20 Marzo 2015
Estratti liberamente tradotti dall’EDITORIALE pubblicato oggi su The Asahi Shimbun
Possiamo dire che l’evento agghiacciante che ha scosso la nazione (Giappone) esattamente 20 anni fa, non accadrà mai più nella nostra società?
Il 20 marzo 1995 anziani membri della setta Aum Shinrikyo hanno rilasciato il mortale gas nervino sarin sui treni della metropolitana di Tokyo. L’attacco terroristico ha ucciso 13 persone e ne ha intossicate più di 6.000.
L’anno precedente, la setta aveva sferrato un attacco con gas sarin a Matsumoto, nella Prefettura di Nagano, uccidendo otto persone. L’attacco alla metropolitana era stato seguito da una serie di episodi allarmanti, tra cui un pacco bomba spedito al governo metropolitano di Tokyo, che era esploso, ferendo gravemente un dipendente…
I giovani giapponesi nati poco dopo quel giorno di 20 anni fa, hanno oramai l’età dei membri del culto, all’epoca in cui realizzarono la strage.
Invece di relegare l’evento straziante al passato, è a volte indsipensabile rivedere le questioni che ha sollevato.
Chiaramente ci sono stati radicati problemi dietro i crimini del culto Aum Shinrikyo, in considerazione del fatto che i seguaci si unirono al culto non perché avevano intenzione di perpetrare atti criminali, bensì perché alla ricerca del senso della vita o per riuscire ad affrontare le diverse contraddizioni nella società. Erano giovani turbati da sentimenti comuni a tutti.
Ciò nonostante dobbiamo presumere che se persone sono alla ricerca di salvezza in un’organizzazione che non permette ai propri membri di pensare autonomamente, che cerca di controllare le loro menti ed esige obbedienza assoluta, questo tipo di orribili eventi potrebbe accadere ancora.
Si tratta di un problema di grande portata nel mondo di oggi, in cui osserviamo molti giovani attratti dallo Stato Islamico, un’organizzazione estremista che non mostra alcun rispetto per la vita umana..
Ci sono ancora molti culti controversi che cercano di attirare individui con proposte religiose o di auto-aiuto. Essi ricorrono a tattiche sempre più intelligenti per ampliarsi, approcciando gli individui come “amici” e senza rivelare la reale identità del gruppo.
Kimiaki Nishida, professore alla Rissho University che ha condotto valutazioni psicologiche degli imputati nei procedimenti penali che coinvolgono Aum Shinrikyo, mette in guardia rispetto ai culti che propongono facili risposte. “I problemi della vita non possono essere risolti facilmente. Le persone devono essere consapevoli del pericolo di dipendere da un guru carismatico per cercare una via di fuga”…
…Il governo e la Dieta sono stati eccessivamente lenti ad adottare misure per supportare efficacemente le vittime dei crimini del culto…Una legge speciale per fornire aiuti finanziari alle vittime di Aum è stata istituita solo 13 anni dopo l’attacco con gas sarin…
Secondo un sondaggio condotto da un gruppo di sostegno alle vittime , circa il 70 per cento dei feriti dall’attacco del 1995 presenta ancora problemi agli occhi. Inoltre, il 30 per cento delle vittime manifesta sintomi da disturbo post traumatico da stress
Un’organizzazione senza scopo di lucro istituita con medici che hanno soccorso le vittime in quel giorno si offre di esaminarli gratuitamente una volta all’anno.
Ma la NPO conosce gli indirizzi solo di una piccola parte delle vittime…
Il governo, che ha informazioni su tutte le vittime coinvolte nell’attacco con gas sarin, ha il dovere di scoprire la realtà circa le loro sofferenze e dare un sollievo realmente efficace a costoro.
Si riporta di seguito il testo originale e integrale dell’articolo.
NOTA: Leggi anche sulla vicenda “Society, not cults, should offer hope to youth” (La società, non le sette, dovrebbero offrire speranza ai giovani”, qui
EDITORIAL: 20 years after sarin attack, questions remain about cult, victims
Can we say that the gruesome incident that shocked the nation exactly 20 years ago will never happen again in our society?
On March 20, 1995, senior members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult released deadly sarin nerve gas on subway trains in Tokyo. The indiscriminate terrorist attack killed 13 people and injured more than 6,000.
In the previous year, a sarin gas attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, killed eight people. The attack on the subway system was followed by a series of disturbing incidents, including a parcel bomb sent to the Tokyo metropolitan government that blew up, seriously injuring a government employee.
Public anger was naturally directed at the doomsday cult, but the dreadful events also made us reflect on whether there was something terribly wrong with the society we had built over the five decades since the end of World War II.
DANGER OF SEEKING EASY ANSWER
Younger Japanese who were born shortly after that day 20 years ago are now approaching the ages of the cult members when they carried out the attack.
Instead of relegating the harrowing event to the past, we should occasionally revisit the questions it raised.
There were clearly deep-rooted problems behind Aum Shinrikyo’s crimes, given the fact that the followers joined the cult not because they intended to perpetrate criminal acts but because they were looking for the meaning of life or faced various contradictions in society. They were young people troubled by feelings common to all.
Even so, we should assume that if such people seek salvation in following an organization that doesn’t allow its members to think on their own, tries to control their minds and demands complete obedience, this kind of horrible incident could occur again.
This issue is quite relevant in today’s world, where many young people are attracted to the Islamic State, an extremist organization that shows no respect for human life in its fanatic pursuit of a selfish agenda.
There are still many dubious cults trying to lure people with claims of religious or self-help messages. They are resorting to increasingly clever tactics to expand their memberships, such as approaching targets as “friends” without revealing the names of the groups.
Kimiaki Nishida, a professor at Rissho University who conducted psychological evaluations of defendants in criminal cases involving Aum Shinrikyo, warns about turning to cults for easy answers. “The troubles of life cannot be solved easily,” he says. “People should be aware of the danger of depending on (a guru with) charisma for an easy way out.”
We need to ask ourselves whether our society is driving socially maladjusted people into isolation. A society that accepts and embraces diversity and differences cannot be built without conscious efforts by individuals.
STILL TIME TO LEARN FROM ATTACK
The trials of some defendants in Aum cases who were long on the run are currently under way. They are the last ones to be prosecuted.
Only some of the crimes committed by the cult were actually prosecuted because of concerns that it would take too long to complete the investigations and trials if all possible criminal charges were filed against the group.
Many questions remain unanswered, including the cult’s use of illegal drugs to induce “mystic experiences” in followers and its mind-control techniques.
Former Aum Shinrikyo leader Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, bears heavy responsibility for the insufficiency of our knowledge about the cult’s acts because he refused to talk at his trial.
The legal procedures for determining the criminal liabilities of individuals involved could only reveal some aspects of what happened.
Neither the government nor the Diet made serious efforts to answer such basic questions as why and how one religious organization ended up committing such extreme acts of violence and whether it was possible to prevent its crimes.
Some researchers and media have been delving into the facts independently to seek answers. To prevent similar crimes rooted in the same problems, however, it is necessary to establish a system to enable sharing of relevant knowledge gained through such efforts so that the entire picture can be clarified.
Lawyer Megumi Yamamuro, who served as the presiding judge for the trial about the Tokyo sarin gas attack, points out the responsibility of the investigative and judicial authorities and the media for the failure to uncover the whole picture of the cult’s crimes. “They should re-examine the reasons for this failure,” he says.
What is notable is that U.S. think tanks and researchers have been interviewing former Aum members involved in the sarin gas attack and now on death row or on trial.
U.S. researchers’ interest in the incident is not surprising considering the huge shock given to the international community by the fact that a religious corporation authorized by the Tokyo metropolitan government produced and used chemical and biological weapons that can cause widespread damage.
It seems unusual that the Justice Ministry, which restricts meetings of convicts and prisoners with people other than their families, allowed U.S. researchers to interview them. But the ministry says it can permit such interviews when it thinks they are useful for academic research or in preventing a recurrence.
Thirteen former Aum followers have been sentenced to death so far. None of them has been executed yet.
With the series of Aum-related trials now drawing to an end, some former cultists may be ready to reveal details.
There is still time for efforts to come closer to the truth.
VICTIMS STILL SUFFERING
The government and the Diet have been far too slow to take measures to provide effective relief for victims of the cult’s crimes, which took human lives and had serious aftereffects.
A special law to provide public financial aid to Aum’s victims was established–13 years after the sarin attack.
By that time, victims had started bankruptcy procedures against the cult to seize its assets. They are still trying to force an Aum spinoff group to discharge its liabilities. The enormous burden the victims have been bearing in their efforts to make the cult pay damages highlights the inability of the judicial system to deal with the matter.
According to a survey conducted by a victim support group, about 70 percent of the people injured by the 1995 attack still have problems with their eyes. In addition, 30 percent of the victims are showing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many of them associate their health problems with the dreadful event they experienced and feel anxiety every time some symptoms appear.
A nonprofit organization set up by doctors who treated victims on that day offers to examine them free of charge once every year.
But the NPO knows the contact addresses of only a small portion of the victims.
“There is nobody who knows all the symptoms the victims have shown,” says Shinichi Ishimatsu, assistant director of St. Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo.
The government, which has information about all the victims of the sarin attack, has a duty to find out facts about their sufferings and provide really effective relief for them.
What were the factors in modern people and society behind the crimes committed by the cult? And what are the related problems that still confront us?
The incident that rocked the nation 20 years ago, which is shrouded in a thick fog of mystery, still forces us to ask ourselves some weighty questions.
–The Asahi Shimbun, March 20