At this level, to note that the numbers are worrying is an understatement. The Inter-Ministerial Mission for Vigilance and Combating Sectarian Atrocities (Miviludes), in its annual report published on Wednesday, notes an “unprecedented increase in acts of a sectarian nature” in 2021. Almost a 34% increase in reports compared to 2020. In media terms, reads the trend: with 4,020 referrals in 2021, the observed increase rises to almost 50%.
“The state of our society, the pandemic and social networks have accelerated the process”, states Marie Drilhon, vice-president of the National Union of Associations for the Defense of Families and Individual Victims of Sects (Unadfi), partner in Miviludes.
The pandemic as an accelerating factor in deviance
“Condemning dysfunctions is becoming more and more important in society, we see that more people are coming forward. The pandemic was a passage that alarmed a lot and produced abuses that already existed but were not talked about. The isolation and anxiety of confinement has made people seek solace, to join virtual communities with certain gurus,” analyzes Marie Drilhon.
According to the report, these “2.0 gurus” lead groups of “movable, mutable and intangible” followers. Abuse related to health and personal development are among the main topics highlighted in the report.
“We call them health charlatans. They often target a female audience. The victims have money and are demotivated by their professional lives, in search of more meaning. They turn to something that motivates them more. It works a lot by word of mouth,” says Marie Drilhon, while Doctolib has removed profiles not recognized by the health authorities from its platform.
The sectarian “big multinational corporations” are reinventing themselves
Faced with newcomers to sectarianism, the “big sectarian multinationals” are second to none. Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Scientologists, who are building a new headquarters in Saint-Denis, are adapting to their times.
“They continue their proselytizing on the phone, by e-mail, on the Internet, by producing videos, especially for children. The big evangelical churches are also better developed and we are starting to get testimonies. I had on the phone two young people who had decided to stop their studies to devote themselves exclusively to the word of God in their church”, continues the vice president of Unadfi, a structure that has received several thousand calls, mainly from relatives of the victims. Almost 1,700 call centers gave rise to further follow-up.
“There are terrible human tragedies. State action must change the scale, I am committed to that,” Sonia Backes further assured France Inter. The Secretary of State for Citizenship will organize “early 2023” “Assises on Sectarian Aberrations and Conspiracy”.
Until then, mentors will continue to manipulate their followers in increasingly varied areas. “In recent years, trading has developed on social networks and affects young people. I often have their parents on the phone”, warns Marie Drilhon, who also fears an increase in power in masculinist movements.