FaithWorld

Sleepy French hamlet seen at threat from Apocalypse sects


(Pic de Bugarach, 14 November 2007/Thierry Strub)

The tiny southern French hamlet of Bugarach has drawn scrutiny from a government sect watchdog over droves of visitors who believe it is the only place in the world that will survive a 2012 Apocalypse. A report by the watchdog, Miviludes, published Wednesday said the picturesque village near Carcassonne should be monitored in the run-up to December 21, 2012, when many believe the world will end according to an ancient Mayan prophecy.

Miviludes was set up in 2002 to track the activity of sects, after a law passed the previous year made it an offence to abuse vulnerable people using heavy pressure techniques, meaning sects can be outlawed if there is evidence of fraud or abuse.

Surrounded in legend for centuries, Bugarach and its rocky outcrop, the Pic de Bugarach, have attracted an influx of New Age visitors in recent months, pushing up property prices but also raising the threat of financial scams and psychological manipulation, Miviludes said in its report. “I think we need to be careful. We shouldn’t get paranoid, but when you see what happened at Waco in the United States, we know this kind of thinking can influence vulnerable people,” Miviludes president Georges Fenech told Reuters.

Waco, Texas, made headlines in 1993 when federal agents raided the headquarters of the Branch Davidian movement, led by David Koresh, leading to a 50-day siege. The building was burned down when agents eventually tried to force their way in, leaving some 80 people dead.

Bugarach, with a population of just 200, has long been considered magical, partly due to what locals claim is an “upside-down mountain” where the top layers of rock are older than the lower ones. The Internet is awash with myths about the place — that the mountain is surrounded by a magnetic force, that it is the site of a concealed alien base, or even that it contains an underground access to another world. And now many have seized on it as the ultimate refuge with Doomsday rapidly approaching.

Ghosts, astrology, New Age: you name it, Americans believe it

Although most Americans are Christian and many are devout, that hasn’t stopped some members of the flock from believing in astrology, reincarnation or the ability of trees to trap spiritual energy.

A new poll by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life shows a surprising number of U.S. adults claim to have had supernatural experiences such as ghost sightings or hold beliefs associated with the New Age movement or Eastern religions.

LIFE PARANORMAL

Among its findings: nearly 25 percent of U.S. adults polled said they believed in reincarnation and 23 percent said yoga was a spiritual practice. Twenty six percent said they believed “spiritual energy” could be found in objects such as trees. Eighteen percent said they have seen or been in the presence of a ghost.