Cults and Esotericism: New Challenges for Civil Societies in Europe
Acts of the conference
Cults and Esotericism:
New Challenges for Civil Societies in Europe
Organised by the
Arbeitsgruppe Scientology der Behörde für Inneres
der Freien und Hansestadt Hamburg
European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Sectarianism
28. April 2007 at the
Handwerkskammer, Holstenwall 12, 20355 Hamburg
This FECRIS conference, held in the largest and most populated Member State of the European Union and, up to now, attended by the most important number of participants, attempted to fulfil a number of requirements:
- as in the preceding year, mainly to direct attention to the menace to democracy and human rights,
- to illustrate new developments in the field of cults,
- to allow speakers from as many countries as possible to express themselves, with particular attention to those from Central and Eastern Europe,
- nevertheless to concede the hosting country, Germany, and the main sponsor, France, a certain priority,
- and to demonstrate the way the cult problem is relevant to national and international institutions.
It is evident that a certain amount of compromise was necessary to give everyone a hearing, but we hope that the participants benefited of information and acquired ideas to impulse their future work. The interest was high, as proved by the 140 participants from 22 countries, among them guests from Canada, the United States and Israel. We were specially honoured that the Innensenator (Home minister) of the Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg, Mr. Udo Nagl, himself opened the conference.
In the title of the conference, the expression “Esotericism” appeared for the first time. The practice of esoteric knowledge which has become more and more popular and which hitherto was believed to be harmless is dangerous inasmuch as it can be used as a basis for the totalitarian influence of gurus of all kinds. In the same way as it has proven false that scientific and technological progress is a solution to everything, the idea which seems now dominant is that everything can be tackled in the “spiritual” way, throwing overboard thousands of years of human experience. A “change of paradigm” in this field would result in a total loss of reality.
It is important that national and international institutions become aware that human rights and democracy are at stake. Civil society too is challenged to defend itself against totalitarianism.
To resist cult seduction one has to understand how cults proceed. This is equally important for the average citizen as for staff in institutions such as public health, education and law. It is important to detect when cults try to slide their foot in the door by seemingly harmless offers which will later make it easier for the introduction of their real goals.
FECRIS wishes to act as an advocate for the victims of cults and as a warning system, and for this purpose seeks contact with national and international institutions. A first step after the conference in Hamburg was the study day organised on the occasion of the INGO session in the Council of Europe on 28 June 2007 in Strasbourg, on the subject: “Sectarian deviations: a challenge for democracy and human rights”. (It would have been more appropriate to use the term : “Cultic deviations”.)
Quite by chance, just a day later, on 29 June 2007, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe passed recommendations 1804 and 1805 , relating respectively to “State, religion, secularity and human rights” and “Blasphemy, religious insults and hate speech against persons on grounds of their religion”, which fit into our debates very well. On September 24 and 25 a FECRIS delegation took part in the annual Human Dimension Conference organised by the OSCE in Warsaw where we intervened in the debate on tolerance and organised two “side events ” on topics of Humans Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
The texts of the present brochure were, unless noted otherwise, handed to us as manuscripts by the speakers, free of charge, in order to be published, which we are very grateful for. We also thank the Arbeitsgruppe Scientology  of the Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg under the leadership of Mrs. Ursula Caberta for the excellent cooperation in the preparation of the conference and during the conference itself, and for the financial contribution. We have to thank the Handwerkskammer for the disposal of the room and the excellent food, the company Simconsult for the high quality simultaneous translation and the company Brähler for the technical equipment. We are also particularly grateful to the French government that makes our work possible by its subsidies and confidence, and the MIVILUDES  for their moral support and their advice. Thanks finally should be given to all persons who in some way or another cooperated to make this conference a success.
NAGEL Udo – Senator of the Interior of the city of Hamburg
GRIESS Friedrich – Member of GSK , Austria, president of FECRIS
BLUMENTHAL Antje – Member of the Bundestag of the Federal Republic of Germany
KONOVALOV Alexander – Plenipotentiary representative of the President of Russia
in the Volga Federal District
CABERTA Ursula – Head of the Working Group Scientology of the Authority of Internal Affairs, Hamburg (together with HANDL Wilfried – former Scientologist, Austria, and BEATTY Chuck – former Scientologist, USA)
FROMM Rainer – Journalist, scenario writer and film maker, Germany
TRETYAKOVA Victoriya – Honorary lawyer and professor, Ukraine
Need for joint action of the State and the society, as well for adoption of international legal instruments for protection of human life and health from negative impact of destructive and extremist cult organisations and movements
MULLER-TULLI Danièle – President of ASDFI , Switzerland, Vice president of FECRIS, delegate to the INGO Conference of the Council of Europe
NOWAKOWSKI Piotr Tomasz – Social pedagogue, The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin – Off-Campus Faculty of Social Sciences in Stalowa Wola, Poland
LÖFGREN Helena – Ethologist, Sweden
Le COZ Pierre – Professor of philosophy, Université Aix-Marseille II, member of the
National Consultative Committee of Ethics, member of GEMPPI , France
DUBROW-MARSHALL Linda – Psychologist, president of RETIRN , visiting professor at Glamorgan University, U.K.
JOUGLA Jean-Pierre – Lawyer, member of UNADFI  , France
PO Simonetta – Researcher, former Scientologist, Italy
KROPVELD Mike – Executive Director of Info-Cult /Info-Secte, Canada
FECRIS is not responsible for the points of views expressed by the speakers at its conferences.