Forum takes on 'destructive cults'

China Daily/December 15, 2011

Bangkok -- An international symposium was held in Bangkok on Thursday to address the development of destructive cults, amid globalization and the latest Internet technologies.

About 20 experts and scholars from the United States, Canada, France, Russia, New Zealand, Thailand and China discussed the nature, origin, social impact and development of cults, especially destructive cults. They highlighted the need for social assistance and legal mechanisms to prevent the cults from harming people.

Hong Minrong, vice-president of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, an institute studying destructive cults and other contemporary religions, said in his opening address to the forum that mankind faces "common challenges" posed by destructive cults.

Hong said the development of cults, against the backdrop of globalization, has evolved to a point where it can have negative impact across boundaries.

"Understanding the nature of such cults, as well as strengthening the legal supervision and social management on such activities, has become a common issue before us and international collaboration is a possible way out," Hong said.

It was the first time for the symposium to be held outside China. The three preceding forums were held since 2007 in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong province.

The three-day symposium also discussed empirical case studies on the Falun Gong.

Reflecting on some individual cases that he had helped with, Rick Ross, an expert from the US, highlighted the significance of family assistance in "deprogramming" cult members - a process that helps cult followers leave the evil religion.

Ross said the Falun Gong presents itself as a form of traditional Chinese exercise to improve physical health, but controversial beliefs devised by its founder behind the group practice are not readily explained to a potential new practitioner.

"So it is important for families with cult members to obtain adequate knowledge on destructive cults to help their beloved ones," he said.

The forum was jointly held by the Institute of Religious Studies at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and the Assumption University of Thailand.

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