For more than twenty years, FECRIS supported Russia and China in their bloody repression of minority religions.
by Luigi Berzano (University of Torino, Italy), Boris Falikov (Moscow State University for the Humanities, Moscow, Russia), Willy Fautré (Human Rights Without Frontiers, Brussels, Belgium), Liudmyla Filipovich (Department of Religious Studies, Institute of Philosophy of the National Academy of Sciences, Kiev, Ukraine), Massimo Introvigne (Center for Studies on New Religions, Torino, Italy), and Bernadette Rigal-Cellard (University Bordeaux-Montaigne, Bordeaux, France).
It is now the time to offer some conclusions of our White Paper, that we have presented here as a series of seven articles. An annotated version will appear in the May-June 2022 issue of “The Journal of CESNUR.”
FECRIS, whose role in spreading anti-cultism throughout the world we noted in our first White Paper in 2021, has consistently supported the crackdown of China and Russia, two totalitarian and anti-democratic regimes, against religious minorities labeled as “cults,” a crackdown that international organizations and democratic governments have denounced and which has involved arrests, torture, and extra-judicial killings.
From the infamous participation of French anti-cultists to the Beijing “International Symposium on Destructive Cults” in 2000, FECRIS and its affiliates have supported the merciless repression of Falun Gong and other groups labeled as “xie jiao” in China. As evidence of atrocities piled up, FECRIS and its affiliates never criticized the Chinese regime’s anti-cult policy. In fact, a symbiotic relation has continued, and FECRIS representatives have even defended Xi Jinping’s regime against criticism in fields unrelated to religion.
The most notorious Russian anti-cultist, and the main architect of the Russian repression of minority religions, Alexander Dvorkin, has been Vice President of FECRIS for twelve years, from 2009 to 2021, and one of its most visible public faces. At the time of this writing, he remains in the FECRIS’ Board of Directors. The Russian affiliates have remained among the most active branches of FECRIS until March 2022, when during the war in Ukraine they were reportedly expelled or suspended—but somewhat secretly and without public announcements to the date of this writing.
Before March 2022, FECRIS never distanced itself from Dvorkin or its Russian FECRIS affiliates. At the 2009 FECRIS symposium in St. Petersburg, FECRIS leaders even met with the Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation, exchanging information and suggestions on how to better combat “cults.” Later, FECRIS went to great lengths to defend even the most absurd statements of its Russian affiliates. In Germany, in 2020, FECRIS defended in court the statement that the persecution of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia is just the invention of “a primitive propaganda.”
For eighteen years, from the Orange Revolution of 2004 to the start of the 2022 war, FECRIS’ Russian affiliates contributed to the Russian policy and campaign of slander against Ukraine and the Ukrainian democratic movement, claiming that as “cult experts” they were in a position to prove that a Western conspiracy had infiltrated into Ukraine “cults” that had a crucial role in the first and the second Maidan.
This demonization of Ukraine paved the way for the 2022 war and its atrocities. All this went on for almost two decades, during which the Russian affiliates were hailed by FECRIS for their activism and successes, and Dvorkin was promoted by FECRIS as one of its main leaders.
We hope that the “expulsion” or “suspension” of the FECRIS Russian affiliates we discussed in the first articles of this series will be followed by the expulsion and public denunciation of Dvorkin. But it will be, at any rate, too little too late.
The problem is not only organizational. It is ideological. Expelling Dvorkin would be of little use without expelling from FECRIS Dvorkin’s ideology. This series of articles has raised the question whether Dvorkin’s ideology is not simply the ideology of FECRIS itself.