In 2020, our team published two White Papers on the crackdown on Shincheonji in South Korea after incidents related to the COVID-19 pandemic. We feel that a third White Paper is now needed, as we continue to collect documents and interview witnesses (via Zoom, due to the pandemic’s restrictions), and new developments have followed the arrest and detention of Shincheonji’s founder, Chairman Lee Man Hee.
Too often the media report incorrect or incomplete news, if not bluntly false, in relation to religious minorities. Evidently, such news is the result of prejudice by certain unscrupulous journalists. Mind you, this prejudice does not arise from a closed mentality but, in its own way, "honest", that is, from stupidly fixed ideas in which one believes "honestly".
We publish the following news that does justice to parents subjected to public scorn because "guilty" of being Jehovah's Witnesses and of observing the dictates of their religion, without having committed, de facto, any crime. The case, dating back to September 2019, is a textbook example of how the fake news mechanism works admirably explained by Roberto Guidotti in this article.
by Steno Sari — A few weeks ago I talked about fake news, starting the article with a quote from George Orwell on the courage of truth. Even today I would like to ask Orwell for help in resuming the talk left pending: "True freedom of the press is telling people what people don't want to hear." In other words, a journalist must know how to go against the tide if necessary. And it's not exactly easy.
by Steno Sari — George Orwell wrote: "In times of universal lies, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."
Lately I often cite Treccani [encyclopedia] to deepen a topic, outline the hidden or revealed meaning of an expression, and reveal its beauty or its dangerousness. Today I would like to talk about fake news, about this unstoppable tide of false news that is drowning our civil life.
In the night between July 31 and August 1, 2020 (UTC+09:00), Chairman Lee Man Hee, the founder and leader of the South Korean religious movement Shincheonji, has been arrested.
He is accused of having contributed to his movement’s alleged lack of cooperation with the authorities after a member was infected with COVID-19, of having embezzled funds belonging to Shincheonji for building the Palace of Peace, and of having maintained an event in 2019 that the authorities had asked to cancel because of a “typhoon alert.”
On July 20, a webinar on a new religious movement in South Korea, its political, religious, and social dimensions, and its discrimination during the COVID-19 crisis was organized by CESNUR, the Center for Studies on New Religions, and Human Rights Without Frontiers. International scholars in the fields of religion, international law, and human rights discussed the theme, “COVID-19 and Religious Freedom: Scapegoating Shincheonji in South Korea.” Speakers at the webinar were Rosita Šorytė, J. Gordon Melton, Massimo Introvigne, Alessandro Amicarelli, Willy Fautré and Ciarán Burke.
"We are scholars, human rights activists, reporters. and lawyers, all with a substantial experience in the field of new religious movements (derogatorily called “cults” by their opponents). Some of us have studied the Korean Christian new religious movement known as Shincheonji Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony (in short, Shincheonji).
Despite suspicions to the contrary, the Shincheonji Church of Jesus membership list that authorities obtained through a probe was not much different from the list the Christian sect had provided earlier.
Some politicians, heads of local governments and Justice Ministry officials had called for a prosecutorial investigation into the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, accusing the sect of hampering disease control efforts by intentionally omitting names from the list it submitted.
by Silvio Calzolari — Disasters and calamities seem to be the most overwhelming evidence of the precariousness of the human condition, of the fragility of societies and of any cultural construction. A calamity is a situation of extreme criticality that occurs when a potentially destructive and dangerous agent strikes a population that is caught in a situation of great vulnerability. Disasters and calamities cause a sense of insecurity and terror. But how do we react to external and sometimes invisible factors, as in the case of epidemics that can suddenly strike everything that seems to guarantee our protection and security (family, home, society)?
by Massimo Introvigne (CESNUR) — Media all around the world are focusing attention on Shincheonji Church, a South Korean Christian new religious movement, after members of the church’s Daegu congregation were infected by the coronavirus. As a scholar who has studied Schincheonji, I am concerned with the fact that international media that obviously know nothing about it have ‘discovered’ this church overnight because of the coronavirus incidents in Korea, and have repeated inaccurate information they found on low-level Internet sources.
The Human Dimension Implementation Meeting 2019 organised by the OSCE ODIHR was hosted this year at Warsaw National Stadium from 16 to 27 September 2019.
The HDIM is an annual event gathering representatives of the OSCE 57 participating States and of a number of NGOs registered with the OSCE discussing relevant human rights topics.
Our organisation, the European Federation for Freedom of Belief (FOB) has been attending the Human Dimension Implementation Meetings for the last 5 years, and we are thankful to the OSCE for the space given to the civil society. As a secular entity, member of the International Religious Freedom Movement, we constantly cooperate with other like-minded organisations, both secular and faith based ones, and regularly carry out a constructive dialogue with the public bodies and representatives in different countries.
by Nicola Colaianni
Former councilor of the Supreme Court of Cassation and full professor of ecclesiastic law, University of Bari
Freedom of conscience, religion and thought is the most fragile and vulnerable of all because it can be compressed and suppressed even subliminally, with messages and stimuli below the perception of the subjects. And the offense can come, not only from the public authorities, but also from the same communities in which individuals perform, in particular, their religious personality.
by Massimo Introvigne (thanks to www.neweurope.eu)
In 2018, two Italian journalists, Flavia Piccinni and Carmine Gazzanni, published a mediocre book called Nella setta (In the Cult). It included the usual laundry list of vituperations against the “cults.” The language was carefully chosen to de-humanise the members of religions the authors did not like. For instance, in one of the first chapters, the journalists described their visit to the Church of Scientology in Milan. The female Scientologist who welcomed them was described as having “alligator-like” eyes coupled with “horse-like” teeth.
“Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as the truth is of systems of thought" – John Rawls
The lecture on the freedom of the press held a few years ago (here the transcript is published), intended and intends to underline the function of debunking cthat the "good" press (so it has been indicated) should do, or rather, must do. This intention of truth accompanies that freedom as its constitutive element which is often – if not very often – betrayed. The current experience of the "worst" journalistic communication is that of television programs of information or analysis which, with reference to belief or religious minorities, often betray the truth twice, given that they present themselves as a journalistic inquiry or article of debunking.
We are introducing and relaying this interesting, well-specified article from Epoch Times, which tells about a recent interview with professor Massimo Introvigne, one of the most important scholars of religion in the world, regarding the ongoing persecution against religious minorities in the Chinese Popular Republic on the part of the ruling Communist Party.