"Cult boss likely denied aid to boy"

("Mainichi Shimbun", January 25, 2000)

MIYAZAKI - The leader of a commune where the mummified bodies of two boys were found here last week may have instructed a follower to deny medical attention to a boy who became seriously ill in January 1998,
police sources said Monday.
Police said that the commune, referred to as the Kaeda Cram School, called an ambulance on Jan. 13 for a 6-year-old boy whom police believe was one of those found dead last week. The boy had begun convulsing due to a high fever.
Once the paramedics arrived, however, the commune refused to hand over the boy so that he could be sent to a hospital.
Police said Junichiro Higashi, the 55-year-old head of the commune, may have been responsible for the refusal, which possibly resulted in the boy's death.
Higashi was arrested last week on suspicion of abandoning the two bodies.
When the ambulance arrived to take the boy to a hospital, a woman from the commune came out and told paramedics that his fever had gone down. She then said that they'd take the boy to a hospital themselves.
The paramedics, believing the woman to be the boy's mother, left the commune.
The boy, who was the second son of a 35-year-old man from Tokyo's Setagaya-ku, died later that month, police said.
He apparently had been entrusted to the commune because of a kidney ailment.
At the time of the incident, someone from the commune had called the father a little after midnight saying, "Your son's condition has become very bad."
The call was made at nearly the same time that the ambulance was dispatched for the 6-year-old.
Investigators said Higashi has admitted that the boy died, but said, "I was sending [the body] energy in order to revive it."

"Raelian Religion:A Raelian Jailed In Israel"

(PRNewswire, January 25, 2000)

MIAMI -- The following release was issued today by Raelian Religion:
Last January 6th at 2 a.m., Roy Shoval a young raelian conscientious objector, was arrested and jailed by military authorities in Israel, for having refused to perform his military service.
How can one deprive someone of his freedom, solely because he decides to be non-violent and to respect the life of others?
RAEL, founder of the Raelian religion, preaches non-violence as the one and only possibility for the survival of humanity. The 50 000 members of the Raelian religion and their sympathizers will be mobilizing to have their voice heard to the Israelian authorities, and to denounce this act of barbarism.

"Japanese sect holds mummified children hoping for revival"

(Agence France Presse, January 21, 2000)

TOKYO, Jan 21 (AFP) - A Japanese sect kept the mummified bodies of two children at their luxury villa in the expectation they could still come back to life, police and press reports said Friday.
Two leaders of the "Kaeda-juku" group, based in the southern Japan city of Miyazaki, were turned over to public prosecutors Friday, the day after their arrest for improper disposal of corpses, police said.
Police arrested the group's 55-year-old leader Junichiro Higashi and his 49-year-old aide Akemi Togashi, after discovering the bodies of a six-year-old boy and a new-born baby.
"I am the agent for the creator," Higashi reportedly told investigators. He added that the boy might be "dead in your world" but "there is the possibility of his resurrection. We are good people." Police found the bodies when they searched the group's villa in a residential area of the city Thursday at the request of six-year-old boy's father, said a spokesman for the Miyazaki prefectural police.
The boy suffered from a degenerative kidney disease called nephrosis and may have died as far back as January 1998, when he was last seen, according to the tabloid Nikkan Gendai.
The body of the new-born baby was also found in the same house. It was not known when the baby died.
Police said they could not tell how old the bodies were but autopsies were to be held "soon." The six-year-old boy's father, a 35-year-old corporate executive in Tokyo, had sent the son to the colony for unspecified medical treatment, the police spokesman said.
The case resembled a bizarre incident in which disciples of a yoga-style meditation group "Life Space" kept the mummified corpse of another member for "treatment" at an airport hotel for four months, insisting it was alive.
Police raided Life Space's facilities last November on suspicion of inproper disposal of corpses, a crime punishable by up to three years on prison.
But no criminal charges have been filed against Life Space.
"We don't see any connection between the two groups," the Miyazaki police spokesman said.
"The Kaeda-juku group has allegedly lived on the compound for about five years with its membership peaking at 50," he said.
The cult's name is a combination of "Kaeda," the district of Miyazaki where they were based, and "juku," which means seminar.
Higashi, who describes himself as a business consultant, has held spritual seminars at the mansion since 1995 for people from around the country to give them "energies," according to press reports.
Japan's tolerance for cults has been tested by the Aleph sect, formerly Aum Supreme Truth, which spread Nazi-invented Sarin gas in Tokyo's subway in March 1995, killing 12 people and injuring thousands of others.
Parliament last month passed legislation that could allow authorities to conduct raids and demand information and financial data from the sect without a warrant.
But the authorities need approval from a legal cult and the cult is fighting back, claiming it is no longer a danger after announcing drastic reforms this week.

"Miyazaki cult leaders sent to prosecutors"

("Yomiuri Shimbun", January 23, 2000)

MIYAZAKI -- Two leaders of a religious group in Miyazaki were handed over to prosecutors Friday in connection with Thursday's discovery of two mummified bodies in a house owned by the Kaedajuku cult, police said.
Cult leaders Junichiro Higashi, 55, and Akemi Togashi, 49, were sent to the Miyazaki District Prosecutors Office on suspicion of abandoning the bodies of a 6-year-old boy and an infant.
The two are suspected of having kept the bodies at the house in Miyazaki.
It was also learned that Higashi, a former member of the Unification Church, in April 1996 held a mass wedding ceremony in Miyazaki, during which male cult members married Russian women whom they had not previously met, police said.
According to investigators, the wedding ceremony was held at a restaurant near Kaedajuku's headquarters. Some members who attended the ceremony were quoted as saying they had been served drinks laced with some type of drug.
The drinks were served at Kaedajuku after Higashi completed a ritual, during which he "blessed" water taken from a nearby river and blew into his hands in front of an audience of members.
During the ceremony, Higashi burned incense in a coffin-shaped wooden box, which had been installed with a speaker that produced music, police quoted cult members as saying.
"Higashi joined the Unification Church in 1986 and left in 1989," a Unification Church official said. "The church has nothing at all to do with the current case."

"Cult shocker" (Kaeda Commune)

("Mainichi Shimbun", January 22, 2000)

MIYAZAKI - Leaders of a commune here where the mummified bodies of two children were found Thursday night repeatedly denied the father of one of the children access to his boy, police said Friday. Junichiro Higashi, head of the commune he refers to as the Kaeda Cram School, apparently told the 35-year-old Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, man who fathered the 6-year-old boy that if he left the child alone, the boy would get better.
The Tokyo man had paid Higashi more than 1 million yen to take care of his boy.
The boy's mummified body was found at Higashi's commune Thursday night, together with the corpse of an infant boy.
Higashi, 55, and one of his followers, Akemi Togashi, 49, were arrested shortly afterward for the illegal disposal of a body.
Police are poised to conduct autopsies on the children's bodies next week to determine the cause of their deaths.
Commune members could face further charges depending on the outcome of the autopsies.
Police said that the Tokyo man, whose name has been withheld to protect his privacy, entrusted his son to Higashi's care in December 1997. The following month, he visited Miyazaki and saw the boy, but was unaware whether the child was still alive.
He asked Higashi if he could take the boy back to Tokyo, but the commune leader refused.
The Tokyo man said he had faith in Higashi's treatment methods and returned to the capital without reporting the incident to police.
The boy died later in January 1998 and though the father had visited Miyazaki on several occasions since then to try to see his child, he had been turned away each time.
Meanwhile, police also disclosed that a female commune member in her 30s is the mother of the infant boy whose mummified body was also found.
Higashi refers to the commune's members as cram school students. He is a former member of the Unification Church, whose members are often referred to as "Moonies" because the church was founded by South Korean Sun Myung Moon.
Members of Higashi's cult live a communal lifestyle, deriving a share of their funds from the sale of rice they receive from farmers and sell at a hefty price of about 10,000 yen per 10-kilogram bag.
The commune apparently also receives funds from the parents of entrusted children and runs a ramen shop.
Many of the commune's practices, such as group weddings, are said to have been derived from the Unification Church, much to the chagrin of that church's local followers.
"[Higashi] was once registered as a member, but he's got nothing to do with us now," a Unification Church spokesman told the Mainichi on Friday. "He has nothing to do with the Miyazaki branch of the Unification Church and his commune's teachings have nothing to do with ours. It's a right nuisance."
Police said that Higashi started the commune in the summer of 1995. Commune members call Higashi "teacher."
The commune has an adult membership of about 50, who spend their days playing with or looking after children entrusted to the commune's care for such reasons as illness, protection from bullying, or because they refuse to attend school.
Higashi does not refer to the commune as a religious group and he has not attempted to register it as a religious or medical corporation.
Police raided the cult and an annex it operates in another part of Miyazaki, watched by about 20 commune members and children, all of whom wore distinctive yellow clothes.

"2 kids found mummified Children found dead"

("Asahi Shimbun", January 21, 2000)

MIYAZAKI-Police discovered the mummified bodies of two children at a juku here Thursday and arrested two people, one of whom rambled on about being
an ``agent'' for the creator of Earth.
The owner of the Kaeda juku, Junichiro Higashi, 55, was arrested along with Akemi Togashi, 49, on suspicion of abandoning two corpses. Higashi is also
a self-styled management consultant.
According to police investigators, Higashi and Togashi kept the body of a boy, who was six years old when he died in mid-January 1998, in a room at
the juku without informing the parents or handing over the body.
Investigators said they believe the boy's father is a company executive living in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward who had asked police to look for his son.
The boy was lying on a futon in the middle of a room on the second floor of the juku. The body of another child whose sex was not immediately known was found wrapped in cloth and placed in a wooden box on a table in another
room. Police said the two bodies did not have any external injuries and that the causes of death were not immediately known.
Higashi told police he was an agent of the creator of Earth and was sending his maker energy so the bodies could be revived, investigators said.
Higashi had placed equipment around the bodies that he said was sending energy to
the bodies.
Higashi also runs an annex to the Kaeda juku. About 20 people, including several children, were living in the two locations when police turned up.
The Tokyo company executive placed his son in the juku in December 1997 and reported him missing the following year. His son suffered from a serious kidney ailment.
The father said he visited the juku in January 1998 in an attempt to see
his son, but was prevented from doing so. Higashi repeatedly said that the
boy's soul was living in the netherworld and that he was undergoing treatment.
Higashi and the boy's father once worked for the same company. The father placed his son in Higashi's care after learning from an acquaintance that Higashi had cured his illness. The father told police he paid Higashi more than 1 million yen at the time as a sort of religious donation.
The Kaeda juku was set up in a private home in the southern part of
Miyazaki city in the summer of 1995. At its peak, between 40 and 50 people lived there.
According to neighbors, the juku children were always slightly dirty and smelled bad, especially during summer. They all wore the same yellow
training wear and a necklace and would walk around the neighborhood selling cassette tapes of songs by an enka singer from Kagoshima Prefecture.
One woman said that all her neighbors thought something was strange about
the Kaeda juku and would try to avoid the place. She said other neighbors had received telephone calls from people living in Hokkaido concerned about the well-being of their children at the juku.
A similar incident was uncovered last November when a mummified body was found in a hotel near Narita airport. The room was rented by members of the Life Space group.

"Japan police find bodies of two mummified children" (on Kajeda-Juku)

(Reuters, January 21, 2000)

TOKYO, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Japanese police said on Friday they found two mummified bodies of children in a house suspected of being used by a fringe religious group in western Japan.
The body of a six-year-old boy was found lying on a bed, while another body of an infant, whose sex has not been identified, was found in a wooden box near the boy, said a spokesman for Miyazaki Prefectural Police in southwestern Japan.
Authorities arrested two occupants of the house, Junichiro Higashi, 55, and Akemi Togashi, 49, on suspicion of abandoning the corpses of the two children, believed to have been dead for over a year.
Higashi headed a group called ``Kaieda-juku'' which media reports described as a quasi-religious group treating children with illnesses as well as those with problems in school.
Higashi was quoted in the media as telling investigators that he was ``the representative of the Creator'' and that he was ``sending energy to the bodies to revive them.
Police inspected the house on Thursday after a 35-year-old man reported earlier this month that his six-year-old son was sent to the group to receive treatment for his kidney ailment two years ago but never allowed back to his home.
The body was identified as the missing son.
Police declined to comment on the media reports or the nature of the group, saying investigations were ongoing.
Japan has seen an increasing number of bizarre cults grabbing headlines of late.
In November, police found a mummified body of a 66-year-old sect follower whose family claimed the man was alive and receiving treatment for a brain haemorrhage by getting pats on his head from the cult guru.
Police who later raided facilities belonging to the cult, called ``Life Space,'' found children crammed into an apartment, apparently kept away from school and fed only once a day.
In December, police raided offices of a ``foot cult'' which allegedly charged huge fees to diagnose ailments by examining the soles of people's feet.
Experts believe the number of cults are increasing, although precise figures on cult memberships are impossible to come by given the legal difficulties of labelling any particular group as problematic.

"S.Korean cult infighting leaves 170 injured over two days"

(Agence France Presse, January 7, 2000)

YOJU COUNTY, South Korea, Jan 7 (AFP) - Some 70 people were injured Friday as rival factions of a South Korean religious cult battled each other with petrol bombs and metal pipes here, witnesses said
About 500 followers of the Daesoon Jinri Hoe cult clashed with a equal number of rival members for the second straight day despite a massive police presence at their provincial headquarters on the southern outskirts of Seoul.
The fight occurred as about 4,000 members of one faction tried to fend off 3,000 followers of a rival clique who attempted to storm the headquarters building as an internal feud turned violent
"They fought like devils, hurling petrol bombs, firing gas launchers, wielding metal pipes as one faction, backed by heavy trucks, attempted to break through barricades set up by the other faction," a witness said here
The sprawling compound of the cult was reminiscent of a battle zone late Friday. An overturned bus, gutted trucks and shards of glass bottles that had once been petrol bombs littered the freezing ground
About 6,000 riot police were standing guard at the premises when the clash -- in which reports said around 70 people were injured -- occurred
"It is difficult to prevent violence here as they clash sporadically in groups of 400-500 over different places," a police superintendent said
Following the clash, police managed to separate the fighting groups
But some 5,000 followers, many of them wearing helmets and surgical masks while toting metal pipes, were seen guarding strategic spots in the area or marching around the compound
"We have an information that the enemy faction is gathering their members from all over the country to mount another attack on us to occupy this headquarters," a member of the cult told AFP
On Thursday, some 100 people were injured, several of them seriously, when the two rival factions clashed, hurling petrol bombs and driving heavy construction equipment during the fight
The battle is over which of the factions within the cult gets to control its finances and administration. A similar clash here last July left 20 people injured
The cult, which claims 600,000 followers, 200 places of worship, schools including a university, as well as two large hospitals, has been dogged by factional infighting since its founder, Park Han-Kyung, died in 1969
Its members follow 19th century figure Kang Jung-San as a messiah and have adopted elements of Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism and nationalism to form a unique religion
The latest unholy row in this country came just three months after at least 10 Buddhist monks were injured when hundreds of rival clerics wielding metal pipes and steel-framed chairs did battle at a Seoul temple
Thousands of riot police equipped with body armour, shields and truncheons sealed off the headquarters of South Korean Buddhism where monks from opposing factions of the Chogye order fought their second pitched battle in a year
The skirmishes between the monks came during a year-long battle for the leadership of the order, another feud that was ultimately aimed at winning control of temple alms and lucrative revenues from country park admissions
Buddhism is the majority religion in South Korea, but the Christian faith is also extremely strong while Confucianism, Shamanism, Taoism and scores of cult religions also feature heavily in the country's diverse spiritual life

"(Korea): Cult infight leaves 170 injured over two days"

(Agence France Presse, January 7, 2000)

YOJU COUNTY, S.Korea, Jan 7 (AFP) - Seventy people were injured on Friday as rival factions of a South Korean religious cult clashed with petrol bombs and metal pipes, despite a massive police presence here, witnesses said
About 500 followers of the Daesoon Jinri Hoe cult battled with a matching number of rivals at their provincial headquarters in this southern outskirt of Seoul for the second straight day
The fight occured as about 4,000 members of one faction tried to fend off 3,000 followers of a rival clique who attempted to storm the headquarters building as an internal feud turned violent
"They fought like devils, hurling perol bombs, firing gas launchers, wielding metal pipes as one faction, backed by heavy trucks, attemped to break through barricades set up by the other faction," a witness said here
The sprawling compound of the cult was reminiscent of a battle zone. An overturned bus, gutted trucks and shards of glass bottles that had once been petrol bombs littered the ground
About 6,000 riot police were standing guard at the premises when the clash occured
"It is difficult to prevent violence here as they clash sporadically in groups of 400-500 over different places," a police superintendent said
Following the clash, police managed to separate the fighting groups
But some 5,000 followers, many of them wearing helmets and surgical masks while toting metal pipes, were seen guarding strategic spots in the area or marching around the compound
"We have an information that the enemy faction is gathering their members from all over the country to mount another attack on us to occupy this headquarters," a member of the cult told AFP
On Thursday, some 100 people were injured, several of them seriously, when the two rival factions clashed, hurling petrol bombs and driving heavy construction equipment during the fight
A similar clash within the cult last July left 20 people injured
The cult, which claims 600,000 followers, 200 places of worship, schools including a university, as well as two large hospitals, has been dogged by factional infighting since its founder, Park Han-Kyung, died in 1969
Its members follow 19th century figure Kang Jung-San as a messiah and have adopted elements of Buddhism, Christanity, Confucianism and nationalism to form a unique religion.

"Philippines: Millennium sect home from the hills"

(BBC, January 6, 2000)

Members of a religious sect in the Philippines who constructed a warren of caverns to shelter from a rain of fire they believed would destroy the earth at the dawn of the new millennium have returned to their homes.
A report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer said many followers of the Christian sect, who were poised to take up residence in a hillside in the eastern province of Leyte, were disappointed their leader's prediction of the end of the world failed to materialise.
Tunnels of salvation Cult leader Cerferino Quinte, 80, had predicted an "all consuming rain of fire" on 1 January after reading an article about the millennium in a magazine.
Many of Mr Quinte's followers had quit their jobs to help in the construction of the underground fortress consisting of 51 "tunnels of salvation". The tunnels were large enough to accommodate 128 families - more than 700 people. With them the followers took enough food, water, fuel, clothing and herbal medicine to allow them to survive underground for up to a year.
A quiet supper Mr Quinte and about 100 of his flock were ready to move to the tunnels on New Year's eve, but midnight struck without a single drop of fire from the heavens.
Instead, the group, quietly ate supper and retreated to their homes, the paper said. The faith-healer said he expected to be ridiculed because the rain of fire had failed to materialise, but stressed that he wouldn't mind because "Satan is behind all the ridicule".
The Philippines is a predominantly Roman Catholic country, but, according to the BBC's correspondent in Manila, there are hundreds of religious sects with unconventional ideas. One such sect even regards the former president Ferdinand Marcos as an object of worship.


"Concerned Christians fail to resurface"

by Kevin Simpson ("Denver Post", January 3, 2000)

Jan. 3 - For much of the world, Y2K fears were dismissed virtually overnight with a collective sigh: No news was good news.
But for families plagued by their own peculiar Y2K bug - a self-proclaimed prophet named Monte Kim Miller - the wait may be far from over.
"I think it's going to be a slow process," said Jennifer Cooper, whose father, John Cooper, remains with the so-called Concerned Christians. "If they get out, they're not going to jump out and start calling. It'll be a long road back for them."
The approach of the year 2000 sparked concern that the Denver-based Miller, 45, might act out his apocalyptic prophecy that he would die on the streets of Jerusalem, and entice his estimated 90 followers into a doomsday scenario.
But in Israel, New Year's Eve passed with relative quiet, and authorities detained only a few people deemed potential threats.
None were believed to be members of the Concerned Christians, who have been at turns deported and turned away in their attempts to settle there.
Mark Roggeman, an avid cult-watcher when he isn't working for the Denver Police Department, said the group seemed pointed toward what many believe to be the end of the millennium based on a bizarre 1996 conversation he and other cult experts had with Miller.
"When we talked to Kim in his living room three years ago, all he told us was he was on that time line of 3 1/2 years," Roggeman said. "We all assumed the end of the millennium. We figured Dec.
31." Israeli authorities also keyed in on that event when they detained and ultimately deported 14 Concerned Christians last January, citing fears of violence to hasten the Second Coming. The 14 arrived in Denver, shunned family and friends gathered at the airport to meet them, holed up at a local hotel and eventually left for Greece.
In October, Israeli authorities turned back other members of Miller's group attempting to enter the country. In recent weeks, about two dozen people deemed potential threats have been held in Israel, although none have been identified as Concerned Christians.
In early December, 16 members of the group were deported from Greece for having expired resident permits. They surfaced briefly in New York, where this time they interacted with a few family members who met them at the airport, but then disappeared once again.
Meanwhile, Kim Miller has remained a mystery. Some reports claimed he was living in England. Another report placed him on the Mediterranean island of Patmos, where the apostle John was banished by the Romans.
Israeli authorities remained on the lookout for him and members of his group, and the New Year began with one reassuring certainty: Miller did not surface in Jerusalem to act out his prophecy.
Roggeman credits media coverage for playing havoc with Miller's plans.
"He's got so many problems now," Roggeman said. "All this coverage really rocked this guy's world. By his prediction and prophesies, he should have been well in place, in Israel, and ready to go."
But some family members don't place any particular significance on the turning of the calendar to 2000. Miller may have meant 2001
"I don't consider this a breaking point at all - the Concerned Christians never said it was," said David Cooper, who has maintained sporadic e-mail contact with his brother John Cooper.
"There's a premise that something would happen with the coming of the new millennial reign, sometime this year. And there were dates attached to Kim Miller and Jerusalem, but there was never a date as far as the whole group.
"It seems to be all quiet at this point. I think it's more or less what I expected." David Cooper says he has had no e-mail contact with his brother in the new year and has no idea of his whereabouts.
Roggeman says that where Miller's group departs from some other cults is in the repeated attempts to access the Holy Land, where his prophecy supposedly would be fulfilled.
"He made an effort to get there, where others might just redefine what the Holy Land is," Roggeman said. "He got 90 people to quit jobs, sell houses and leave. It's going to be interesting. How many stay if he does change the prophecy?"
Miller told followers in October of 1998 to leave Denver because it was about to be destroyed. They left jobs, homes and friends overnight.
And while the city remained standing, experts say Miller's ability to change direction should not be underestimated. One former acquaintance of Miller has said the group leader might insist that, ultimately, his prophecy did indeed come true. He could claim the Columbine massacre as a metaphor for the destruction of Denver - particularly because the date, April 20, happens to be Miller's birthday.
Roggeman noted that when apocalyptic deadlines pass without incident, some leaders simply set new dates. But members tend to drop out at that point, although some remain committed rather than face the embarrassment of admitting their error.
"Their whole end was for this, 100 percent of all their energies was to this," Roggeman said of Miller's millennium prophecy. "Outside of this goal, they have nothing. They're not where they're supposed to be at this point."
Bill Honsberger, a Conservative Baptist missionary who has tracked the group for years, said the ultimate fate of Miller's followers could lie in a basic question about how much of his own dogma Kim Miller really believes.
"Is he a con artist? Does he really believe? Is he insane?" Honsberger said. "I don't pretend to know what's going on inside him. But to me, that's the key, the larger issue about what may happen here. They all could come home poorer but wiser.
"But if he really believes all this, if he's insane, anything could happen. They've set a framework into motion, like putting kindling around the flash point for fire. The potential is incredible."
Honsberger recalled a story that got passed along to him when 14 Concerned Christians, freshly deported from Israel, holed up at the downtown Denver Holiday Inn for several weeks last winter. A reporter supposedly stepped onto an elevator with a few members of the group and asked if they'd heard anything about the cult.
"One of the guys went off, saying, 'Kim Miller is a prophet, he said it would happen this year or next,' " Honsberger said. "That's intriguing, because Kim already could be hedging his bet. I'd love that to be true because it keeps these people afloat, keeps them alive. But do they have enough money to float for another year? That I doubt."
The possibility that Miller, known for his fascination with numbers and his ability to twist them into prophecy, could delay any action for a year also has crossed Norm Smith's mind.
"They're saying 'in the new millennium,' but that doesn't numerically begin for another 366 days," Smith said recently. His son, Terry Smith, is among nine relatives in Miller's group. "They might hold us off for another year. That would be a pain in the neck."
Jennifer Cooper, whose dad, John Cooper, is believed to be financing the group, anticipated no major developments as the calendar turned to 2000.
"My hope is that they're all getting tired of each other," she said.
"Think of it this way: You go on a cruise with all those people and they only have one thing in common. Maybe the relationships are not so tight as they were before. I'm imagining that the longer this continues, the greater chance of that happening."
Jennifer Cooper has received some e-mails from her father, but they contained little in the way of new information. She also saw him briefly in New York after the group was deported from Greece.
"He hasn't really said anything," she said. "He told me he loved me.
He told me that at Kennedy Airport, and since then again in an e-mail. But he's always told me he loved me."

Preaching peace, not Armageddon

by Eetta Prince-Gibson ("Jerusalem Post", December 30, 1999)

(December 30) A look at the doomsday scenarios Israel has prepared involving extremist Christian sects and finds that almost nobody believes they will come to pass
It is late afternoon on Christmas Day, and Maria Ziti, a Catholic pilgrim from Rome, stands quietly reading her Bible at a chapel known as Dominus Flevit ("The Lord Wept") on the Mount of Olives. According to Christian tradition recorded in the Epistle of Luke, Jesus stood at this spot and wept because the people of the holy city could not understand his message of peace.
It is nearly dark. Below, the golden dome of the Temple Mount and the Church of Mary Magdalene shine against heavy gray clouds. As if on cue, a peal of bells from dozens of churches surrounds her.
Ziti weeps. Looking at the Temple Mount, she says, "How sad that some would want to destroy this, to bring war and destruction. No, the new millennium will bring us peace. I know that the Lord will grant us peace, I am sure."
A convoy of police cars rushes across the landscape and Ziti smiles. "You know," she says, "I am sure that the Lord will bring us peace. But I'm glad they we can count on them, too," she adds, pointing to the racing police cars.
Ziti, a 46-year-old Italian, seems to have innocently summed up the prevailing expert opinion on the possibility of millennial violence in Israel. It's pretty scary; it probably won't happen; the media panic and the public fear are exaggerated and unjustified. But just in case, let's all hope that the police and the security forces are on top of things.
In the coming millennial year, over three million tourists are expected to arrive here. Most of them will be Christians, and almost all of them will come to Jerusalem.
Some, a tiny minority, may lose their minds and begin to believe that they are Jesus, or Mary, or St. John. Harmless, they will prophesy about doomsday and call on passersby to hearken to the call of God. These sufferers from Jerusalem Syndrome are already beginning to fill the wards of Jerusalem's Kfar Shaul psychiatric hospital. Most will probably get better and go home.
And some, the rare group or individual, will assert that "God helps those who help themselves" and may try to initiate the violence that could bring about Jesus's Second Coming.
Truth be told, Christian fundamentalist millennial theology can be very frightening, especially if you live in Jerusalem. Based on particular, sometimes idiosyncratic, interpretations of the biblical book of Daniel and New Testament's books of Revelation and Matthew, millions of Christian evangelicals and fundamentalists believe that this Second Coming of Jesus will occur in 2000. They are infused with millennial frenzy and are agitatedly looking for "signs" of the Last Days.
They believe that after Jesus does appear, he will vanquish evil in the final battle at Armageddon, and establish his thousand-year kingdom on earth. After the millennium of Jesus's earthly reign, he will pronounce his final judgment over the living and the dead, and this will bring about the end of earthly history.
MAINSTREAM Christianity has rejected such apocalyptic theology. In 1998, for example, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America called upon its members to welcome the millennium with hope and to disregard apocalyptic prophesies of doom, destruction, and Armageddon.
Dr. Robert Schuller, minister of the Crystal Cathedral in California, hosts a television program called The Hour of Power, which, he claims, is viewed by billions of people worldwide. He has brought to Jerusalem a 650-member pilgrimage group, and his Christmas Eve service was broadcast live from Shepherds' Fields near Bethlehem to his followers.
"The angels who proclaimed our Lord's birth did not say that Jesus has come to bring us truth. They proclaimed that he has come to bring us peace," Schuller says.
"I don't believe," he continues, "that Jesus Christ is going to physically come at the end of this millennium. I don't deny the fact of the Second Coming, but I don't understand it. I can't comprehend it, and so I don't teach it. It would distract me from doing something constructive and creative."
Less than 10 percent of Christians, Schuller asserts, "actually buy into eschatological theology. The rest of us don't argue about it and we are just going to let it pass. We, the overwhelming majority, will pray for peace, understanding, reconciliation, and joy."
However, David S. Katz, professor of history at Tel Aviv University and an expert on millennialism and Christian sects, cited a Gallup poll that contends that between 30 and 40 percent of Americans basically believe in the absolute literal truth of the entire Bible, including the prophesies of Jesus's Second Coming and the apocalyptic scenes described in Revelation and Matthew.
And even if Schuller is correct that "less than 10 percent" of Christians believe in millennial theology, that still means that tens, perhaps hundreds of millions of people believe that the end of days is fast approaching.
FOR SOME of these believers, the Mount of Olives is a site of intense importance. Jesus, they believe, will enter Jerusalem through the now-sealed Golden Gate (known in Hebrew as Sha'ar Harahamim, the Gate of Mercy) and from there he will proceed to his battle at Armageddon.
Some are waiting more impatiently than others. MessiahCAM, an on-line Web site, has focused its camcorder on the Golden Gate, allowing believers to click in and view the awaited Second Coming in real time.
But on a overcast day last week on the Mount of Olives, the only clicking going on was the tourists with their cameras in between sipping tea and coffee at the Seven Arches Hotel.
Sufian Abu-Ghannam, 36, a resident of nearby A-Tur and a hotel reception clerk, says the atmosphere is far from apocalyptic.
"I don't believe anything bad will happen here," Abu-Ghannam predicts. "Everyone here is in a good mood, looking forward to the 21st century and hoping for a better life. Peace is in the air, [there are] the talks with [Yasser] Arafat and with [Hafez] Assad. And if the Messiah comes, it will be for better, not for disaster."
Yet, he admits that the hotel has installed extra security cameras and is working closely with the police to maintain security and order, especially tonight.
OUTSIDE, Mietek Brzezinka, a 39-year-old engineer from Warsaw, is more concerned about his son Matthew's ride on the Mount of Olives' camel than he is about eschatological theology.
"It has been very meaningful for me to be here on Christmas, where Christ was born, preached, and died. But destruction and the Second Coming? - Naw, that is silly."
An on-duty policeman smiles. Although he will provide little information, he does acknowledge that security plans and contingency operations have been put in place "just in case."
Smirking, he looks at the camel and quips, "Maybe that camel, not a donkey, will bring the Messiah. After all, that camel has been here forever."
But police officials are taking millennial madness seriously. At a recent press conference, Police Insp.-Gen. Yehuda Wilk acknowledged that although the police do not have any concrete information on specific acts of terrorism, they are not taking any chances.
One small extremist group, one individual, one attempt to blow up the Temple Mount, or one random act of terrorism and a deadly flame of violence could be sparked.
ACCORDING to published accounts, the police have tripled the number of officers on the streets of Jerusalem. Nationwide, 20,000 uniformed police, plainclothesmen, and other security agents will be on duty over the holiday weekend. Some 400 security cameras have been installed to monitor major Christian, Moslem, and Jewish holy sites, as well as the pathways of the Old City.
The police have reportedly established a "tourist patrol," intended to help the millions of expected tourists - and to augment the police presence and to be alert to possible disturbances.
And although the police won't comment, it is well known that they have established a special team to study and prepare for possible millennial violence.
No doubt, the specter of the fiery disaster of Waco, Texas, fuels the concerns of Israel's police. The Branch Davidians, an extreme Christian fundamentalist sect led by the charismatic David Koresh, were reportedly awaiting the Last Days and stockpiling weapons in anticipation of an end-of-times assault by demonic forces, which they believed was imminent.
On April 19, 1993, when federal agents tried to arrest Koresh on weapons charges, the Davidian compound exploded in flames; 76 people, including 17 children, died. Exactly two years later, on April 19, 1995, and at least partially in retribution for the Waco attack, Timothy McVeigh set the bombs at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 150 people.
Had the FBI understood the religious motivations behind the Davidians' behavior, Katz contends, they might have been able to prevent the disaster.
These may be the fears that in October 1998 prompted the police to expel a group called the "Concerned Christians" that had been living outside of Jerusalem. According to police sources, they had clear indications that hundreds, if not thousands, of members of extremist cults were on their way to Israel commit suicide on the last day of 1999.
Experts, however believe that the expulsion was misguided.
"First, if there were any other groups, expelling the Concerned Christians drove them underground," says Katz. "And second, it again focused all the attention on one group, on one day."
Says Gershom Gorenberg, an expert on millennialism: "The way it's been played out in the press it's as though the police, the press, and the public have taken one extreme scenario and assigned it to one particular date. But that's not what will probably happen."
Other sources say that despite its efforts, the special police task force has not prepared adequately and still doesn't really understand the religious motivations - not of the overwhelming majority of Christians and not of the potential, small minority of extremists.
Millennial visions will not dissipate on January 2. Or on January 3, either. Throughout this year, and throughout the coming years, when (if?) Jesus does not arrive, unknown groups and individuals may despair.
Having waited in ecstatic expectation, they may become despondent and enraged when their visions do not materialize. And no one can anticipate what they might do.
Gorenberg, for example, is concerned that some individuals may choose to commit suicide in dramatic, destructive ways. Or, more sinisterly, some may blame Israel and the Jews, who, after all, ceded land to the "infidels," did not rebuild the Temple, and have not accepted Jesus's teachings.
"It is hard to understand the depth of these Christian fundamentalists' deep and intense fervor," Gorenberg says. "And it will be just as hard to understand and to predict the depth of their despair."
Adds Aryeh Gallin, president of the Root & Branch Association, which works with Christian groups who support Judaism and the State of Israel: "When Jesus doesn't come back, when the world as we know it doesn't end - what then? These people's lives have been dependent on their visions, and when their visions do not materialize, their despair will be overwhelming.
"Their lives may become meaningless to them. And people who believe, in the depths of their souls, that they no longer have what to live for, can be very dangerous people."
AND YET, as frightening as these doomsday scenarios may be, scholars and experts warn against looking for and seeking out cults and extremists.
Ehud Sprinzak, professor of political science at the Hebrew University and a researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, headed a team that, together with experts from the US, prepared a report detailing all the possible apocalyptic scenarios involving extremists in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. But having written the report, Sprinzak and his team have decided not to make it widely available to the public or the press.
"As an academic exercise," Sprinzak says, "we thought through all sorts of horrific scenarios. But we think that the chances of any of these happening is so small, that we just don't want to fuel public hysteria by providing them with these descriptions."
In this atmosphere of millennial panic, Jews and Christians are meeting only as stereotypes. For the Christians, the Jews remain a mythical people, living out Jesus's scenario in which they are to rebuild the Temple in preparation for his Second Coming. And the Jews can only view the Christians as mad or violent, seeking to foment destruction in the name of messianic insanity.
In reality, of course, the State of Israel is pursuing its own agenda - irrespective of Christian eschatological theology - and the overwhelming majority of Christians are not planning to bring about the ultimate war of Gog and Magog.
The constant focus on millennial violence, Gorenberg says, has diverted attention from the real meaning, and opportunity, which the millennium brings.
"Most Israelis don't really understand religion," says Gorenberg. "They don't understand religious sentiments among Jews, which they view as some sort of bizarre primitive magic, and they certainly don't understand religious sentiments among Christians, either. This could be an opportunity to learn.
"Pages and pages, hours of discussions, have been devoted to fanning the fears of millennial violence. But how much time and space have we devoted to interfaith dialogue? To getting to know and understand each other?
"How many Israelis will take advantage of this millennial year to open themselves up, to meet these Christian tourists, and to learn to understand what they believe and feel?
"The last time that this many pilgrims came to Israel," says Gorenberg, referring to the Crusades, "they weren't so peaceful and they weren't so friendly. This time, we have a real opportunity to meet, learn, and improve our relations with the entire Christian world. That's what we should be doing."

Watching millennial and apocalyptic cults in the year 2000 - Index Page

CESNUR reproduces or quotes documents from the media and different sources on a number of religious issues. Unless otherwise indicated, the opinions expressed are those of the document's author(s), not of CESNUR or its directors.

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Revised last: 18-03-2000