Presentation of FECRIS
Conference of the International Cultic Studies Association and
The Psychology Faculty, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
Psychological Manipulation, Cultic Groups, and Other Alternative Movements
in Madrid, Spain, July 14-16, 2005
Presentation of FECRIS
FECRIS (European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Sectarianism) was founded on 30 June 1994 in Paris following the International Congress on Sectarianism in Barcelona in 1993. It is a non-commercial association under French law. It declared itself politically, philosophically and religiously neutral as stated in article 2 of its statutes.
Its objectives are:
- Rally representative European associations concerned with contemporary organisations with sectarian and totalitarian characteristics, whether legally constituted or not, whose practices violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, European and national laws.
- Represent the member associations in their contacts with the European institutions in the framework of their defence of families, individuals and democratic societies against the activities of harmful sectarian organisations.
- Alert public authorities and international institutions in the event of punishable activities.
- Participate in the creation of a European legal area with regard to sectarian issues.
- Create an international information network.
- Research and study the legal field of sectarian deviations.
To date the Federation covers 45 associations spread over 29 countries:
Argentina – Armenia – Australia – Austria – Belgium – Belarus – Bulgaria – Cyprus – Estonia – Finland – France -Germany – Ireland – Italy – Israel – Lithuania – Malta – Norway – Netherlands – Poland – Russia – Serbia – Slovakia – Sweden – Switzerland – Spain – Ukraine – United Kingdom – United States.
The wide development of our network is due to the migration of cults/sects from the USA and Western Europe to Eastern Europe resulting in the progressive creation of Eastern European associations which then became FECRIS memebers and correspondents.
In 1999, FECRIS wishing to clarify the ethical principles to which its members and correspondents adhere drew up a chart, in which it declared itself non-philosophic, non-religious, non-political and non-commercial.
The basic concepts which motivated FECRIS’s activities are:
- Respect of religious, philosophical and political pluralism;
- Objectivity and pragmatism whilst keeping in mind the complexity of situations.
- Discretion, respect of the professional secrecy.
- Continually question. Never forget that the sectarian phenomenon is constantly evolving.
In 1999, in Paris, on the premises of the French National Assembly, a European Conference was organised by FECRIS which brought together more than 200 participants from all over Europe. At the end of this conference the participants consented in a Common Declaration
In this Declaration FECRIS commits itself to respect fundamental freedoms as accepted in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and fundamental freedoms of 1950, the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and in a general way various declarations pertaining to Man and the Citizen ratified by different European States.
FECRIS declared, among other duties, that it considered that the public authorities were responsible for:
- the protection and guarantee of individual freedoms;
- the transparency and availability of information to enable individuals to protect themselves against the adverse practices of sectarianism;
- the protection of individuals against any form of degrading mental manipulation, state of subjection and psychological and/or intellectual conditioning in whatever context.
FECRIS had already declared its support of resolution 134 of 18 February 1998 of the European Parliament’s Committee of Civil Liberties and Internal Affairs.
This resolution invites Member States to “take measures, in compliance with the principles of legality, with a view to fighting abuses caused to people by certain sects which should be denied the status of cult or religious organisation endowing them with certain tax advantages and legal protection”.
FECRIS also fully agrees with the Resolution adopted on January 15, 2003 by the European Parliament according to which it:
“recommends to the members States to fight the illegal activities of alleged sects, which threaten the mental or physical integrity of individuals and, thus, respect the principles of the State of Law and apply normal procedures of penal and civil law, in accordance with the views expressed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe “.
“also considers that the freedom to no longer adhere to a religion or to a philosophy and the right to leave the corresponding community must also be included in individual freedoms and that this right should be actively protected by public authorities whenever this proves to be necessary”
With regard to the FECRIS’ charter, in particular it should be kept in mind that:
Our analysis is based on the evidence derived from the behaviour of organisations. It is important to resist the pressure to place cultic/sectarian behaviour on the safe ground of belief and religion. The argument is a false one based on a superficial approach to the issues and incompatible with scientific analysis.
We focus on a cult or a guru when the organisation or the individual “trades” in beliefs and in destructive techniques with mind control as a tool.
Our conclusions are considered and cautious. They take into account possible misrepresentations and the sorrow and destruction of the victims and their families.
We denounce the uninformed enrolment of individuals into certain thought reform systems and the potentially damaging results to our social, democratic and family structures.
The activity of FECRIS has three axes:
- The most important perhaps, from a practical point of view, is the pooling of experience and information of its associations. This information activity and support is greatly facilitated today by the use of the Internet. The interaction of the network also allows for the control of the Federation’s deontology principles.
- The organisation of meetings on research at European level.
- In 2001, after the first conference of 1999 in the French National Assembly, FECRIS organised a meeting of lawyers from various European countries to discuss their specific experience in the field of defence of the victims of sects/cults.
- In 2002, a conference in Barcelona was devoted to Child Protection with regard to the sectarian phenomenon. This was held under the aegis and in the buildings of the General Secretariat of Youth of the Catalan Government. The debates mainly concerned the effects of sectarian influence on the physical and mental health of children and teenagers, the social rehabilitation, the methods and teaching aids of prevention and the protection of children within civil and penal law.
- In 2004, a conference in Marseilles was devoted to the subject “The Impact of Cults on the Health in Society“. This concerned the sometimes disastrous influence of totalitarian groups on the physical and mental health of their adherents, as the impact of self- appointed healers.
- In 2005, a conference in Vienna was devoted to the subject of “Cults, Education and Training”. The lectures and debates concerned the interest and knowledge of young people about cults and esoteric practices, the psychological damages often obtained by totalitarian structures, possible ways of protection against mental manipulation, and the wide field of influence of cults offering adult training facilities. At this conference in particular, we welcomed a large number of participants from Central and Eastern Europe.
- FECRIS’ main objective is to give the European authorities the information which they need to make them aware of the phenomenon of harmful sectarianism, of its dangers not only for individuals and families but also for the States and democracies.
We were very pleased to learn, on this very day, that we have obtained consultative/participative status with the Council of Europe. We had participated as observers at the sessions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the CoE in the regroupings of OING. We will now continue to do so as OING in the framework of regroupings on Humans rights, Health and the Social Charter.
FECRIS is recognised for its impartiality by several official or governmental organisations such as the MIVILUDES in France, the CIAOSN in Belgium, the services of the French Prime Minister, the Parliament of Catalonia and, in particular, its Secretariat for Youth, etc.
The European Parliament invited FECRIS to take part in a meeting under the aegis of its Committee on Citizens’ Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs.
FECRIS is also well-known to the French government which, within the framework of its promotion of Human Rights, grants it significant support.
This presentation was held by Friedrich Griess, president of FECRIS, based on a presentation held by the former president Jean Nokin on 24.4.2003 for the European Parlament.