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Experts call for global action on harmful cults

Updated: 2010-12-04 10:11

By Chen Hong (China Daily)

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SHENZHEN, Guangdong - Researchers at an international symposium on cult studies called for global coordination in combating threats posed by destructive groups.

"Destructive cult groups study the law, they evade regulations, they update their communication techniques and they evolve quickly," said Pierre Picquart, an expert on China from the University of Paris.

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The symposium concluded in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, on Friday.

Picquart was among 21 scholars in the fields of religion, history, psychology, law and ethics from home and abroad who spoke at the two-day symposium sponsored by the Institute of Religious Studies of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

Although concepts and definitions of cults differed in many countries, Picquart said, most destructive cult groups represented a danger to individual liberty, health, education, social institutions and governments to the benefit of the cult leaders who gained wealth and power.

Ye Luhua, a researcher from the Institute of Religious Studies, also noted that the activities of cults were becoming rampant in some places around the world.

It was also a problem in China, which faced groups from overseas as well as those inside the country such as Falun Gong, which was identified as a destructive cult group by the government and was banned in 1999, Ye said.

Ye suggested the government should improve the functioning of community groups and organizations so that people, especially the migrant population, could settle down rather than feel lost - a feeling that could prompt them to seek support from cults.

David Clark, a cult intervention specialist from the United States, pointed out in his paper that Falun Gong, founded by Li Hongzhi in China in the 1990s, was a typical destructive group that continued to deceive and harm people in the US.

Describing it as one of the most difficult groups he had faced during his career working with many families affected by cults, Clark said, "I have observed the growth of the Falun Gong in my own country where Li Hongzhi now lives The central focus of Falun Gong was on religious and civil liberty issues. That ignored the real harm done by those who seek such protection under the banner of freedom."

Yan Kejia, director of the Institute of Religious Studies, told China Daily that the symposium aimed to provide a platform for scholars from around the world to share their views on cult trends and to seek effective countermeasures.


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