The Schools’ Programme
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We are shocked when we hear about incidents like Charlie Hebdo, 9/11 or 7/7 . In fact these are happening now with such regularity we begin to get numb trying to take them in. Historic cult events like Waco in 1993, the Solar Temple and Jonestown in 1978 tend to be used in the educational process to look at the dangers of cults in what we could call the big Bang theory of cults. We look at extreme events to warn students, but miss the whimpers of cultism. The world ends not with a big bang but with a whimper.
This misses the point and generally involvement with a group is gradual and the person might not even know they are being recruited. The family often notice small changes, distancing and loss of communication. Also their finances seem to be drained?
Historically, sects or cults were seen as deviant or unorthodox movements which rejected a main Religion, Church or Confession. Our analysis suggests that viewing this issue through the lens of Religion distorts the situation as all kinds of factors need to be taken into account when addressing cultism. I try to address this aspect of Cultism in my thesis, especially in Chapter 2:
Is a term which is being used to describe the processes by which a person moves from one set of values to another. It can in away be used not only as a descriptor for Islamist groups but it applies equally to all groups.
Frequently the term radicalisation refers to something that happens when someone reaches Syria, rather than what happens to the person in their home country which leads them to go
to volunteer. They are hardly going on a beach holiday and something they drink leads to wholesale change?
Also radicalisation will take different forms according to the shape of the ideological presentation. So someone who is radicalised to become a Quaker will likely change from a position supporting violence to non violence. A person who becomes a Sufi will act in a similar way. Someone dedicated to M Gandhi will follow a path of radical non violence whereas a member of the RSS would want to kill Gandhi. A member of the Muslim Brotherhood when radicalised will likely take a gradualist path to power, certainly not non violence, but not into immediate suicide Salafi style mission.
So we need to not ask Security experts about the psychology of radicalisation, rather we need to understand influence and how under influence people completely break with their family, their culture and any religion. Theologians do not get it, or police, and what is needed is a multi disciplinary awareness and also a European wide review of how we understand cultism. We have had the radicalisation of Nazism and Fascism in general, the Communist, Stalinist, Maoist and the North Korean models.
Do not be surprised when you find the same tendencies and attitudes in Catholic offshoots like the House of Prayer or Protestant Groups or in Scientology. It is generally the case that in those traditions radicalisation does not lead to a culture of death but it can as we saw at Jonestown or Waco.
We must not forget that in Ireland our youth forty years ago were radicalised to shoot into restaurants and leave bombs which killed civilians. The difference in the methodology in regard the delivery of the bombs was that the volunteer was not seeking virgins in paradise, but to get back to base to be able to inflict more harm on the innocent. Here the same mind set was deeply imbedded in our culture and we still have not addressed its legacy.
Many people think that the cult issue is no longer with us. They remember the cult scares of the last 50 years, with the Moonies and Scientology being the prominent groups that are remembered. Now with the erosion of religion in general there is no awareness of the danger cults involve. However, it is not beliefs that lead to this radicalisation, but rather undue influence. It is the glue that unites all those affected.
Unlike the drugs issue which is quantifiable, Cults are not so easy to evaluate. How many are there? What numbers are involved? We have no statistics, but from research in other countries we can say that up to 1–1.5 % of the population are caught up. That means that up to 60,000 people could be involved. Just because we are not aware of anyone being involved should not blind us to the need for this to be given some space in either the RE programme or at least somewhere on the school programme. I am getting calls on a daily basis from families whose adult children have joined this or that group saying to me, “if only they had had that talk!” These people turn to Dialogue Ireland for guidance and support. Such situations can be unbelievably painful for the people involved. Some have compared it to the death of a loved one without the funeral. Fortunately, the experiences of most people joining new movements are much less dramatic than this.
What service does DI offer?
First we have a web site that gives background to all the world religions and links to sites that cover everything. www.dialogueireland.org
This is generally an archive, but you will find the latest action on our blog:
In the context of the new syllabus which has a world religions dimension our presentations situate the Cult in the religion it has arisen from. We do not so much look at cults, but the phenomenon of “Cultism”, which can happen in any human situation. This problem can be found in all Religions, Political groups, Corporations, Banks, Schools and Sports for example. Also we facilitate both sides of the debate by putting the web sites of the groups and their opponents for the public to make up their own minds about a particular movement. We also must stress that Dialogue Ireland does not call any group a cult. We encourage students to make these judgments themselves by the looking at the attitudes and tendencies around them. In this way they are able to discern these patterns in their own life, especially as they are about to embark on third level where new challenges await them.
We visit schools and especially try to address 6 years with the challenge, rather than the dangers of Cultism especially in the context of the transition to third level. We find this the best year to address when the issues are about to impact them. One can provide background to younger students when specific issues like the use of the Ouija board or they may have dabbled in occult practices or they are getting background on historical events like Jonestown, Waco or the gas attacks on the Japanese subways..
The content of the course is not a listing of the various groups, but rather engages the students as adults with role-play and real life encounters around the issue. We show the methods used in recruitment. We also address the need to actually engage with their own faith or lack of faith as part of the journey towards 3rd level. Cultists try to find weak points or to use a Scientology term, find their ruin.
It has been our experience that young people growing up in the country are more at risk than city kids are. Young people growing up in the city are in touch with groups often from the age of 14 onwards. So when young people move to college from the country they are often at the level of development of a 14 year old because they have not been exposed to cult groups growing up and are easier to recruit. Teachers in the country sometimes forget that their community will lose nearly all of their students to the city. They sometimes think that there is no need to have a talk in the country as they do not face the problem of cults locally, whereas their young people are the most at risk and need the presentation before they leave. Another interesting statistic from my experience is that generally people with a high IQ get involved, but may not have a high emotional IQ! However, a new dimension is the development of the on line world. The distinction of the city country is not as strong as it was. So people can be reached anywhere, but the basic points made above still stand.
Cost: €100 per double period. One needs at least two class periods to cover the issues in any depth.
It is that time of year again, and you are extremely busy as you start the new year. Also once this term is over it is difficult to plan for a visit after Christmas to our target audience the sixth year student, as they have exams coming up.
However, even with that and though it is not ideal we plan to introduce a Skype option to do a series of presentations with schools who can access the internet in their classroom as an alternative to a personal visit.
Further information on the content in our Schools’ programme may be obtained here
DIRECTOR DIALOGUE IRELAND
Phone: 353 -1- 8309384 or mobile 353 – 87 2396229
7/8 Lr Abbey St; Dublin 1
Web site: http://www.dialogueireland.org
Registered Charity Number: 20045111
IRELAND and IRISH representative on the General Assembly of the European Federation of Centres for Research and Education on Sects (FECRIS).