First Visit by Anti-Cult Members to ISKCON
“Theology and freedom of choice is more important then ever before”, said the ISCA (International Cultic Studies Association) member (who asked to be anonymous for this article) in front of a room of ISKCON Communication team members from all over Europe.
It was the first time Anti-Cult members have visited an ISKCON temple and did a presentation. It was held during Radhadesh’s hosting of the ISKCON Europe Communications conference.
ISKCON is no stranger to the organisation. Over the years Anuttama Das, ISKCON Global Communications Director, has built a relationship with the organisation by attending conferences and speaking openly about ISKCON’s issues.
“It is because we have built up trust with Anuttama over the years,” they said, “that allows us to open up this dialogue”, said one of the speakers.
Although ISKCON used to be considered a “cult” in many parts of the world, as Anuttama Das’, “History of ISKCON” presentation showcased, ISKCON has rebuilt its reputation and created relationships with its once opposition.
“To its credit, ISKCON has dealt with its issues well,” they said, “publishing in ISKCON Studies Journal about its dirty laundry”, they defended, hinting that this is one of the reasons that he is open to dialogue with ISKCON.
Dissent, they said, is a large issue and a way of judging the “cultness” of an org, explained the ISCA member. ISKCON, they mentioned, has been in formal dialogue with ex-ISKCON members over the years, showing signs of its maturity and openness.
ICSA’s mission includes helping former members of cults, educating the public about psychological manipulation, and conducting research about cultic and high-control organisations. It’s membership and board is comprised of professors and professionals in a variety of fields and has been around since 1979.
The rest of the conference events were further enlightening, including a visit to the Maredsous abbey, the largest mosque in Belgium, and a Cathedral in Brussels. Leaders at each of these institutions hosted and led the Communications members around and their many answered questions.
Further discussions on issues and topics for Communication teams, including ISKCON’s 50th Anniversary celebrations were held in the remaining days. Advice, team building and strategic planning was done for the 50thAnniversary specifically.
After a long day of visiting different interfaith sites, the group made its way to Brussels city center by harinam where they took to the streets, chanting the maha mantra and moving onwards from the old town to the new town and back again. Many enjoyed a snack on the way back from the harinam to the bus, and they made their way to Radhadesh by late evening.