A RELIGIOUS sect accused of brainwashing techniques has expelled
up to 400 members because they failed to attract new recruits
and were not "true disciples."
The decision by the 1,200-strong London Church of Christ may have
drastic emotional consequences on the expelled. Experts on such
cults warned today that they could suffer withdrawal symptoms
for at least a year, including hallucinations, amnesia and violent
outbursts. In cults more extreme than the London Church of Christ,
expelled members have been known to commit suicide.
However, Ian Howarth, general secretary of the Cult Information
Centre, said that if they survived they would eventually be glad
they left. "I'm an ex-cult member so I know what they're
going through, but if they get help, they'll soon be grateful,"
he said. "It's a blessing in disguise."
Mr. Howarth said that in spite of its comparatively small size,
the Acton-based London Church of Christ accounted for more complaints
from worried friends and relatives of members than any other cult.
He knew of several former members now in psychiatric care. Founded
in the United States in 1979, the sect was brought to Britain
by eight American members 10 years ago and has bases in several
But Mr. Howerth believes recruitment in London had dried up in
the past six months and Douglas Arthur, one of the sect's leaders,
had flown over from the 9 States to shake up the UK operation.
Church spokeswoman Fiona Ghalustians said of the expelled members:
"These people are not true disciples. You have to commit
yourself to Jesus totally - and if you can't do that then you
can't remain among us."
"If you aren't sincere in your beliefs then, of course, you
may suffer damage. Those of us who are honest have no problems."
Mrs. Ghalustians admitted that most of the people had been asked
to leave for failing to recruit new members.
Mino Mstrainni, an Italian journalism student who joined the group
in July lives with "eight brothers" in a flat in Putney
but is among those who have been forced to leave.
"I've repented my sins to the leadrs several times, the past
few days, but they all refuse to believe what I'm saying,"
he said. "They have told me that I'm damned."
"I've had problems evangelizing. "I've tried my hardest
but it's not easy. Because I haven't brought many people into
the church they have told me to leave. I've got nowhere to go.
I don't know what to do."
Surviving members of the sect welcomed the expulsions. "These
people were weak," said Dennis Ntzegenean, an accountant
from Thornton Heath.