PETALING JAYA, July 16 — Following the success of last year’s Malaysia Dharma Stream Forum, a forum that aimed to raise awareness on the rise of cult movements in Malaysia, organisers are back with a second edition with hopes of addressing cult issues and fostering intra-faith and inter-faith dialogues.
“There are more than 20 cults in Malaysia and we are seeing an influx of cult organisations masking as yoga or meditation centres, but have a sinister agenda,” said eastern and western metaphysics trainer and speaker Sherab Wong.
“This forum focuses on highlighting worrying issues within Buddhist organisations because the religion has been misappropriated and this is increasingly rampant,” said Durian Asean FM founder Jamaluddin Ibrahim, who organised the forum.
Wong and Jamaluddin wanted to warn the public about these dubious establishments — they believe prevention is better than cure.
“Victims tend not to speak out because they feel scared, some have depression and mental issues. There’s also shame attached to it especially women who have faced sexual violation,” Wong explained.
“These problems are never exposed in Malay and English-speaking societies and we want these issues to be highlighted,” said Jamaluddin.
He explained that on top of a lack of background checks, religious cults are relatively free to roam around as long as they don’t encroach into the official religion.
The good news is, there are ways to tell if you’ve gotten yourself involved with a cult.
Wong gave some pointers, such a charismatic leader who says only his teaching is the best and is the absolute truth.
“It’s a red flag when they don’t let you go to other centres and they try to pull you away from your family members, saying you are unique. When you are in your most fragile state, they say they are your saviour.
“What they want you to do is distance yourself from your community, so no one knows what you are doing. You start giving them money and believe this is the only way of redemption,” cautioned Wong.
Several workshops will be held at the forum throughout the day, including the future of Malaysian Buddhism, sharing sessions and how to train leaders to deal with cult issues among other pressing matters, all conducted in an informal discussion style.
The organisers also plan to launch the Integral Cult Awareness Network (iCAN), a national awareness campaign that collects data and experiences from victims.
“We hope victims will speak out, so we can find a way to help them emotionally and legally,” said Wong.
The Malaysia Dharma Stream Forum 2018 will take place on Sunday at Nexus Connexion Conference and Event Centre, Bangsar South from 8am to 6pm.
The forum will be attended by Buddhist group representatives from Malaysia and Singapore, social and religious scholars, community services providers, legal professionals, commentators, university students, media and the public.