Charity Fraud
Sects Take New Disguise to Prey on Victims, MILS Warns


Scientology's doublecross

Sects Take New Disguise to Prey on Victims, MILS Warns

PARIS, February 19, 2002 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Some sects have turned to new fields of activities such as health care and humanitarian aid to prey on vulnerable victims, France's Inter-Ministerial Mission of Fight against Cults (MILS) warned in its annual report released Tuesday.

They generally cover themselves under "a convenient mask of religion" and 80 percent of them are involved in so-called "training courses" or "medical therapies," said the report, adding that laws must be adopted to regulate these activities.

Many sects try hard to gain recruits, particularly among the ill and the vulnerable, said the report.

"They do not hesitate to take advantage of disasters in the world, such as natural catastrophes, wars and attacks, and to accumulate resources and influence from human suffering," said the report that has been presented to French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

Vigilance has helped limiting the number of people joining sets in France, according to MILS, France's national anti-sect agency which was founded in 1998.

France currently has 400,000 sect members, among which 250,000 are members of the Jehova's Witnesses, one of the largest two sects in France, MILS said.

The Church of Scientology, the second largest but the more active one, is "absolutely a dangerous cult," said MILS, noting the group has developed a strategy to destabilize the infrastructure in France by vigorously applying lawsuits to escape public scrutiny.

Last September, members of the Church of Scientology were seen distributing aid and preaching to victims around World Trade Center ruins in New York and AZF chemical factory ruins in French southern city of Toulouse, said the report.

"But as humanitarian organizations started distributing aid, the sect members immediately limited access to their own aid. In fact, they took suffering victims as potential clients and encouraged them to join the sect rather than expect aid," said MILS.

France, though repeatedly accused by the United States of trampling on religious freedom, has gained increasing support from other European and Asian countries in its fight against sects, said MILS.


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