An umbrella group of new religions will provide telephone advice beginning Nov. 1 in an attempt to dispel negative images associated with new religions.
The Tokyo-based Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan (Shinshuren) consists of 68 religious organizations founded mostly in the 20th century.
These include Ennokyo, the Church of Perfect Liberty and Rissho Koseikai.
The telephone project was conceived after the federation received several inquiries and requests for advice, the federation said.
A number of phone calls were from people interested in learning more about religious groups that invited them to become members.
Others called to complain about being harassed by members of a cult they had left. The federation is troubled by negative images generated by a series of incidents involving Aum Shinrikyo — in particular its 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.
The federation, which will commemorate its 50th anniversary through the project, also hopes to transform the public’s perceptions of new religions.
In particular, it seeks to dispel the notion that groups of this kind are “terrifying,” “untrustworthy,” and “money hungry.”
The federation said it will accept all inquiries but will not offer judgments on individual religious groups.
Scholars and lawyers specializing in religion are being consulted over the guidelines, which the federation’s officials will use to provide guidance over the phone.
The advice project is initially scheduled to last three years, and the federation will consider whether to continue the service thereafter.
More than 50 volunteer workers from various religious groups will participate in the project between 1 and 4 p.m. from Monday through Friday.
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