AUM dishing out awards to top cult recruiters


Mainichi Daily News, July 7, 1999
By Mainichi Shimbun

The AUM Shinrikyo religious cult has given awards to successful recruiters in an apparent attempt to increase the cult's membership to 100,000, investigators have said.

Public security officials told the Mainichi that the cult is expanding its numbers as well as increasing its funds.

Earlier this year, higher-ups in the cult told rank-and-file members that they were embarking on a membership drive.

Apparently in preparing for the drive, the cult organized seminars for its followers at lower-than-usual fees from April 29 through May 5 in both Tokyo and Nagoya.

The seminars had previously been held during "Golden Week" in May, another holiday period in summer and at the end of the year costing approximately 200,000 yen per person.

High-ranking cult members instructed approximately 250 attendants on how to get people into the cult during the latest seminars, the security officials said.

Also, since mid-May, AUM members have been distributing bills that explain the cult's actions and activities, and criticize the media.

Around that time, cultists in the posh Omotesando district in downtown Tokyo tried to talk passers-by into joining the cult.

AUM awards its followers who play a major role in three fields: persuading newcomers to become members of the cult; sales of books; and distribution of handbills, police said.

When police investigators raided the Tokyo area headquarters in Toshima-ku on June 14, they found commemorative plaques, badges and a testimonial, which they believed were apparently used to reward followers.

The testimonial reads: "You were working hard in saving the souls of many people in April. We honor you for your efforts."

The officials believe "saving the souls of many people" means recruiting people for the cult. A profile of AUM founder and leader Shoko Asahara is inscribed on the badge.

Kyoto police also found similar testimonials, badges and plaques during a raid on the cult's office in Sakyo-ku.

The items were similar in shape and size to the ones found in the Tokyo headquarters, the officials said. The words written on the testimonial are also similar to those found in Tokyo.

Police interviewed some of the cultists about the awards.

"I was honored for my role in distributing" AUM's handbills, police quoted one follower as saying.

In a separate development, the Adachi Ward Office on Monday decided to set up a task force exclusively handling AUM affairs.

Local residents had submitted a petition demanding the office use its administrative powers to oust AUM members from the ward.

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