Reactions and protests >>> OSCE reactions >>> OSCE Conference Bucharest, 7-8 June 2007 - Religious Discrimination of MISA - a Political “Exchange Currency”
Honorary secretary of International Yoga Federation for Scandinavian countries
Dear Mr. chairman, dear ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen,
I am from Romania and for the moment work and live in Copenhagen, Denmark. I am representing in front of you the “Movement for spiritual integration into the Absolute – M.I.S.A” – a yoga movement having more than 300.000 students and about 35.000 active students (yoga practitioners). I myself practice yoga for more than 18 years and I am Christian orthodox. I am educated in nuclear physics and later specialized on artificial intelligence.
The issue I am raising here is an important one since it is representing one of the most severe cases of discrimination and abuse in the post communist Romania as for sure one that reached the media attention in an abnormal and abusive scale. In order to arrive to the point and the questions that I would like to put here to all of you, with your permission I will briefly introduce some facts that will be later relevant.
In 1984 a great yogi and author of yoga books stated: “Yoga is not a religion but it is a science like any other” Swami Satyananda. Being a new kind of organisation, open and unbound to any already existing system, a yoga school is including people of all religions and social status, yet embracing the set of principles of life. Yet a yoga school can be easily mistaken with a religious group since it is promoting spiritual values for human life.
In the following, without claiming to present the whole case I am presenting a list of abuses that were taking place over 35 years against MISA.
In 1972, in the communist Romania an advanced yoga practitioner (Mr. Gregorian Bivolaru) begin to teach yoga in a so-called “house of culture” in Bucharest. Soon after, the yoga course become famous especially among students and teachers in University and the number of yoga students rapidly increased.
The totalitarian communist regime started to put pressure on the yoga students that was following these yoga courses and on the person of Mr. Gregorian Bivolaru to stop the yoga courses.
In 1982 yoga, martial arts and any eastern spiritual disciplines were taken out of law and all the courses within these disciplines were declared illegal. Despite this fact Mr. Bivolaru and other advanced yoga teachers continued to practice and teach yoga secretly. For this reason Mr. Bivolaru and other teachers were arrested several times, and they went through the full communist oppression mechanism that now you already know it: torturing, beating, forced labor camps.
In 23rd of January 1990 – after the anti-communist revolution, a group of 22 teachers leaded by Mr. Bivolaru (who was just released from the prison) set up the “Movement for Spiritual Integration into the Absolute - MISA”. Immediately after, yoga courses were open all over the country and the number of students in these courses is continuously increasing.
But in September 1990 a vast media campaign against the yoga students and against the teachers was starting (in September the new yoga classes starts!). Yoga practitioners were accused in all the media of several crimes: sexual abuses, brain washing people, homicide in black magic rituals, drugs, and prostitution. Of course the police didn’t start any action due to the fact that these were only incredible lies. Since then – 1990 – every year we experience one or two big campaigns against the organization and against the yoga teachers and students. The accusations are almost the same every time; only recently accusations of terrorism and being a paramilitary organization dealing with weapons were added (probably because of the new international situation).
In this context, the Association for Defending the Human Rights – The Helsinki Committee, notified in 1996, after they made their own inquiries and made reports regarding the M.I.S.A. Association, reports in which they express their worries towards the repeated persecutions to which M.I.S.A. and its students have to suffer.
In the above-mentioned reports, they agree that “there is nothing illegal in the activity of M.I.S.A. members and there is nothing to motivate a campaign against them”.
The reports showing the abuses against MISA came out in 1997, 1998, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006.
To prove the fact that the discrimination doesn’t have anything to do with the regime that is running the country here are the main political periods in the last 35 years and their contribution to the abuses against MISA:
During the communist regime
1971 – 1989: yoga classes monitored by Securitate, Gregorian Bivolaru (MISA’s spiritual mentor) imprisoned several times, yoga banned as “conspiracy against communist regime”
1991 (first democratic regime, the Front of National Salvation) – MISA calumniated in the press
1992 – 1996 (Iliescu’s social-democratic regime) – hundreds of calumnious articles in the press, instigating to hate
1995 – bomb attempt to Gregorian Bivolaru’s house
1996 – report of Helsinki Committee (APADOR-CH) on abuses and aggressions against MISA
1996 – 2000 (Democratic Convention, president Constantinescu) – unprecedented attack against MISA, violent press campaigns as well as direct actions
1996 – antiterrorist forces stop a yoga class, yogis publicly blamed as dangerous criminals, although no legal action followed. Abuses stayed unpunished.
1997 – report of Amnesty International on authorities abuses against MISA
2000 – 2004 (Iliescu’s social-democratic regime): instigation against MISA and Bivolaru, violation of fundamental rights
2002 – 2003: TV shows presenting lists with yoga practitioners (names, addresses)
18 March 2004 – 300 police officers, gendarmes, prosecutors, secret service agents performed house searches in 16 private locations, using masks and military weapons
Gregorian Bivolaru arrested; criminal file set up; an attempt to fraudulent border crossing set up; in January 2006 Sweden grants him political asylum on grounds of religious discrimination
2004 – 2007 (ruling of “Dreptate si Adevar” Alliance): over 50 yoga teachers and MISA leaders abusively charged with persons trafficking. 70 private residences of yoga practitioners under sequester.
Within 1997-2006: a total of 2678 calumnious press articles
Up to this date no evidence to prove accusations raised by politicians and secret services over past 30 years
Even thou so many accusations were thrown against MISA and its students, now after more than 35 years the state authorities didn’t came with any proves or with any explanations. The abuses continues despite the fact that many yoga schools in Europe were organizing protest actions in front of the Romanian embassy in Paris, London, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Prague, Budapest, Berlin and so on.
Now while we are talking, there is an arresting warrant on the name of Mr. Gregorian Bivolaru and he is searched by the Romanian police. He is having the status of political asylum in Sweden and on is name were received in Sweden more than 14 letters of treat that are under the investigation of the Swedish police.
Volunteering seen as crime
Christian monasteries, yogi ashrams, Jewish kibbutz - are all these outlaw??? Of course not!!! We can say that one common issue that all these communities have in common is that they rely on volunteering.
But under the law of persons trafficking, such as endorsed by the EU, all these religious communities may be charged with a strange form of trafficking if the law will be interpreted in a strange way. However, MISA ALONE is charged with this crime. Therefore the authorities generate discrimination by biased interpretation of the law. More than 50 yoga teachers are now charged with trafficking on the ground of the voluntary work. They are facing from 2 to 20 years of prison.
All the communities that are based on voluntary work are protected by their associations and by the religious customs but MISA remains uncovered in front of the law. This creates a dangerous precedent for all religious communities which therefore become vulnerable to any political interest
Taking in consideration all these facts we respectfully ask you who hold the political power to help this organization for being properly protected against any political abuse.
Making research I learned that MISA is just one little part form what it appear to be large phenomena that is going on underground: the victims of political interests and political abuse.
We have found in Poland, Italy, France, England, similar cases to the one presented above (for those interested in details please contact us). The striking similarities in these cases were leading us to another point of view on the problem. In all of these cases, the reason for the persecutions is the political interest to manipulate the public opinion. These organizations are used for this purpose because they “fit” with the profile: they are small enough so they can be easily handled; they have some exotic issues that are useful in the media scandal, they are somehow religious or can be associated to some religious controversies.
What will be the reason to attack such groups other than to accumulate some political capital? But these irresponsible actions are having some side effects that in our opinion have to be underlined here:
In the general tendency for rediscovering the spiritual values, tendency that in the last years become more obvious, compromising the religious and spiritual freedom for small political interest it is generating a general reaction that might lead to a corruption of all the spiritual efforts that are done now.
The pattern of using the small groups for different purposes in order to manipulate larger groups represent a violation of the human rights that give a dangerous precedent and – in my opinion – is just a generalization of the anti-Semitism.
Letting this to happen is creating an insecure spiritual environment that is inhibiting the free development of the spiritual initiative, situation that afterward will tend to kill the spiritual search and spiritual values while they are too little to survive.
Considering all the above mentioned facts, we consider that it is necessary for all those that are having the political power to work intensive to create a proper protective environment for the religious and spiritual initiative to develop safely for the good of all mankind.
Reinforcing the call for help from the organization that I represent here (MISA) thank you for your patience and concern.
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