A sad anniversary, an everlasting warning

Alessandra Pesce

Soon the 35th anniversary will recur, of a reprehensible happening that to date remained totally unpunished from a judicial standpoint, but now – from a moral perspective – would be universally condemned by anyone who got acquainted with it, as well as its mean instigators, perpetrators, accomplices and cover-up henchmen.

On April 24th, 1988, with the bewildering participation of her own parents deceived by no-qualm-at-all people, Alessandra Pesce, 24-year-old woman from Brescia (Italy), degreed and economically independent, gets abducted and transferred to a countryside house in Tuscany, where she undergoes several days of segregation before she manages to escape and report her mercenary captors.

One of the few realities that have been obvious in anybody’s eyes in the last three years – whether one is for a political party or another, whether one supports a certain think or another, whether one belongs to a given ethnicity or another – is that deep social rifts are now present everywhere on the planet.

Propaganda campaigns, at times suffocating, blare for this or that party, give some a bad name and praise someone else, imply terror or suspicion towards those who will not follow a certain line, often spread fake or artificially made-up news in order to produce a specific wanted emotional reaction. Generally speaking, everywhere around the world, the population is targeted with messages enticing to hate or triggering hostility.

Differently from what one may think (especially if one heeds the recounts, now disgusting, from the mass media) – as far as actual history is concerned, religions were born to unify, to include, to harmonize populaces. This fact would be wonderfully proven by happy or fortunate periods in which politics and regime propaganda did not manage to interfere with the natural development of things as well as with the inborn tendency of people to live together: one might for instance think of the Norman Sicily in the twenty years ruled by Ruggero II d'Altavilla, and later on with Friedrich II Hohenstaufen, the German emperor "child of Puglia” who continued his tradition of respect, to a point that he even conquered Jerusalem without a war in 1229 thanks to a peaceful settlement with the Sultan al-Kāmil (nephew of the legendary Saladin); or one might think of Spain under the Arabian domination in the VIII century A.D., or of the American "melting pot”, or to finish with, the cosmopolitan Baghdad of the VIII-IX centuries A.D. ruled by the Abbasid caliphate, areas and also central Asia) all lived together. Briefly, where no pressures are brought in an attempt to divide people or make enemies or create factions and raise turmoil, ethnicities and religions pull together and prosper in the journey of life.

But today’s social climate, as mentioned above, is far different: much more similar in fact to all those historical periods, we all study on history books, during which for very precise reasons (and deliberately provoked, too) ethnicities and religions clashed (and clash today) into bloody, devastating, fratricide conflicts.

Thinking of nowadays, our thought inevitably runs to China: for a long time now, broadly documented is the collaboration between the Peking regime and the anti-“cult” groups more sadly known and controversial such as FECRIS and CCMM with their respective local branches, as well as their catastrophic results that are under everybody’s eyes, including outright persecutions e violent suppression, o a point that even international organizations such as USCIRF spoke up to report all that.

The anti-“cult” groups really being a global threat to peace and cohabitation between ethnicities and peoples, is everything but a random statement, and it is definitely hard to rebut, too. One should simply consider (as just one amongst countless instances) how certain anti-“cult” activists (involved with FECRIS and its affiliates) even dare to salute favorably and publicly the Russian government in their warmongering politics, whose carnages and devastation are sadly under everybody’s eyes. By the way, as history teaches, any national government that lets itself be drawn into a spiral of hate leading to war, regardless whether the instigator or the target, may only force its own populace to cry for the fallen and may only sentence its own survivors to wither in the regret for the crimes committed.

Regime to regime, in fact, China and Russia have an ideological distance as much shorter than geography might represent; which has been true since way before the most recent social-political upheavals caused the two totalitarian governments to approach one another. On the contrary – the work of anti-“cult” people may in a sense be considered as a harbinger of Moscow and Peking’s apparent communion of intents in terms of international politics.

As a matter of fact, the climate of ostracism and intolerance versus the non-conventional religious realities, that has been spreading along the years in the Russian Orthodox Church, is so sour and obsessive that it started to create dissent and hiatuses even among its representatives; this is no surprise, if one considers that the major FECRIS activist internationally, Aleksandr Dvorkin (its former vice-president, too, from 2009 to 2021) dared to publicly define, with no qualm, religious movements as “cancerous cells [that] obtain nutrition from the healthy body of society until it collapses.” Which was not an isolated statement (evidently reminding of disturbing historical memories, too) but the clear-cut political line that characterized Dvorkin’s modus operandi from its beginning: spreading hate to create hostility and thus producing retaliation and revenge, mostly based on pointless (if ever real) motives.

Just to give another example – when FECRIS and other controversial anti-“cult” groups presents persons in their conventions with an assessed criminal record such as Rick Ross, the merely destructive intent their business is based on, becomes unequivocally plain. The pattern is in fact quite simple: a totalitarian communist government (China) needs to sort out a “political issue”, which is erasing an inconvenient minority that dared to protest for freedom publicly (although in a totally pacific way), so hires a mercenary (Ross) to provide the needed know-how to the labour and – just to save the appearance – does not miss a chance to disguise the whole operation with an air of surmised science and official manner (as provided by FECRIS).

The inevitable consequence are suppressions and violence, already seen a number of times in the past: first of all the infamous practice of “deprogramming”, Rick Ross was an inauspicious promoter since the 1980s.

One just needs to look a bit further, beyond the surface, and not be enchanted by the false assertions of social advantages or who knows what other fancy characteristic: then the roots of the  anti-“cult” groups like FECRIS will come up for what they are – deeply rooted in turbid mud. As a matter of fact, already in mid 1980s in Italy some people had planned to make profit from the emerging phenomenon of religious movements and had so founded ARIS (“Associazione per la Ricerca e Informazione sulle Sette” or “Organization for Research and Information on Cults”). On a “mafia-style” basis[1], in a few years the infamous ARIS devastated whole families spreading bad blood and implementing “deprogramming”.

So we return to the case of Alessandra Pesce, a victim of anti-“cult” abuses of the same nature of those that are committed nowadays against the religious minorities in China and Russia. Of the memories connected to this awfully sad case of deteriorated familial relations, favoured and exploited (for profit) by anti-“cult” fixers without qualm belonging to ARIS, those from FOB have been proud spokespersons since the very first public presentation at the Chamber of Deputies[2].

So today, witnessing that tragic happening and in order to make it remain as an everlasting warning, FOB queried Alessandra Pesce who so released the following interview.

[FOB] Alessandra, almost 35 years after that sad week of the end of April, do you still deem useful to renew the memory of those facts?

[A.P.] Definitely – I deem it useful and even a duty in a sense, because from historical memory one may at least hope to take a teaching for the future. In this perspective, I am very grateful to FOB for their constant work of alternative information and for promoting a culture of respect between the different cultures and religions.

[FOB] Let’s go back for a moment to that 24 April 1988: how did the abduction occur?

[A.P.] That Sunday, my father invited me with a pretext to visit a home he was planning to buy. After one hour of trip I realized we were not going to the right direction so I started to complain. My father refused to le me leave the car with various excuses; after a while, my mother gave me some tea from a thermos and I fell asleep deeply, like doped.

[FOB] Could you ever find an answer to the question how your own parents dared that much?

[A.P.] It isn’t easy today, as it never was before, to find a reason for that: ultimately, one lives with oneself anyway as well as with what one did or didn’t do; in this sense, I wouldn’t wish anybody to have to reckon with the consciousness of having committed such an act. Yet, in hindsight, this would still be a limited envision, so it’s worth to broaden the view some more. In that period, in Italy, the newspapers (no Internet or online media at that time) had targeted my lately-born religious  community with a savage ferocity: alarming recounts, mostly based on rumours or misleading interpretations or judicial situations far away from being assessed, filled the columns of the press with bombastic big titles. Obviously, families were affected by all that, fights occurred, worries and tensions arose, etc. Falsehood, innuendo, suspicion, intolerance: those were the sparks that started situations like mine. Needless to say, disinformation campaigns were morally responsible at that time, just like they still are today.

[FOB] You woke up already on destination, in a countryside house, where the attempt of “re-education” started.

[A.P.] Yes, starting from the very first evening. Full days, morning to night, forced into a locked room, with the only window covered by an armoire, at the mercy of unknown persons who gave me a sort of third degree, violently vomiting against me any possible malice, in an attempt to convince me of how wrong I was having chosen my faith. Not to mention that the very first day, my desperate attempt to escape in the beginning failed, I got badly pushed against a bed and wound up with a broken foot.

[FOB] For how long did you have to tolerate such mistreatment?

[A.P.] Let’s start saying that in addition to the psychological pressure and desperation, day after day I also had to cope with the pain in my foot caused by one of my wardens (to no avail I had begged them to get some medical assistance). However, this first portion of the situation, lasted five days in its whole – five long days during which little by little I had to realize that nothing I could say would ever be taken in to account; I was being addressed to as an incapable, or worse, an animal to “tame”. For those people, no value would ever be given to my ambitions, my culture, my convictions, my beliefs or even my very human dignity.

[FOB] How did you eventually manage to set yourself free?

[A.P.] I only made it thanks to my shrewdness: after the very first phase in which I tried to rebel and wound up with a broken bone, I started to indulge their attacks and their anti-religious fanaticism, convincing them they were succeeding in their attempt to bring me under their control. So when the time came to move to another location according to the plan laid out by the deprogrammers, I selected a favourable moment to obtain a detour and go back to Brescia (my home city) where in the meanwhile my employer and my boyfriend had reported my disappearance to the police. I guess it’s redundant to get into further specifics, but in short, I queried the Carbineers for help when I finally obtained to get myself brought to a First Aid for my heel (broken during the “deprogramming”); then, as soon as I could escape the soldierly control of my kidnappers, I went away and I never came back into my parents’ home any longer.

[FOB] To finish with, Alessandra: what may this story still teach, in our modern times?

[A.P.] The importance of human dignity and the absolute need for reciprocal respect, first of all. One may live in peace even in the presence of radically different beliefs, and nobody should ever listen to those who attempt to divide, counterpose, contrast – especially and particularly in a family context. When we hear someone trumpeting for a cause that creates separation, we should use all possible critical sense we have and evaluate with maximum attention those statements: hate, hostility or generalized suspicion would very hardly be the factors for a better society. An increased understanding, instead, would be: studying, finding out, learning more about those things that may baffle or stupefy us, pulling information about their reasons, exploring their contexts, etc. This way we can live in harmony, without necessarily embracing beliefs different from our.

[FOB] Knowing you came out from that disgrace as a winner anyway, do you believe your current life and your future will still be influenced by that?

[A.P.] After such a long time, I can say my life has taken its own way and I can only be proud for that. I have no grudge against anybody. In 35 years I built up my own family, I have so many friends, I succeeded in my activities. I can walk with my head held high, proud of my having been faithful to my convictions even in those times when the truth was getting covered up. Sometimes I feel like smiling (with some pity) when I think of how heavy is the moral burden that has to be brought by those who instead attempted to bury the truth – such as the public prosecutor who dared to dismiss my complaint in spite of the fact that the statements from my kidnappers confirmed it in full; or the Carbineer brigadier who was first made acquainted of my story but refused to file my complaint. It’s them, that I don’t envy at all, because sooner or later conscience does present a bill. After all, he who makes his bed must lie in it. As far as I am concerned, I am free and I live free.


[1] ⬆︎ (Edoardo Andreotti Loria (ARIS member) during a closed meeting, stated: «We’re totally in a mafia here; we’re a mafia organization, in this moment. Keep it in mind. For we have an idea of freedom which is different from the idea of other people…». Diritti dell’Uomo, Volume XI, Issue 14, page 6)

[2] ⬆︎ Il The abduction of Alessandra Pesce was told by herself and reported on pages 90-97 of the Records 1st FOB Convetion and can be listened to from her own voice of the speeches at the Montecitorio venue (both records and speeches are in Italian).