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CSIS' 1999 REPORT ON
DOOMSDAY RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS

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csis is an acronym for "Canadian Security Intelligence Service." They are a Federal intelligence service "dedicated to the protection of Canada's national security interests and the safety of Canadians." CSIS was created by an Act of the Canadian Parliament in 1984. 

Working from unclassified information available in the public domain, they produced a report on doomsday religious movements which attach special importance to the year 2000. 1 The purpose of their report is to describe "which types of groups could be prone to violence and which factors indicate a groupís move to actualize this violence." Some of the points raised by the report are:

bullet Doomsday religious movements form only a small fraction of non-traditional spiritual belief systems. 
bullet Some groups attach great importance to the year 2000, anticipating massive, violent events. Other groups view it as the start of a peaceful interval.
bullet CSIS feels that a predisposition towards violence is dependent on the coincidence of three factors:
bullet Apocalyptic beliefs of doomsday "cults":
bullet The world is divided into two camps: one representing good, the other evil.
bullet A major apocalyptic event is imminent.
bullet Small conflicts could trigger the expected apocalyptic events.
bullet The cult itself is a persecuted minority. However, they view themselves as being the ultimate winner.
bullet Cult's organizational factors:
bullet They have a charismatic leadership, which regards itself as above religious and social laws.
bullet They closely control the beliefs and daily activities of members.
bullet The group withdraws from the rest of society
bullet The group mobilizes by obtaining weapons (guns, explosives, chemical weapons, biological weapons) and preparing defenses.
bullet Actions/inactions by authorities
bullet Authorities may not fully understand the cult's belief system -- particularly the latter's expectation that an attack by the authorities is an integral part of the scenario that will lead to a major world-wide conflict.
bullet Hasty action by the authorities might trigger violence.
bullet "Spiral of amplification" where actions by the authorities reinforce the cult's beliefs. This causes the cult to escalate their actions, which might  trigger the authorities to take more serious actions. The cycle repeats and gets out of control. 
bullet Little information is available about doomsday groups in Canada.
bullet Millennialist groups could emerge and "pose a realistic threat to public safety almost overnight.
bullet Some early-warning signs of potential violence include: illegal procurement of weapons, relocating to a rural area, increase in violent rhetoric, a leadership struggle. A violent confrontation might be triggered by a embarrassment by the leaders (perhaps caused by a failed prophecy or arrest of a leader).
bullet They quote an unidentified source which estimates that there are 1,200 "active cults throughout the world." (They do not define in their report what they consider a "cult" to be.) Of these, they estimate that about "400 subscribe to doomsday philosophies which foresee catastrophe on or around the year 2000.

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CSIS director, Ward Elcock, said: "The reality surrounding Y2K is that ... you have a fixed date around which any number of people may decide that they want to do something...Y2K kind of has an appeal to everybody, so you have to be concerned and we have to be vigilant and it will mean that people in the organization are working hard for the next two or three weeks through to Y2K and slightly afterwards."

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Related essays:

bullet "Project Megiddo" report by the FBI on doomsday cults.
bullet Doomsday cults
bullet Cult menu: essays about cults, the Anti-Cult Movement (ACM), the Counter-Cult Movement (CCM) etc.

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References

  1. "Report # 2000/03: Doomsday Religious Movements," 1999-DEC-18, at: http://www.csis-scrs.gc.ca/eng/miscdocs/200003e.html
  2. Stewart Bell, "CSIS warns of millennial cult attacks. 400 groups worldwide: Believers may try to hasten apocalypse with mass violence." National Post newspaper, 1999-DEC-18. 

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Copyright © 1999 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1999-DEC-18
Latest update: 1999-DEC-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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