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"The ICSA network does not and should not demonstrate the intolerance that it condemns in cults"


By Raffaella Di Marzio

This is a short review of the last issue of ICSA Today, the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) Magazine (ICSA Today, vol.4, n.3, 2013).

Read the article


Immagineicsa2ICSA Today (IT) serves ICSA members by providing information that enhances nderstanding of all aspects of the cult phenomenon, including how groups function, how they affect members, techniques of influence, dealing with harmful effects, educational and legal implications, and other subjects.


IT issues may include:

• practical articles for former members, families,helping professionals, researchers, and others
• opinion essays
• theoretical articles
• reports on research
• summaries of news reports on groups
• information on books, articles, links
• information on ICSA members
• biographical profiles on selected members
• personal accounts
• art work
• poetry
• short stories and other literary articles
• special reports from correspondents around the world



The last issue, in particular, is very interesting because of the "Message from the Directors of ICSA" about "Dialogue and cultic studies", in which the Directors explain "Why Dialogue benefits cultic studies field" (ICSA Today, vol.4, n.3, 2013, p.2-7).

It is important to know that, for more than ten years,  ICSA has really been involving in creating a common table for dialogue between people involved in the cultic studies field. They are  different people, sometimes with conflicting needs and opposite points of view about how to face che so called "cult phenomenon": parents worried, children affiliated, ex members, lawyers, professionists, scholars and so on...

The ICSA's efforts to promote the dialogue between the "two opposite camps", to some extent, achieved the goal. In fact, for example, speakers who share very different ideas, studies and proposals attend at ICSA International conferences just because discussions and criticism are encouraged by ICSA.  

During the last International Conference in Trieste, Steve K. D. Eichel, ICSA President, in his Introduction said: 

"ICSA conferences also aim to support research initiatives and to encourage students and researchers to pursue cult-related studies by offering them a forum to present their work. ICSA conferences aim to support the dissemination of knowledge to researchers, practitioners, and those who have suffered as a result of their experiences in such groups.  ICSA conferences welcome a diversity of views, including those of current members of nonmainstream groups, and emphasize respectful dialogue. We are confident that this year’s conference will contribute significantly to these goals".

The article “Dialogue and Cultic Studies”, published in this issue of ICSA Today, written by the ICSA Board of Directors, is the best example of this very balanced perspective. The main idea is that "totalitarianism cannot be combated by totalitarianism"(p.8).

In order to show the heart of this collective contribution, it is useful to cite the Mike Kropveld's letter published in this issue. Kropveld is the Executive Director of Info-Cult/Info-Secte and ICSA board member. He stresses the importance of openness and tolerance of differing opinions in the cultic studies field. Kropveld says also:

"The groups that are most likely to harm people are closed to outsiders and intolerant of internal dissent. A free flow of information threatens the leaders of such groups; hence, they erect boundaries that starkly define who is “in” and who is “out,” what members may believe and what they may not believe. This tendency to protect a group’s identity by enforcing internal conformity and excluding dissenters can arise in any group. Cult-watch organizations are not immune".


According to me this last sentence is the heart of the problem, because the cultic attitude, which makes people incapable of having a constructive dialogue with other people that share different believes, can exist in any kind of religious or not religious organizations.

Kropveld understands that people who 

"has spent years fighting the harm of destructive groups might object to ICSA including at a conference speakers who don’t share one’s critical view. And it is certainly understandable that someone hurt by a cultic group might feel betrayed when ICSA permits members of cultic or controversial groups to participate at its conferences".

Unfortunately, according to Kropveld, this tendency reflects the closed, polarized thinking of the very cult environments criticized by ICSA and it wouldn't allow to obtain information and opinions useful in order to correct misconceptions and wrong ideas.

In this regard, Kropveld adds:

"That is why for many years I have been open to those with whom I disagree. I believe that this cultivated openness has benefited the organizations that I serve.And that is why I am so pleased to see the ICSA Board affirming the value of dialogue".


The Kropveld's letter ends with a very clear synthesis of the issue of ICSA Today. I couldn't express it better:

"Our belief in the importance of remaining open to diverse views is exemplified throughout this issue of ICSA Today. The ICSA Board’s call for dialogue is a way of saying that the “cult way”is not our way; that we are stronger when we listen and respond to all kinds of opinions. Moreover, as “Dialogue and Cultic Studies” concludes, when we are open, “We may find that our differences diminish and our understanding increases.”


Thank you very much for this article, a very important ecouragement for anyone is trying to promote dialogue and tolerance, in Europe and anywhere.



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