On June 15th, the screening of the award-winning documentary “The Bitter Winter of Belief: Sneaking Cults” was successfully held at the Press Club in Brussels. This event was initiated and hosted by FAE-FAE, the Federation for the Asian Communities in Europe. More than 20 people attended the screening including religious figures from Europe, the United States, and Asia, representatives of anti-cult organisations, representatives of human rights associations, and media reporters.
“The Bitter Winter of Belief: Sneaking Cults”, is a documentary about cults that have taken maximum advantage of the media’s freedom to spread their teachings and conspiracy theories with the explosion of online media sources, including social media.
Bitter Winter is a magazine as well as an online media in multiple languages supporting cults and an extreme right-wing agenda at its core. Although Bitter Winter claims to be dedicated to promoting freedom of belief, emerging religions and religious pluralism, educated readers will quickly realise that the magazine and its associated website do not have many in-depth discussions on the positive aspects of religion and contain a lot of negative information defending organisations that have been listed as cults in many countries.
The Church of Almighty God is a “Cult” that for most first appeared in the media due to its tentacular influence in the Japanese government and its direct link with the assassination of the late Japanese Prime Minister Shizo Abe.
Ms Natalia Bashirian, director of the documentary, lived in South Korea for a while and witnessed first-hand the persecution and abuse of one of her friends by the Church of Almighty God. She felt that it was necessary to reveal the true face of the Church of Almighty God to denounce them and save potential victims from falling into the trap of harmful cults.
Mr Aerts, chairman of the FAE-FAE, combined with the various unfair treatment received by the FAE-FAE during the epidemic, once again issued a dire warning to our society through the inside story revealed in this film. Bitter Winter continues to report wrong and false information, tends to create conflict and false debates, divert attention, and create confusion.
After the screening, the guests were invited to participate in a discussion.
Mr Delcour, an independent Belgian journalist, said: “This documentary has strong insight and a fast pace with a uniquely female perspective. I hope more people will be made aware of the operating mode that cults exploit behind the scenes. It is important that we pay attention to the fact that cults can lurk in hidden corners all around us that are not easy to detect.”
The person in charge of the French party Reconquete in Benelux, Ms Girard said at the meeting: “Such a pretence of freedom of belief hiding behind a so-called media is actually motivated by ulterior motives! We should take up the big stick of legal weapons in our arsenal and fight hard against the creators of such fake news and restore social peace.”
Independent writer Mr Lacroix said: “A cult organization like Almighty God should not be protected in Europe. We should use civil power and call on governments of all member countries to keep their eyes open to clearly expose its cult nature and remove organisations like Bitter Winter pulling the strings behind the scene! We cannot give evil cults the opportunity and the impunity to harm people and disrupt society.”
Mr Duran, an independent journalist expressed: “I am very grateful to the organizer for inviting me and my colleagues in the media circles to pay attention to the source of this kind of fake news. There are still so many unknown cults and hypocritical organisations in the world. We must unite and deal with them together!”
In the summary, Mr Aerts introduced Dr Hassan, described as “one of the world’s foremost experts on mind control, cults and similar destructive organisations”. Professor Hassan has been committed to understanding the working principles of thought processes and systemic social influence techniques used by cults and has written several books on harmful cults.
Using the BITE Model and the Belgian government’s guidelines to identify harmful cults, Mr Aerts demonstrated with Mr Delcourt that the majority of “religious organisations” defended by Bitter Winter are none other than destructive and harmful cults.
In his closing words, Mr Aerts also appealed: “Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it only happens to other people. It’s vital to protect yourself, your loved ones, and people around the world from the harmful effects of undue influence. It is time for us to unite in support of people around the world who are persecuted by cults and deceived by disinformation.”