ICSA 2013 Annual Conference

Manipulation, Abuse, and Maltreatment in Groups
Trieste, Italy
July 4–6, 2013
July 3rd – Preconference events

The International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) is conducting its 2013 Annual International Conference jointly with SOS Abusi Psicologici, Exit S.C.S. Onlus, and Info-Secte/Info-Cult.

Trieste, 5 July 2013 - 16.30-18.30

Human rights, the law, and new religious movements: finding a balance 

Part five: how the social context (e.g., press reports and popular prejudices) can violate individuals’ human rights 

Raffaella Di Marzio - Overview: how the social context can lead to violations of human rights 

The aim of this panel is to show how press reports and popular prejudices can violate the human rights of former and current NRM members and their children. The panel will show how media accounts that reflect popular prejudices can abuse and discriminate against current and former members. Such media presentations may reinforce popular prejudices, thereby creating a vicious circle. My presentation will provide an introduction to and overview of these issues.

One of the most common popular prejudices, which is often reinforced by the media, is the tendency to judge people on the basis of their group identities, rather than as individuals.  This can constitute an abuse of individual dignity because, for example, a current or former cultic group member is deemed to be a completely unreliable source because of the group with which he is affiliated, even though there may be much variation of opinion within groups and valid claims made by members of different groups. When people are treated as group stereotypes rather than individuals, many problems can arise, e.g., difficulty in finding or keeping a job, unnecessary strains in family or romantic relationships, ridicule or isolation of children at school, antagonism by neighbors.  Moreover, stereotyping people can easily lead to objectification and demonization, which in turn can lead to hurting behaviors that abusers would never consider inflicting upon those whom they see as individual “persons.”

Abuse that results from stereotypes may constitute a violation of the spirit, if not sometimes the letter, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 7, which begins: “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.” Treating all former cultic group members as “unreliable sources” because they are presumed to be merely “disgruntled” or treating all current cultic group members as “unreliable sources” because they are presumed to be “brainwashed” constitutes a form of discrimination, because the individuals in question are not treated as human beings worthy of respect and individualized attention.

One of the most serious violations of human rights that may result from the objectification and demonization of one’s opponents is the suppression of free speech.  Attempts to suppress free speech have been observed in a variety of settings: cultic groups against their critics, cult critics against cultic groups, and even cult critics against other critics.  Speech is endangered whenever one party believes that legal pressure, harassment, or coercion is an acceptable way of relating to somebody with whom one disagrees.

I will illustrate some of these points by discussing my experiences during the past 18 years, including my providing help and consultation to worried families, former cultic group members, journalists, law enforcement authorities, and current members of controversial religious and spiritual movements.  I will describe the suffering I have witnessed in current as well as former members.

Trieste, 4 July 2013 - 14.00-16.00

Prima Parte: Ci sono derive settarie nella Chiesa Cattolica? 

Movimenti cattolici di frangia in Italia: principali caratteristiche e diffusione del fenomeno (Raffaella Di Marzio )

Questa relazione si propone di illustrare le principali caratteristiche dei movimenti cattolici di frangia in Italia. Si tratta di gruppi che nascono spesso sull'onda della religiosità popolare e presentano talora caratteristiche settarie. 

La posizione di questi gruppi si situa su un continuum che va dalla sostanziale fedeltà alla dottrina cattolica e al magistero allo scisma e all'aperta apostasia.  

Anche in caso di gruppi scismatici, tuttavia, la maggior parte di questi gruppi rivendica la propria cattolicità e una speciale missione elitaria di cui si sentono investiti. I dati sul fenomeno sono tratti dall'opera Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia a cura del CESNUR, in corso di pubblicazione.

Trieste, 5 July 2013 -  14.00-16.00

Terza Parte: Diritti umani, la legge e i nuovi movimenti religiosi, trovare un equilibrio:  i diritti delle minoranze religiose

Le implicazioni psico-sociali nella nozione di “setta” (Raffaella di Marzio)

Questo contributo tratterà la controversa nozione di “setta” attribuita a gruppi religioso/spirituali  di varia origine che si configurano come realtà minoritarie caratterizzate da credenze e prassi “diverse” rispetto a un determinato contesto sociale.

La diversità di queste associazioni favorisce l’etichettamento e la creazione di “devianze multiple” percepite come “pericolose” dal contesto sociale in cui nascono e operano. L’etichettamento di gruppi innocui come “sette”, può generare, nei membri di queste organizzazioni, vittime di una “devianza” creata ad hoc, una serie di problemi di varia gravità ed entità.

Lo stato di sofferenza dei singoli si ripercuote sulle famiglie e il contesto sociale più generale, e ha una importante ricaduta anche nell’ambito delle attività professionali. Le ripercussioni negative sui minori o i giovanissimi sono ovviamente altrettanto significative.

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