2013 Conference Awards at ICSA Annual International Conference

ICSA Today, Vol. 4, No. 3, 2013, 11-16

2013 ICSA Awards at ICSA Annual International Conference

Rosedale Award: Roberto Asquini and Cristina Caparesi

Presentation to Roberto Asquini by William Goldberg

Roberto Asquini was born on September 7th, 1964, in Udine, Italy. Married, with two children, he has run a small business in the field of information technology and administration and has had experiences in teaching professional courses. In addition to his professional activity, he has significant experience in administration and politics. As a regional counselor in the regional legislature, Mr. Asquini first became interested in cult issues in 2005. He led a movement to pass a law that funds nonprofits that help victims of psychological abuse in cults and other situations. As several persons during this conference have pointed out, this law could serve as a model of what government can do that is feasible, practical, useful, and respectful of individual freedom and human rights.

That is why it is a privilege to give Mr. Asquini the Herbert L. Rosedale Award “in recognition of leadership in the effort to preserve and protect individual freedom.”

Acceptance Remarks: Roberto Asquini

Thank you very much for the award; I am especially proud of it. Freedom has always inspired my political activity.

Those who are psychologically abused or cheated lose their freedom of thought and can no longer be themselves. And it’s so remarkable that there are individuals and organizations who want to control people’s behavior, thus stealing from them lives meant for pursuing their own goals and their own ideas.

But we can prevent these abuses by advocating a principal: Always ask ourselves whether our thoughts are free enough. Controlling people is, unfortunately, possible: Just think about magicians, distorted information media, cults, and similar religious groups. We have to convince everyone to always ask themselves the question, “Is that what I really think, or is this something that someone wants me to believe?”

In Friuli Venezia Giulia, we have devised a law on these principles: to maintain individual freedom, and to help people who have fallen to rise again.

So I thank those who ignited this idea in me (and that’s you), those who supported the legislative process, and the colleagues who voted for this law, together with me, one year ago.

Today we are one step ahead; but if we stop now, we risk losing it all. This law requires the continued support of so many groups—just like you—to spread these values. Because freedom of thought is the health of the soul and the essence of life.

Presentation to Cristina Caparesi by William Goldberg

Cristina Caparesi is an educator and family mediator with an expertise in conflicts related to cultic affiliations. She is President, EXIT ONLUS Cooperative enterprise; Director of the Helping Centers for Job Harassment of the Province of Udine SOS Antimobbing and CISL - Province of Prodenone; and Director of the Helping Center of SOS Abusi Psicologici. She is also a member of the Working Group of the European Commission, First-Line Deradicalisation Practitioners; President of ANPE, the professional association of educational consultants; Director for the project Plurlingual Families for educaforum.a.p.s.; Editor of the scientific journal of SOS Abusi Psicologici, Manipulation and Abuse; an expert for the Criminal Court of Udine in the branch of education, with a specialization in criminology and problems related to cultic affiliations; Italian co-correspondent for ICSA Today; and a member of the Italian Society of the Psychology of Religion. Whew!

Cristina has a lot of energy and is extremely dedicated to helping people, and to defending their freedom to be who they want to be. She was also instrumental in educating members of the provincial legislature during its deliberations about the law sponsored by Roberto Asquini.

With pleasure, then, I give her, too, this year’s Herbert L. Rosedale Award, “in recognition of leadership in the effort to preserve and protect individual freedom.”

Acceptances Remarks: Cristina Caparesi

It is a great honor for me to receive this award, and I thank ICSA for choosing me.

I started to get interested in the cult phenomenon in 1997. At that time, I tended to have a much more black-and-white approach to the issue of cults and tended to view those with opposing opinions—i.e., procultists, in a negative light. When I met and got to know Michael Langone and other people associated with ICSA, I learned that how we use labels makes a big difference in how we approach the issue and how we deal with opposing views. My views became more nuanced, more characterized by shades of gray than by blacks and whites.

Since 1997, much water has passed under the bridge, and time has confirmed to me a principle dear to ICSA: Different people respond differently, even in very powerful environments. I realized that my biggest concern was caring for people and finding the best ways to help individuals come out of their distress. ICSA’s recognition of my work through this award encourages me to continue my efforts for those who are harmed and in need of help.

I am lucky to have a team around me that supports me in pursuing this goal: Teresa Dennetta and Giorgio Fabbro, respectively Vice President and President of SOS Abusi Psicologici; the professionals of EXIT ONLUS; the operators of our Help desks; and my “tribe” of kids: Fede, Francesca, Davide, Chiara, Florence, Gerry Christopher, Abner.

I thank all my dear friends at ICSA. This is a wonderful group that is growing each year, and with which I am proud to cooperate. Thank you all.

Lifetime Achievement Awards: Friedrich Griess and Eileen Barker

Presentation to Friedrich Griess by Carmen Almendros

The Lifetime Achievement Award honors individuals who have, to an exceptional degree, embodied in their work ICSA’s values of openness, courtesy, and dialogue, and who have made academic and/or other exceptional contributions to the field of cultic studies.

I met Friedrich Griess over a decade ago. I have been struck by his devoted generosity: He is continually receiving visits from families and people he has advised; he is always prompt to respond to any request for help, whether for information, advice, or collaboration for research. He translated, for example, all my instruments from an English-language survey to German, which is an enormous amount of work; and he has collaborated in opening the survey for German-speaking people.

Needless to say, Friedrich is a hard worker. He is one of the few people who has been indispensable to FECRIS, the European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults and Sects. His main and persistent motivation in life seems to be a passionate advocacy for the human rights of individuals. He belongs to and has participated in many human-rights platforms and events. He is also actively involved in Catholic forums that focus on human rights, especially gender equality and the promotion of democracy.

Despite these achievements, Friedrich is humble; he seeks neither praise nor recognition. And he is tolerant, respectful, and open to dialogue, even with people who challenge opinions in which he passionately believes. He has worked tirelessly to broaden understanding and to help others become aware of different ideas and research evidence. That is why he has invested so much time translating documents for FECRIS’s Web site (he has mastered several languages). And that is why he has been a regular attendee and contributor to ICSA conferences for many years. I am very pleased to give Friedrich an ICSA Lifetime Achievement Award. He deserves it.

Acceptance Remarks: Friedrich Griess

Having experienced a totalitarian regime for 7 years as a young boy, having lived near several countries that have experienced such regimes for a much longer time, and later on having seen one of my children join a totalitarian group, it has become a main effort in my life to help prevent such conditions from ever again occurring globally or, as much as possible, in groups. At the same time, I am convinced that totalitarianism cannot be combated by totalitarianism. There may be different ways to fight totalitarianism, depending on culture, personal experience, historical and scientific background, and so on. It is important that people and associations dedicated to various ways of helping victims and preventing the spread of totalitarianism respect and even assist each other. As European institutions have often maintained, it is important to understand that religious freedom is a high value that should be balanced against, and that should not be abused to suppress, other human rights and freedoms. ICSA’s granting me the Lifetime Achievement Award 2013 honors my efforts in this field, and I thank you for your generosity.

Presentation to Eileen Barker by Michael Langone

The Lifetime Achievement Award honors individuals who have, to an exceptional degree, embodied in their work ICSA’s values of openness, courtesy, and dialogue, and who have made academic and/or other exceptional contributions to the field of cultic studies.

Even before I met Eileen Barker, I was struck by the honesty of the following remark in her 1995 presidential address to the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion: “The somewhat paradoxical situation is that the more we feel the NRMs are having untrue bad things said about them, the less inclined we are to publish true ‘bad’ things about the movements.” Thus, when Eileen Barker in 1998 attempted to bridge the procult-anticult divide by contacting ICSA (then known as AFF), I was pleased and hopeful.

The years did not disappoint my hopes. I have come to know and respect Eileen as somebody who genuinely believes in dialogue and who appreciates the complexity of the cult phenomenon. I have met former group members who are grateful to Eileen for the support she has given them in their journeys out of groups. She has consulted with Scotland Yard on criminal cases involving cults, and she was instrumental in putting at least one cult leader in jail.

Even though she has been repeatedly attacked by both sides of the procult-anticult divide, Eileen has persevered in bridge building, in reducing the sterile polarization of the 1980s and 1990s. During that period, people in this field, for the most part, talked only to those who populated their half of the divide. Eileen challenged that polarization in 1998. In part because of her efforts to encourage dialogue, ICSA can conduct conferences with the wide variety of perspectives, opinions, and passions that you have seen here in Trieste.

Acceptance Remarks: Eileen Barker

I was scared stiff when, as a widely advertised “cult apologist,” I first stepped into the lion’s den of AFF’s 1998 annual conference. But, within minutes, I was greeted with disarming courtesy by Herbert Rosedale; and when, each of us with three supporters, we held a day-long meeting before the Seattle conference the following year, we were surprised, both at how much our interests overlapped, and how useful and illuminating it was to discuss our disagreements.

My fears have dissolved into a very genuine respect for many of those I’ve encountered at these conferences. Some of you have spoken at Inform meetings; together we have visited various movements; and we have collaborated on several cases.

It is clear that sociologists and ICSAists share a desire to collect reliable information that can contribute to helping members and nonmembers affected by the hundreds of religious, spiritual, and political groups with which we are concerned.

There are, however, sociological colleagues who continue to raise an eyebrow at my collaboration with the “enemy,” and there are those attending this meeting who will not be pleased to see me standing here today.

But I feel deeply honored, and would like to thank those brave enough to present me with this award, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you; Grazie.