香港加僑反邪教協會
Anti-Cult Association

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Aum Shinrikyo of Japan

Cults around the world: Aum Shinrikyo of Japan

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One of the most dangerous and powerful cults in Asia is the Aum Shinrikyo group of Japan.

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It was so powerful that it was on the cover of Time magazine.

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Aum Shinrikyo ( known as Aleph) is a Japanese cult listed as a terrorist organization by several countries. The group was founded by Japanese spiritual guru Shoko Asahara in 1984. The group gained international notoriety in 1995, when it carried out the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway.

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The name “Aum Shinrikyo” (オウム真理教 Ōmu Shinrikyō?) derives from the Sanskrit syllable Aum, which represents the universe, followed by Shinrikyo roughly meaning “religion of Truth”. In English “Aum Shinrikyo” is usually translated as “Supreme Truth”. In January 2000, the organization changed its name to Aleph in reference to the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, Hebrew alphabet and Phoenician alphabets. It changed its logo as well.

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In 1995, the group claimed they had over 9,000 members in Japan, and as many as 40,000 worldwide. Police consider the existing groups Aleph and Hikari no Wa to be branches of the “dangerous religion”.

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Aum Shinrikyo has been formally designated a terrorist organization by several entities, including Canada, and the United States.

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According to a June 2005 report by the National Police Agency, Aleph had approximately 1650 members, of whom 650 lived communally in compounds. The group operated 26 facilities in 17 prefectures, and about 120 residential facilities. An article in the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper on 11 September 2002 showed that the Japanese public still distrusts Aleph, and compounds throughout Japan are usually surrounded by protest banners from local residents demanding they leave.

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In March 1995, Japanese religious cult Aum Shinrikyo released sarin nerve gas on a Tokyo subway. Nearly 5,000 people were treated for the attack, which injured hundreds and killed eight.

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The post-subway attack raids led authorities to several tons of chemicals, some of which could be used to create sarin, as well as gas masks and about $7 million in cash. One search also turned up 50 malnourished and dehydrated Aum Shinrikyo members, most of whom said they were fasting voluntarily and refused medical treatment. As investigations went on, increasing amounts and types of chemical ingredients were unearthed. At one site, officials found fifty drums containing phosphorus trichloride, which is a required ingredient in sarin gas. Ultimately, it was estimated that Aum Shinrikyo had enough chemical materials to kill 4.2 million people.

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In the meantime, Aum Shinrikyo’s leader had disappeared, leaving a trail of dire apocalyptic warnings of the end of the world (by 1997) behind. In May,1995, the authorities found him, meditating in a pink robe in a secret room between two floors in the Aum Shinrikyo headquarters at the foot of Mount Fuji, and arrested him.

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