“Personal development”, health-related abuses, social media recruitment … what the Miviludes report on sectarian abuse contains

For Miviludes the observation is as simple as it is worrying: no territory is spared from the sectarian phenomenon and there have never been so many reports. In 2021, the authorities received 4,020 referrals, an increase of 33.6% compared to the previous year and almost 50% compared to 2015.

The reports are therefore constantly increasing, especially since the beginning of the health crisis. This has favored the emergence of new movements and people who wish to take advantage of vulnerable or isolated people.

In its latest report published on Thursday 3 November, Miviludes warns in particular against excesses in the field of health and personal well-being.

Excesses more and more “worrying” related to health

Naturopathy, a new Germanic medicine that starts from the postulate that any cancer, and more generally any disease, derives from an intense psychological shock experienced by the patient, or even reiki … These practices developed and flourished during the health crisis. Some of these alternative solutions have no scientific basis and have recently received particular attention, when Doctolib decided to exclude them from its appointment booking site.

They are also considered among the most “worrying” by Sonia Backès, Secretary of State for Citizenship, responsible for these issues. The result is an impressive number of reports: 744 were made in the health sector and 70% concern these practices. In fact, for the authorities, it is a “public health issue” which can cause a “considerable cost” for society. However, Miviludes remembers that if “any therapeutic drift or unconventional practice is not sectarian”it is the mental influence exerted by some therapists on frail people that is worrying.

Suffering from cancer, a woman treated with mistletoe injections in Peymeinade

In the health field, the report cites the case of a woman with breast cancer who died after months of suffering in 2013. A general practitioner in Peymeinade had prescribed and injected extracts of mistletoe around the tumor. In 2016 he was sentenced to two years of disqualification from practicing the medical profession.

Another example, a person still suffering from cancer died after following the precepts of a “naturopath”, who claimed to help him heal. “thanks to natural remedies such as essential oil cocktails, a diet focused on fruit and vegetable juices, severe and prolonged fasting”. This man was sentenced in 2021 to two years of imprisonment with suspended sentence for illegal practice of medicine, Miviludes reports. He challenged the decision.

The “coaching” in personal development in the crosshairs

Alongside these excesses in the health field, the authorities also point to those related to personal development and coaching, a booming sector with books with colossal successes in bookstores.

At this level, the process of manipulation is easily identifiable in four phases: that of seduction, that of destruction by an initiatory process (exclusive commitment, ruptures, pressures …), then comes the phase of reconstruction of the person with a new ethics and the consolidation of this ethics, a “gateway” to the various products offered by the coach as internships or even treatments. According to Miviludes, members thus lose control of their lives, and in a situation of mind control.

Modalities of recruitment that have evolved and social networks at the center of the problem

These “alternative medicines” and the expansion of personal development and its excesses thus demonstrate that the sectarian movement is much larger, more segmented and more mobile than before. The health crisis has changed their forms and their ways of recruiting new followers. As meetings were forbidden, this was done by e-mail, phone call or post. Practices that particularly affect the health sector, where once again the health crisis has accentuated the distrust and rejection of conventional medicine.

As for social networks, they played a “central role”, say the specialists: “a vector of propagation for a diffuse set of micro-groups, shapeless nebulae of people, more or less tied around methods and doctrines that meet only occasionally or even sometimes do not know each other”. It is through this that recruitment strategies operate, both on a spiritual level and of some “ecovillages” which, through social networks or Internet sites, develop their strategy to attract new recruits attracted by “a utopia”. Another topic of concern, the conspiracy, particularly carried by social networks in which these theories “They impose themselves as software to explain the world in the form of an immense operation of manipulation of the population”.

In this context, “Assisi of sectarian aberrations and conspiracy” will be organized “at the beginning of 2023” to bring together the actors in the fight against these phenomena and elaborate a roadmap for the years to come, said Sonia Backès.

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