Joseph Kelly; Patrick Ryan; Amanda van Eck Duymaer van Twist
ICSA Annual International Conference – Brussels, Belgium, June 29-July 1, 2007
This session will compare and contrast INFORM’s approach to information with the approach of two exit counselors.
The main aim of INFORM, described by Ms. Van Eck Duymaer van Twist, is to help inquirers by providing information about a wide range of minority religions that is as reliable and up-to-date as possible. This can be very challenging, considering the wealth of contradictory claims to knowledge that are “out there.” We get information from all sources, including scholars, the media, former members, current members, relatives and friends of members, the religious groups, other organizations, etc. INFORM attempts to analyze these data by drawing on the methods of social science in order to distil them into a coherent, summarized form that is accurate and relatively easy to comprehend. Parents are likely to benefit from information about the beliefs, practices, and history of the group their young daughter or son has joined. It might be helpful as well for these parents to know about current developments in the group and recent controversies. Furthermore, they may want to be aware of what we know about the authority structure and group dynamics of a particular group, as well as changes people may go through as a result of converting to a religious movement and the kinds of pressure they may be under. When asked for suggestions for future action, we can help by offering recommendations on how to best stay in touch and by making suggestions on how to communicate in new ways with the convert. Of course, this process involves a lot more work, thought, methodological issues, battles, ethical considerations, and other problems.
Exit counselors Kelly and Ryan will explain how the information gathered by INFORM and other organizations can be useful to parents. They will also explain why parents also need other information, particularly information relating to their child’s personal history, psychological issues, family relationships, and specific ways of relating to group members and the leader. Information that is both broad and deep can enable parents to understand how their group-involved child sees the world. This understanding permits parents to formulate an ethical and informed strategy for improving their relationship with their child possibly helping him/her reevaluate a group involvement.