Articles in the LOOKOUT section of this website span a number of decades and are re-published on behalf of Adrian van Leen for research purposes. Original dates are being added to articles so as to place them in their correct historical setting(s). Adrian has endeavoured to be as fair and accurate as possible at the time of the original writing, but please note that the original article information may no longer reflect the subsequent or current actions, values, beliefs, positions, opinions, teachings or policies held by individuals, groups and/or organisations referred to in the original published article at the time of writing. As people change and move on, the same often applies to related Internet links; some links referred to in articles may have been changed or may no longer be available online.
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A guide to safeguard travelling young people from the lure of cults
Today’s young adults are probably the most mobile of any generation. Many take time off from university and college studies, or employment, to travel - especially to travel overseas. Often such travel comes at times of questioning, uncertainty, seeking answers to life’s complexities and direction for the future, in-between relationships, trying to establish personal independence, or just trying to make the most of opportunities before settling down to a less mobile lifestyle. For many, the adventure of travelling is mixed with some uncertainties that can lead to emotional and spiritual vulnerability.
During such times of travel and vulnerability many young people get caught up in cults, the occult, and extreme Christian fringe groups.
Young adults, especially, need to recognise their vulnerability when travelling, particularly during times of uncertainties, and when travelling on their own.
- There is no such thing as instant total friendship;
- No one group has all the answers;
- No single group has a total monopoly on truth or the way to God;
- People in cultic, or religious fringe, groups don’t have horns, they generally ARE very nice and sincere people (but sincere people can be wrong);
- You don’t have to believe the lie about being secretive because you’re not ready for the ’deeper things’ or that people who have the truth will be persecuted;
- You don’t have to make total commitments to the group straight away - if it IS the truth that’s being presented it will still be truth the next day or week after you have thought it through carefully;
- Most cultic groups will use familiar ’Christian’ jargon and terminology (but won’t tell you they’ve rewritten the dictionary) - will quote Bible verses (but mostly out of context - and without worrying about other parts of the Bible that might also relate to the same issue) - will talk about Jesus Christ (but have taken him out of his Jewish, Biblical and historical context and changed what and who he really is).
Many governments have been concerned about the possibility of travellers getting caught up in cultic groups. For example, for many years the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade issued a booklet with hints for travellers which contained the following warning about cults.
Since the mid 1970s some unscrupulous organisations claiming religious motives have become active in many countries.
There are several methods employed by these groups in seeking to persuade people to contribute funds and possessions. This can, in due course, extend to requests for contributions from family and friends. Their methods can be subtle and compelling and can initially appear to be no more than an innocent or sympathetic approach by strangers eager to assist with hospitality, free meals, lectures, art shows, and so forth. It is advisable, in the event of making contact with people who profess their motivations to be entirely religious, that your take very careful stock before committing yourself to any form of involvement with them.
REMEMBER: especially when travelling on your own:
- Don’t rush in to join a group you know nothing, or little about, just because the people are nice and friendly and say the right sounding things;
- You have the right and responsibility to ask questions (God is not afraid of our questions) - but don’t accept superficial or vague evasive answers;
- You have the responsibility and ability to think things through thoroughly for yourself - don’t let someone put you down or do the thinking for you (no matter how nice they may be or how ’qualified’ they claim to be);
- Check out all the evidence - check the context, especially of Bible quotations (for every verse quoted read the whole chapter it comes from, as well as the chapters before and after it);
- When making a total religious commitment, make it to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour - not exclusively to a group or group leader (groups and leaders are human and imperfect - unlike Jesus Christ).
- Try to learn about the customs and cultures of the country and community(ies) you will be visiting before you leave home. Find out what might be expected of you as a traveller;
- Plan your accommodation before you leave, if at all possible;
- If leaving to study overseas make contact with others who may be leaving at the same time and who will be staying on the same campus. If you know other students already on campus, or if you have relatives at your destination, contact them before you leave;
- If you are a Christian, find out if anyone in your church can put you in contact with a known similar church congregation, and/or a Christian student fellowship at your destination before you leave;
- When arriving at your destination for study make every effort to establish relationships with people you know, or with those in known and recognised churches, student fellowship and groups. Realise that things will be different - the culture, climate, food and much more - you will have times of homesickness that will make you vulnerable to nice persuasive people who will want to help you adjust and cope. It’s best for you, and you family, if those who help you are known, established and respected in the general community and especially in the Christian community;
- If you are uncertain about a group of friendly people who want you to join them, don’t be afraid, or hesitate, to seek information about them from other sources (including CCG Ministries or similar ministries and groups in you area or on the Internet [check our links]).
(From TACL Vol 13 #8 Dec 1992)