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Uptick in Cult Recruitment of Young People in Japan

Excerpts from an article in the Japanese paper, The Mainichi;

TOKYO -- More than 20 years have passed since a series of terror attacks and murders for which former AUM Shinrikyo cult guru Shoko Asahara and 12 of his ex-disciples were executed in July, but religious cults remain active in recruiting young people through social networking services and fake job seminars.

Universities, including institutions where senior AUM members once studied, are trying to counter cult recruitment through specially designed lectures, and support programs and consultation hotlines for both students and young researchers who are potential targets of cult recruiters.

A woman in her 20s living in the Kanto region ended up joining an "anti-social" religious group whose founder was convicted in a rape case abroad, after she was approached by a female stranger while shopping at a department store in Tokyo during last summer.

"I want to buy a birthday present for my friend. Do you have any recommendations?" asked the stranger as she approached the woman. They shopped together and exchanged account information on the free communication app Line. The two became close after the stranger invited her to women-only gatherings and other events, and before she knew it the young woman had become a member of the cult.

In the case of Iwano, a group of about seven men and women approached him and invited him to join a soccer club at the canteen of his university 17 years ago when he was a fourth-year student. Initially Iwano was happy, thinking that he now had more friends. But after about two months, they invited him to what was described as a Bible study group, and he realized that they were members of a religious cult.

Professor Kimiaki Nishida of Rissho University, a specialist in social psychology and the chairman of JSCPR, explains that religious cults prey on worries and loneliness held by their potential targets. The professor points out that a shift in zeitgeist from the economy-first thinking up to the 1970s to pursuit of more spiritual posture in the 1980s that valued the internal richness of individuals, was behind the rise of cults.


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