Touria Prayag's Blog

L’express Weekly, 29 October 2010

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on October 29, 2010

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From freedom of conscience and mind manipulation

“I pray that all enlightened persons condemn such barbarous acts in a modern and multicultural Mauritius.” This was the cri de coeur of Kevin Permal from Light Ministries International in relation to those who covered his association’s banners with pictures of Hindu deities. The same cry was echoed by Mikki Hardy concerning the burning of a tent set up for a planned gathering.

We do condemn such barbarous acts. Unreservedly! We have said it before and we will say it again: no one is allowed to take the law into their own hands and the Voice of Hindu (VoH) are not above the law. The cowardly elements amongst them might, in fact, benefit by showing their bravado elsewhere like taking on drug lords instead of attacking non-violent people. Equally, when it comes to the suggestion of introducing anti-conversion laws, it is difficult to understand what the debate is about. It is obvious that such laws would go against all the principles that this country has fought for and which are entrenched in our constitution.

However, we would be kidding ourselves if we put down the whole problem to the senseless or calculated acts of a few extremists who are gradually losing ground.

The phenomenon of sects and conversion is nothing new, nor is it banal but it only grabs the headlines when there is a high-profile case. We can all recall the part played by the Eglise Chrétienne in the case of Hayley Goddard and, prior to that, in the cases of the Alladee and Attisse children. Readers will remember the poignant appeal of Hayley’s broken father in our columns to “all those adversely affected to speak out and help expose this dangerous group for what it is. I also appeal to government to expose this wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Headlines, shock and outrage, court cases, a Parliamentary Select Committee, investigations into the allegations of forced adoptions, kidnappings, abduction and fraudulent acts but public opinion is no clearer today about what happened than it was in 2000 when we heard of the first cases. And then there is a quasi- general indifference as cults insidiously carry on with their daily activities.  They continue to thrive, exploiting the distress of some of those who have been psychologically weakened by some trauma or disappointment and are willing to allow themselves to be deceived by the illusion that inside the “prison” walls of make-believe, they will find the answer to all their problems.

The dividing line between the enjoyment of moral freedom and falling victim to manipulation is indeed very fine. And therein lies the difficulty for the State. How much moral freedom can a citizen be allowed to exercise while, at the same time, being protected from crossing the line into becoming a victim of manipulation and falling into the claws of unscrupulous cult-leaders?

While we remain vehemently opposed to any law which would prevent  individuals from praying to the God they choose, or changing to another religion if they so wish,  legislators have to address the societal problem of mind manipulation and the strategy and tactics of enticement and deception often used as means of recruitment. And for this to happen, there has to be an end to the secrecy in which sects operate.

When a young girl like Hayley Goddard, writes the following to a religious leader, Mikki Hardy, “My life is completely submitted to you and the elders,” it is difficult to look on the phenomenon as something healthy or even harmless. This kind of total submission is in fact against human rights and human dignity. Legislators cannot afford to sit and watch.






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