BY ANDREW 114 BROWN
THE LEADER of an organisation devoted to educating the public about new religious movements has asked Cardinal Hume to investigate the activities of Opus Dei.
Mr Ayrnan Akshar, the Chairman of "Education and Counselling on Cults", said on Monday that he had made representations and presented extensive documentation to Cardinal Hume, but was still awaiting the Cardinal's response.
"Cardinal Hume should be a little bit more responsible," Mr Akshar said. "I am not undermining anybody, I am not bringing anybody into disrepute. I am saying I made a representation and there was not a word of acknowledgment, and that is the picture. What is important for those around the Cardinal is to keep things calm. They don't want scandals."
Mr Akshar said he had "no axe to grind". He has, however, been involved with a cult in the past. Asked if he thought Opus Dei was a .cult, Mr Akshar told the Catholic Herald: "If you look at it, it looks like a duck, it talks like a duck, it walks like a duck. You cannot call it a camel." The Cardinal's Public Affairs office said it would look into Mr Akshar's claims. He also alleged that Opus Dei, which was founded in 1928 by Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, exerted control over its members, isolated them from the rest of society and requested money from them.
Mr Akshar, together with representatives of another cult information group, Family Action Information Resource (FAIR), gave a press conference on Monday at the Foreign Press Association in London. They were calling for more rigorous action from the Government to curb the alleged excesses of cults. Lady Daphne Vane of FAIR said consumers needed to be protected by the Consumers Act in the "purchase of the many belief packages available in the cult marketplace", and should be provided with a statutory "coolingoff period" before committing themselves to membership of a cult.
Mr Akshar said that through the Charities Act taxpayers were unwittingly funding the activities of cults which are charities under the law. "It is shameful for the Government to allow such things to happen," he said, and pointed to the examples of France, where a member of the Church of Scientology had been prosecuted and jailed, and Germany, where the secret service monitors the scientologists. According to Mr Akshar, a former member of the London International Church of Christ was so depressed as a result of "pressure exerted on him from the group" that, two months ago, he jumped to his death from London Bridge.
The conference also heard from a woman who said she had lost her daughter to the London Church of Christ. "My daughter was baptised In a filthy lake in Norwood, south London," she said. Among acade mics, many of whom frown upon the "anti-cult" movement, the preferred term for "cult" is "New Religious Movement". *ARCHBISHOP Pablo Puente, the Apostolic Nuncio, will make a three day official visit to the Diocese of Clifton at the beginning ofJuly. Last year, Bishop Mervyn Alexander of Clifton restricted the activities in his diocese of the Neocatechumenate, a lay movement, after an investigation.
Bruce Johnston: The day I was summoned by Opus Dei Page 5 Andrew Soane: Escriva and Opus Dei explained Page 5