institutions obscure the responsibilities of government for upholding human rights, and create obstacles to calling human rights-violating states to account.
by J. Gordon Melton*
*Transcript of a speech at the webinar of April 27, 2022, introducing Massimo Introvigne’s book “Sacred Eroticism: Tantra and Eros in the Movement for Spiritual Integration into the Absolute (MISA).” The spoken style has been preserved.
I have read Massimo Introvigne’s book “Sacred Eroticism: Tantra and Eros in the Movement for Spiritual Integration into the Absolute (MISA)” (Milan and Udine: Mimesis International, 2022), as a historian. I am familiar with MISA and its legal and other problems over the years.
MISA is being dismissed as a new, non-traditional, and less than serious religious community. It has been argued that it is not even a religious community at all, but a secular group that is presenting its teachings with a religious façade, so that it can practice anti-social activities under the guise of a religion, and thus, get away with them because of our love for religious freedom.
At its worst, MISA would be dismissed as a sex cult, at best as a group living under the shadow of its founder, wishing to spread sexual immorality under various pretexts.
As I approached MISA, I see it is somewhat different, in fact almost completely different. It has adopted and propagates some very ancient religious ideas, actually drawing teachings from three older traditions that have been amalgamated into one. These three traditions are South-Asian Tantric teachings, Chinese alchemical teachings, and Western Esotericism.
On March 1, 2023, United Nations Zero Discrimination Day, CESNUR and the Brussels-based NGO Human Rights Without Frontiers organized one of their bi-monthly webinars, with the title “Zero Discrimination for Tai Ji Men.”
Willy Fautré, co-founder and director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, mentioned the international treaties calling for the elimination of all discriminations. These treaties, he said, unfortunately did not prevent discriminations to continue, even in democratic countries, particularly in the field of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB). In several European countries, minority groups and the more so those stigmatized as “cults,” are discriminated from the legal and tax points of view. The same, Fautré noted, has happened in Taiwan with Tai Ji Men.
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.