Articles

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The MISA case - A fabricated case against Gregorian Bivolaru

Webinar, 27th April 2022

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:

  • Using the media artillery, even with fake and fabricated news, to destroy the image of the group and get the support of public opinion when the time has come to resort to other weapons;
  • Accusing the said group of representing a danger to society and the security of the country;
  • Taking the said group and/ or its leader(s) to court for alleged violations of the law. Alleged sexual abuse is quite often misused to this end.

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.

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The Swedish Asylum Case of Gregorian Bivolaru, 2005

The Journal of CESNUR - Rosita Šorytė; Webinar, 27th April 2022

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.
ntroduction
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).

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“Cults,” Music, and Discrimination

Words may be easily used to discriminate against religious or spiritual groups. There are examples even in music,

by Susan Wang-Selfridge*

Source https://bitterwinter.org/cults-music-and-discrimination/

*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. 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.

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Scholars Discuss Human Rights and Justice in MISA Case - video

Webinar, 27th April 2022

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.

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Scholars Discuss Human Rights and Justice in MISA Case

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

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Anti-Corruption and Human Rights- December 9th and 10th

The Tai Ji Men Case

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.

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Tai Ji Men and the Intolerance of Bureaucracy

By Massimo Introvigne

Kafka’s novel “The Castle” and Merton’s criticism of bureaucracy describe a situation that is also at work in the Tai Ji Men case.

by Massimo Introvigne*

A paper presented at the webinar “Witnessing for Tolerance: Scholars, NGOs, and the Tai Ji Men Case,” co-organized by CESNUR and Human Rights Without Frontiers on November 15, 2021, on the eve of the International Day for Tolerance.

"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.

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Witnessing for Tolerance: Scholars, NGOs, and the Tai Ji Men Case

Scholars, Human Rights Activists Discuss Tolerance and the Tai Ji Men Case

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

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ADMINISTRATIVE VIOLENCE AND THE TAI JI MEN CASE

August 22, 2021 - two webinars

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

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The Anti-Cult Ideology and FECRIS: Dangers for Religious Freedom. A White Paper

Six scholars look at the European anti-cult federation, and conclude it is seriously dangerous for religious liberty.

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)

1. The Anti-Cult Ideology

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).

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Tai Ji Men case

Building friendships around Tai Ji Men cause

Saturday, 31st July, starting 4 pm will take place the webinar disscusing about friendships around Tai Ji Men case, an event organized by CESNUR and Human Rights Without Frontiers to celebrate the 2021 International Day of Friendship (July 30). With Willy Fautré – Konrad Swenninger – Daniela Bovolenta –  Massimo Introvigne – Hans Noot – Camelia Marin, and witnesses from Tai Ji Men. ​

July 31, 2021 – 4 p.m. Brussels Time​

Zoom (no registration needed): https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85112759031"

" Tai Ji Men is a spiritual group with various chapters in Taiwan and the U.S. It has self-funded trips to 101 nations to promote love, peace, and conscience. A video presentation show that Tai Ji Men has been highly praised by President Tsai Ing-wen, three former presidents of Taiwan, and other leaders in Taiwan and around the world for its peace endeavors.

However, such an avid promoter of love and peace has been persecuted for 24 years by a few unscrupulous bureaucrats in Taiwan.

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DIALOGUE, DIVERSITY, AND FREEDOM: REACTING TO THE TAI JI MEN CASE

An event organized by CESNUR and Human Rights Without Frontiers after the 2021 World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. With Camelia Marin - Daniela Bovolenta - Massimo Introvigne - Willy Fautre - Alessandro Amicarelli - Marco Respinti, and witnesses from Tai Ji Men.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjhe2YoOfaM&ab_channel=ActionAlliancetoRedress1219

Scheduled for May 24, 2021 at 4 pm

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LIREC webinar: Freedom of Religion

From the USCIRF Report on Persecutions in Russia to Violations in Europe

On 29th January, LIREC's webinar will present and discuss the recent annual USCIRF report, by the Policy Analyst Jason Morton, on the violations of religious freedom worldwide.

The report has confirmed the concerns of LIREC, and other NGOs, for the persecution against religious minorities as Jehovah’s Witnesses, in Russia and elsewhere, carried out by some controversial anti-cult organizations.

This is a problem that LIREC formerly brought to the attention of OSCE/ODIHR in 2013, when Italy was the object of recommendations due, precisely, to these associations’ legal and media-related activism.

On the one hand, the USCIRF Report will hopefully allow for a greater international engagement in support of human rights in those areas; on the other hand, however, some anti-cult organizations like FECRIS (European Federation of Centres for Research and Information on Sectarianism), whose methods and purposes have been censured by the US commission, keep on carrying out its activities undisturbed in Europe.


https://lirec.net/events/2021/1/6/pcqayd8eifc64dj0usvlr21dz6lt64-lhahj

JANUARY 29, 2021 - 3 p.m. Rome Time

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Justice Denied: the Tai Ji Men case in Taiwan

A white paper

CESNUR – Center for Studies on New Religions, Torino, Italy and HRWF – Human Rights Without Frontiers, Brussels, Belgium, 2020

Authors: Massimo Introvigne, Willy Fautré, Rosita Šorytė, Alessandro Amicarelli and Marco Respinti

A WHITE PAPER

This White Paper is about a tax case in Taiwan, which has important international implications. It is an egregious example of how tax laws are used, or rather misused, against spiritual groups some politicians or governmental bureaucrats do not approve of, for whatever reason.

https://www.cesnur.org/2020/tai-ji-men-case-in-taiwan.htm

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The Tai Ji Men Tax Case in Taiwan

Webinar 10 December 2020

CESNUR – Center for Studies on New Religions, Torino, Italy
and HRWF – Human Rights Without Frontiers organize on the Human Rights Day the webinar about the Tai Ji Men Tax Case in Taiwan.

Massimo Introvigne, Willy Fautré, Rosita Šorytė, Alessandro Amicarelli, Marco Respinti and Camelia Marin will present and discusse about the respect of human rights on the mentioned case.

You are invited to join, no registration needed:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84145475018

Meeting ID: 841 4547 5018

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The Tai Ji Men Tax Case in Taiwan

Letter of concern

H.E. Dr. Tsai Ing-wen

President of the Republic of China

Office of the President

No. 122 Sec.1. Chongqing S. Rd.

Zhongzheng District, Taipei City

10048 Taiwan, ROC

 

Hon. Premier Su Tseng-chang

Executive Yuan

No. 1, Sec. 1, Zhongxiao E. Rd., Zhongzheng Dist.,

Taipei City 100009, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

 

Honorable Chen Chu

President, Control Yuan

No. 2, Sec. 1, Zhongxiao E. Rd.

Taipei City, 100216, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

 

September 16, 2020

 

Dear President Tsai:

Dear Premier Su:

Dear President Chen:

On July 24, we wrote to President Tsai, expressing our concern for the case of Tai Ji Men. In short, Tai Ji Men is a Taiwan-based spiritual school teaching qigong, with roots in esoteric Taoism, and with a global outreach through its cultural activities. In 1996, Tai Ji Men was among the victims of an ill-fated crackdown on new religious movements, which was started in Taiwan largely for political reasons. The indicted Tai Ji Men leader, Dr. Hong Tao-Tze, the founder and master of the spiritual school, and members were later fully exonerated from all criminal charges.

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USCIRF Exposes European “Experts” Who Support CCP Campaigns Against “Cults”

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom publishes a document against Russian anti-cultist Alexander Dvorkin and his organization FECRIS, both supporters of religious persecution in China.

by Massimo Introvigne

On July 17, 2020, the USCIRF, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, unveiled a new document, whose title is “The  Anti-cult  Movement  and Religious  Regulation in Russia and the Former Soviet Union.” The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). Its Commissioners are appointed by the President and by Congressional leaders of both political parties. 

The title may indicate that the document does not concern China, and in fact its main focus is Russia. However, there are three important connections between the new USCIRF report and China.

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Letter addressed to H.E. Dr. Tsai Ing-wen President of the Republic of China

Tai Ji Men case

H.E. Dr. Tsai Ing-wen
President of the Republic of China
Office of the President
No. 122 Sec.1. Chongqing S. Rd. Zhongzheng District, Taipei City 10048 Taiwan, ROC
Phone 886.2.23206410

July 24, 2020

Dear President Tsai:
We represent NGOs specialized in freedom of religion and belief, and academic research centers in the field of religion and spirituality.
We are impressed by the work done in Taiwan to protect religious liberty both at home and abroad, and some of us heard your inspiring opening remarks at the event “A Civil Society Dialogue on Securing Religious Freedom in the Indo-Pacific Region,” co- sponsored by Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the U.S. Department of State in Taipei in 2019.
We take the liberty of writing to you concerning a tax case involving a spiritual school known as Tai Ji Men Qigong Academy, founded in Taiwan by Dr. Hong Tao-Tze in 1966. Some of us have studied Tai Ji Men and are also familiar with Dr. Hong’s activities on behalf of world peace and inter-cultural dialogue, which have won praise by several international governments.

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A Letter to the Foreign Minister of South Korea on the Situation of Shincheonji

Dear Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha:

We represent NGOs and academic research centers specialized in the defense of freedom of religion and belief. We write to you as we are aware of your distinguished career at the United Nations, and appreciate your attention to human rights.

We have followed with great concern the problems in South Korea of a new religious movement known as Shincheonji. Some of us have studied Shincheonji for years, and some have produced academic studies about it. We are aware that Shincheonji is regarded by conservative Christians as “heretic,” and that they resent its success, which happened mostly at their expenses, and its active proselytization methods.

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COVID-19 and Religious Freedom: Scapegoating Shincheonji in South Korea

A webinar organized by the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR) and Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF)

Date/Time: Monday, July 20, 2020, 17:00 (UTC +2, Brussels time)

The fact that one member of Shincheonji, a Christian new religious movement in South Korea, was not timely diagnosed with COVID-19, attended church services, and set in motion a chain of events where thousands of her church’s members were infected, led to the government’s requests for lists of all members of the group and massive testing.

While it is possible that mistakes were made by Shincheonji, health and police authorities acknowledged that the movement submitted substantially accurate lists of its members, and tried to cooperate as it could. Shincheonji, however, is at the receiving end of an aggressive hostility by conservative Christians, who have tried for decades to have the movement, which has been very successful in converting Protestants, banned in South Korea.

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