At this level, to note that the figures are worrying is an understatement. In its annual report published on Wednesday, the Interministerial Mission for Vigilance and the Fight against Sectarian Abuses (Miviludes) notes an “unprecedented increase in acts of a sectarian nature” in 2021. Nearly 34% increase in reports compared to 2020. in the medium term, the trend calls out: 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”, advances Marie Drilhon, vice-president of the National Union of Associations for the Defense of Families and Individual Victims of Sects (Unadfi), partner of Miviludes.
The pandemic as an accelerating factor in deviance
“Denouncing dysfunctions is becoming more and more important in society, we see that more people are coming forward. The pandemic was a passage that alerted a lot and brought to light abuses that already existed, but which were not talked about. The isolation and anxiety of confinement have prompted people to seek comfort, to join virtual communities with certain gurus, ”analyzes Marie Drilhon.
According to the report, these “2.0 gurus” lead groups of “moving, changing and intangible” followers. Abuses related to health and personal development are among the main topics highlighted by the report.
“We call them health charlatans. They often target a female audience. The victims have money and are demotivated by their professional life, 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 health authorities from its platform.
The sectarian “big multinationals” are reinventing themselves
Faced with the newcomers to sectarianism, the “big sectarian multinationals” are not to be outdone. The Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Scientologists, who are building a new headquarters in Saint-Denis, are adapting to their time.
“They continue their proselytism on the phone, by email, on the Internet, by producing videos, especially for children. The big evangelical churches are also better developed, and we are starting to have testimonies. I had on the phone two young people who had decided to stop their studies to devote themselves solely to the word of God in their church”, continues the vice-president of Unadfi, a structure which has received several thousand calls, mainly from relatives of the victims. Nearly 1,700 telephone exchanges gave rise to further follow-up.
“There are terrible human tragedies. State action must change scale, I am committed to it, ”assured Sonia Backes on France Inter. The Secretary of State for Citizenship will organize “early 2023” “Assises on sectarian aberrations and conspiracy”.
Until then, the mentors will continue to manipulate their followers, in ever more 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 a rise in power of masculinist movements.