Zimbabwe: Outlawing of Child Beating Draws Mixed Reactions

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Christian and traditional leaders have slammed the recent High Court decision outlawing the beating of children at school and in homes, saying it had an effect of spoiling the children and promoting indiscipline in the country.

Justice David Mangota declared the practice unconstitutional and struck down relevant pieces of legislation that allowed canning in schools.The ruling bars the beating up of children even for disciplinary purposes.

In an interview, Bishop Patience Itayi Hove of the El Shaddai Ministries International said the decision had serious repercussions to society.

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She relied on Proverbs 13 Verse 24 which reads:

“Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”

Bishop Hove said beating up children was biblical and it helped in the process of training them up.

“The word of God allows that. At least 85 percent of Zimbabweans are Christian and we must read and abide by the word.

“Children should be beaten up but that must be done responsibly,” she said.

Reverend Paul Damasane, principal director in the Ministry of Rural Development, Preservation of Culture and Heritage said beating up children was a necessary evil.

“The Bible commands us to train up our children and we should find ways of complying with the command both in schools and at home. The Bible says foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child but the rod of correction drives it away,” he said.

Rev Damasane said beating up a child should be used only as a last resort because there were several other means of driving away foolishness from children.

Chief Seke, Mr Stanely Chimanikire, weighed in saying the judgment was not in sync with Zimbabwean culture.

“We were brought up in an environment where children were disciplined through the use of a rod and we did not die. Children need some form of discipline to shape them into responsible and well behaved future men and women.

“Grooming in our context, involves some beating, but we must make sure we do it out of love and responsibly,” he said.

Chief Seke said the abolition of corporal punishment would promote juvenile delinquency.

“The decision of the court, if implemented, will bring more problems than solutions to our country. The children will become more mischievous and uncontrollable,” said Chief Seke.

Historian and former Cabinet Minister and educationist Cde Aeneas Chigwedere said outlawing child beating was necessary but some control measures must be put in place to protect the same children from abuse.

“The starting point of progress is discipline. If there is no discipline, there is disorder.

“Beating is necessary but the teachers and parents must be controlled. Some of the parents and teachers are ruthless and they unreasonably and brutally assault the children.

“Under the colonial era, there was a law barring teachers from beating up children. When the child’s mischief got out of hand, teachers would take him or her to the school head for caning.

“Only the head had authority to beat up children but he would do so in terms of the set standard guidelines.

“There were standard sticks used to beat up naughty pupils to ensure their safety,” he said.

However, educationist and social commentator Mrs Rebecca Chisamba had different views.

“Personally, I am against corporal punishment. People are now abusing children in the name of disciplining them.

“These days some teachers may express their anger for delays in getting bonuses on the innocent children. When they have grievances with their employers or their bosses, the innocent souls may simply be caught up in crossfire and they are unjustifiably beaten up.

“Some parents, especially stepmothers, may punish the children to express their anger at the conduct of their husbands.

“Newspapers are awash with such cases where children are seriously injured or even maimed due to violent attacks in the name of disciplinary measures.

“I support the decision of the court and we must resort to non-violent means of disciplining our children like dialogue,” she said.

Source : The Herald(Harare)

Secretary Kelly: Undocumented Children and Mothers May Be Separated at Border

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DHS Secretary John Kelly said Monday that his department is considering separating children from their mothers if they are caught crossing the border illegally.

Homeland Security Sec. John Kelly confirmed today that he is considering separating the children of undocumented immigrants  from their parents if they are apprehended while illegally crossing the border.

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“Yes, I am considering, in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network, I am considering exactly that,” Kelly told CNN host Wolf Blitzer. “They will be well cared for as we deal with their parents.”

Kelly said he thought the change might deter mothers and children from making the dangerous journey from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador  to the United States.

“You understand how that looks to the average person who is, you know…” Blitzer replied.

“It’s more important to me, Wolf, to try to keep people off of this awful network,” Kelly said.

Currently, mothers and children who cross the border together—and it’s virtually always mothers and children, rather than fathers—stay together. In many cases, they’re put in family detention centers, though they are frequently released quickly while they await asylum hearings. Reuters reported  on March 4 that the Department of Homeland Security was considering separating mothers from their children when it apprehended them. Mothers would be put in detention centers, while their children would be in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, according to the report.

The smuggling networks Kelly referenced move people from incredibly violent Central American countries to the United States often exploit them along the way, and women are frequently sexually assaulted on the journey. In many cases, migrants take great risks because they fear death in their home countries—as was the case forSara Beltran Hernandez , an undocumented woman from El Salvador who entered the U.S. in November of 2015 and was recently released from ICE detention to get better medical care for a brain tumor.

Kelly’s confirmation that he is considering separating children from their parents shocked children’s advocates.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Matthew Kolken, an immigration attorney from Buffalo, N.Y. who frequently represents undocumented children.

“He’s going to be traumatizing young children even more than they are by pulling them from their mother’s arms,” he said.

“Who knows what they’re going to do with them?” he added.

Source : The Daily Beast

Rwanda: Gasabo Youth Makes Fortune From Banana Stems

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Banana is like the tale about seven blind people and the elephant. To some people, it’s food, for a farmer it is fodder for animals, and for alcohol manufacturers; it is a raw material for some gins and beer like Urwagwa.

But for one youth in Gasabo district in Kigali province of Rwanda, the banana plant has a whole new meaning. Every morning, Celse Ngaruye wakes up in the morning to hunt for banana stems which he later makes into a final product: the banana lampshades.

When he has collected enough banana stems for the day, he chops them into small pieces, packs them in a sack and makes his way back to his art studio at Niyo Arts center based in Kacyiru. The banana stems are key raw material for his enteprise.

“Apart from the bulb and sockets, our final product is uniquely Rwandan,” he explains. Ngaruye says since he started the enterprise, he has had steady stream of customers, mostly tourists, who are impressed by the unique lampshades made from local products.

“I sell most of these eco-friendly products during the tourism peak periods, from May to November. This is the time, when many tourists flock into the country,” he says.

He says the lampshades he makes during the other months target local clients.

He adds that his other buyers include big hotels around Kigali, and individuals, who like ambiance the local lampshades create in bedrooms or living rooms.

“I have already started getting bulk orders from key hospitality industry players, like hotels. When they make their orders, they are free to dictate the style of the lampshades. I don’t mind this since I value my clients and their opinions,” says Ngaruye.

He notes that what has also endeared him to customers is the fact that buyers are free to choose their favourite colours.

He explains that the lampshades come in different colours, depending on the hue of the paper and ‘ibitenge’ fabrics used. Each lampshade costs between $100 (about Rwf80,000) and $150 (about Rwf120,000), when he sells to tourists, while Rwandans buy them at a bargain price.

The former visual artist says he has now concentrated on making lampshades abandoning his first love – painting – “because this business is more lucrative.”

“I realised that there’s a lot of competition when it comes to visual arts since many youth are into it. But making banana paper lampshades is a new phenomenon in Rwanda… it’s still a virgin field,” he says.

Challenges

Ngaruye, who is soon holding a banana lampshade exhibition, says since his main buyers are tourists, that “business is low during off season (time when there are few tourists coming into the country)”.

Source : The Independent(Kampala)

Kenya: A Burning Question – Why Are Kenyan Students Setting Fire to Their Schools?

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Over the past few years, students have set fire to hundreds of secondary schools across Kenya. The tally includes more than 120 cases in 2016 alone. Why students are setting fire to their schools has been the topic of repeated investigations by police, education officials, government inquiries and journalists. Indeed, explanation — or rather blame — for this trend has been levelled in every conceivable direction.

Kenya’s Education Minister and other members of the government have suggested that the fires have been masterminded and supported by “cartels” in retaliation against the government’s crackdown on lucrative exam-cheating schemes. This is a claim repeated by the President. The government has also fingered ethnic and clan hostilities as motivating attacks on schools headed by principals who are identified with different communities.

In these ways, the government’s explanations treat students as unwitting pawns in political disputes that are actually not really about them or their schooling.

Meanwhile, many public policy analysts and members of the public have blamed students’ “indiscipline“. This lack of discipline has been attributed to lackadaisical parenting as well as the ban on teachers’ use of corporal punishment.

Again, students are understood to be relatively passive receptacles of adults’ management.

My research with students and in schools across Kenya indicates that most of these explanations miss the mark because they depreciate, rather than appreciate, students’ capacities to engage in purposeful political action.

Rational political tactics

In the media, students’ actions are cast as “mindless hooliganism”. But students can rationally explain why they use arson in their schools. Students have learned that setting fire to their schools is an effective tactic for winning acknowledgement of their dissatisfaction.

Their use of arson represents an astute reading of the limited options available to citizens to practice meaningful dialogue and peaceful dissent related to the conditions of public services, such as education. As many analysts have noted, limited options for meaningful citizen engagement in Kenya’s policy arena has given rise to the popularity of a “strike culture”.

In fact, students easily identify other examples from Kenyan political struggles that demonstrate how violence and destruction have proven effective means for citizens to win public and political recognition of their grievances.

As one student explained,

What I see is that in Kenyan society, the bigger the impact, the quicker the reaction. The government sees these people are serious and they can think “if we don’t meet their grievances now, we might see worse”.

Schooling complaints

Students target their schools because their grievances tend to be school-based. The most commonly cited complaints among students include principals’ overly authoritarian, “highhanded” and unaccountable styles of management, poor quality school diets and inadequate learning resources, including teaching. Many of these criticisms reflect suspicions about how school budgets are being allocated.

The overwhelming majority of school arson cases have occurred in boarding schools across the country, including boys’ schools, girls’ schools, and mixed schools. Schools that perform well and those that tend to perform more poorly on national examinations have all been affected.

Why are boarding schools such common targets? Some of this is explained by prevalence: nearly 80% of Kenya’s secondary schools are boarding schools. However, students explain that boarding schools are targeted because life for them in these schools can be “like prison”.

The boarding school, like prison, can be considered a “total institution“. This idea, theorised by sociologist Erving Goffman, refers to a situation where all aspects of life occur in the same place, with the same cohort and according to a stringent schedule. This regime is enforced by a single authority according to an overarching “rational” plan. In practice, boarding school life is often experienced by students as excessively rigid and authoritarian.

The majority of school fires are set in students’ dormitories, thereby also destroying students’ own personal belongings. The rationale given by students is that the destruction of their dorms means that they will be sent home and given some respite from their intensive boarding school lifestyles.

Understanding adolescents and risk-taking

Interviews with students as well as reviews of court case proceedings indicate that it can be difficult for students to imagine the long-lasting detrimental consequences that might arise from setting fires in their schools.

In part, this is due to students holding cynical views of the ineptitude of the Kenyan enforcement and judicial systems. Students note, for example, that many prosecutions fail due to deficient criminal investigations, including unlawful interrogation practices.

Additionally, some students who played active roles in setting fires later claimed that they had been unable to anticipate the scale and scope of the damage the fires would cause to their schools as well as to their own futures.

These kinds of experiences jibe with emergent understandings from neuroscience concerning the unique developmental stage of adolescents’ brains. We now know that the brain is still developing during adolescence. The prefrontal cortex of the brain – which is implicated in impulse control – may not be fully developed and functional until the early 20s or later. Consequently, neurodevelopmental researchers theorise that

adolescents may have less inhibition, be more prone to take risks, more impulsive, and less likely to consider the distal consequences of their actions than adults.

Recognising these potential differences does not cancel out the immediate deliberateness of students’ acts to affect change in ways that they understand to be effective. But it does complicate the question of how to respond to students’ palpable frustrations.

Alternative possible futures

All of this indicates that the government’s intention to respond to the trend of school-based arson with more discipline and punishment of students is misguided in two crucial and connected ways.

First, this approach only addresses symptoms exhibited in rebellious acts. At the root of students’ dissatisfaction and desperation is a gruelling education coupled with often unaccountable authority, both of which are acutely experienced through the “total institution” of the boarding school.

Second, threats of more punishment misjudge the unique conditions of adolescence in terms of neuromaturation, and specifically how this can affect risk-taking and consideration of long-term consequences. More threats and interventions of punishment are unlikely to affect these predispositions.

Kenyan students have learned that arson works as a tactic to express dissatisfaction and opposition. To change this lesson, the government needs to open peaceful and effective channels for young people’s perspectives to be taken into account, both in education and government. Otherwise, we can likely expect more fires next year.

Disclosure statement

Elizabeth Cooper does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

Source : The Conversation

Uganda: Bridge Academies Closed for Teaching Pornography, Says Minister Kasaija

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Mpigi — The Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Matia Kasaija has revealed that Bridge International academies were closed recently because government suspected they were teaching pornography and the content related to lesbianism and homosexuality.

The Minister was speaking at the 22nd graduation ceremony of Uganda Martyrs’ University (UMU) at their main campus in Nkozi, Mpigi District on Thursday.

“We could not allow teaching sexual matters in public. Why teaching pornography in Bridge schools? This moral decay couldn’t be tolerated,” he said.

Minister Kasaija, also MP for Buyanja South added: “Instead of using schools to apply and promote sexual education, why don’t we go back to our traditional aunties (ssenga) and uncles (kojja)? Stop conveying the gospel of homosexuality to our children. You should stop and stop.”

Prof John Chrysostom Maviiri, the UMU Vice Chancellor asked government to prioritize education as an engine to achieve the middle income status.

A total of 1,069 graduates were conferred with certificates, diplomas, bachelors and masters degrees in various disciplines of which 639 were males and 430 were females.

UMU also offered academic awards to the best performing students in different disciplines for their outstanding work in class and examinations.

When contacted for a comment on the minister’s statement, Mr Solomon Sserwanja, the Public Relations Manager of Bridge International Academies said: “I think it is very unfortunate for the whole minister to make such a statement based on allegations. He should come out with proof over the matter in question.”

According to him, several government officials have visited the academies and looked at the text books they are using to teach but none of them have ever found evidence of such allegations.

“His (minister) statement is malicious and we will not take it lightly. We will explore all alternatives against him to proof the allegations. This is fighting quality education for the country. We were never given an ear to defend ourselves despite several letters we have written to authorities,” added Mr Sserwanja.

Uganda’s High Court early this month ordered the closure of 63 Bridge International Academies on grounds that the private schools provided unsanitary learning conditions, used unqualified teachers and were not properly licensed.

Bridge International, which claims to have 12,000 students in Uganda,said it would challenge the High Court ruling.

Source : The Monitor

Uganda: 250 Children Held Over Skipping School

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Masaka — Police in Masaka District are holding a total of 250 school-going children over dodging classes.

The operation conducted by police in partnership with Masaka Municipality education officials follows rampant cases of absenteeism in schools.

Masaka Municipality education officer Steven Kakeeto said the operation targeted all children found on streets and markets during class hours.

Most of the children aged between seven and 15, who were arrested, were found vending edibles, polythene bags, fruits and other agricultural products.

“We plan to extend this operation to the entire municipality. The number of children shunning school, especially in Nyendo-Sennyange Division, is overwhelming,” Mr Kakeeto said on Wednesday

Masaka deputy RDC Joseph Sekasamba, who was part of the operation, said the children will be screened and those with parents will be released and warned never to skip classes again while the rest will be taken to remand homes.

Operation ongoing

After registering success, Sekasamba said they are now planning to carry out similar operations in other divisions including Katwe-Butego and Kimaanya-Kyabakuza.

“We will not stop at arresting the children but the parents will also be charged with child neglect,” he added.

Kakeeto said though some parents blame government for neglecting the education sector, they have also equally abandoned their responsibilities towards their own children.

“Parents whose children are not in school may not survive the next operation,” Mr Kakeeto warned.

Parents explain

Most parents who turned up to pick their children from Nyendo-Sennyange Division headquarters claimed their children had been sent back home for fees.

The division chairperson, Mr Joseph Mulindwa Nakumusana, however, advised them to consider enrolling their children to public schools where education is free.

Ms Margret Kisekulo, a resident in Nyendo Town, urged local authorities to enact bye-laws that compel parents to keep their children at school.

Source : The Monitor

Twelve Tribes: The Church Preached Child Abuse & Slavery

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According to ex-members of Twelve Tribes who spoke to The Daily Beast, children are regularly beaten and leaders preached “slavery is necessary.” Now, an escapee has taken over the Facebook page of the Plymouth bakery run by the commune so he can broadcast its ills.

Growing up, Kayam Mathias said he was beaten 20 to 30 times a day.

“I grew to be numb to it, to quell the rage within and just not feel anything.”

That didn’t bother him so much, he said. He could take it.

“What I cared about was when my infant sister was beaten and there was nothing I could do about it. To hear her screams and be powerless … and that even if you tried to stop you couldn’t, is a crushing thing to go through. It broke my spirit, man. I still remember her screams to this day.”

It’s been almost eight years since Mathias, now 22, left the Twelve Tribes, the controversial commune and religious sect he was born into, but the memories, and the anger at the way he and his family were allegedly treated is still fresh. He says he—and other members of the sect—were regularly beaten by adults in the commune as a form of discipline.

“The first time I used an ATM or a vending machine was when I left,” Mathias said. “I knew nothing about the world. It was all so strange and new and was like being born suddenly with an adult body, feeling like a child or an alien, but needing to act like an adult to survive.”

This year, he finally decided to say something about it. In June posts began showing up on the Facebook page of the Blue Blinds Bakery, a quaint and well-reviewed business located in Plymouth, Massachusetts, for the first time since 2012. “[W]e have decided to use our Facebook page as an active evangelism tool,” someone wrote on Thursday of last week. What followed was a couple of outrageously offensive screeds, including one that began, “As promised, let’s talk about the blacks!”

“One of the most frequent questions we get is, ‘Are you racist?’ The answer is no,” the author wrote. “But we do believe that slavery is necessary. There’s a difference.”

It was speculated that the post, which picked up steam this week among the Boston food community and has since been shared over 300 times, was the work of a hacker. It was actually Mathias. He’d set up the Facebook page years ago, he claimed, and still had access to it. The Daily Beast reached out to Mathias through the Blue Blinds Bakery Facebook page, and he was able to confirm his identity by forwarding us a photocopy of his passport. A member of Twelve Tribes confirmed that Mathias is an ex-member, who had access to the Facebook account.

Blue Blinds Bakery

“It’s time this ends,” Mathias said, referring to the church’s alleged secrecy.

“We completely disavow all the stuff on that Facebook page 100 percent, without any exception,” said a man, who identified himself as Zahar, who would not give his last name, when I called the bakery to ask if they indeed advocated for slavery. (Only  Twelve Tribes members work at the bakery.) “If you want to know what we believe, we actually have a website.”

Based on their website, prior reporting, and firsthand accounts, it appears that what they do actually believe isn’t too far off.

The website Zahar referenced is TwelveTribes.com, the home of a group founded in 1972 by a man named Elbert “Gene” Spriggs in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that promotes a sort of hybrid of Christian fundamentalism, Hebrew Roots, and Messianic Judaism. The group has some 3,000 to 4,000 members in isolated, self-sustaining communes around the world that operate businesses like Blue Blinds, a chain of restaurants called The Yellow Deli, and a large construction business. It has dodged accusations of cult-like behavior ever since its inception.

“The group went from being this hippie thing that was kind of cool to turning into this cultist, religious, fucked-up kind of thing,” a second former member told me. “It’s like the frog-stew analogy. You throw a frog in cold water, and he doesn’t realize he’s getting hot until he’s boiled to death.”

According to former members of the Twelve Tribes, Spriggs, the group’s leader, has allegedly preached that black people are destined for slavery and that homosexuals should be put to death—as transcripts of his past sermons appear to show. The half-dozen former members who spoke to The Daily Beast also allege a culture of systematic child abuse, subjugation of women, and psychological torment.

A couple of years ago, a German documentary uncovered video of children in a local branch being beaten so terribly that the government led a raid and took the children away. In the video, Wolfram Kuhnigk, an RTL journalist, filmed 50 instances of beatings on camera, as the Independent reported. One former member who appears in the film recounts being regularly beaten for such trivial offenses as pretending to be an airplane. According to the group’s teachings, children are not permitted to engage in any type of playing or fantasy.

It’s a pattern of controversial behavior that has persisted in stories about the group for decades. “There are so many teachings that keep you from being who you are. They keep you from being human,” a former member named Joellen Griffin told the Boston Herald in 2001. “You get so absorbed in the teachings that you lose your emotions and your ability to respond to situations. They seem like a tight-knit family, but you just don’t know all the misery behind those eyeballs.”

In 1984, authorities in Vermont undertook a similar raid, liberating over 100 children from a Twelve Tribes compound, according to The New York Times. A judge determined that the raid was unconstitutional and the children were returned. Interestingly, as the San Diego Reader reported, the public defender at the time, Jean Swantko, joined the group soon after.

An investigation by the Sydney Morning Herald in 2013 told similar stories of members who had escaped the group, as did an investigation last year by Pacific Standard, which reported that children were allegedly beaten multiple times per day. In 2001 the New York Post launched an investigation that resulted in some of the group’s New York businesses being cited for violating child labor laws.

***

Despite in-depth investigations into several locations by newspapers and magazines, both current and some former Twelve Tribes members have repeatedly insisted in the press that they do not “abuse” their children.

“Most are gross exaggerations of scandalous, isolated activity throwing all members of Twelve Tribes under the bus,” the third ex-member, who also asked not to use his name because he had family still in the group told me. “The fact is there have been untold scandals within the Twelve Tribes communities, but the actions or misdeeds of a few can by no means accurately or rationally surmise the beliefs, practices, or daily lives of the many individuals that make up the whole.”

“Every person has their story,” he went on. “Every family has their secrets, their dirty laundry, their bad habits or poor decisions. Everyone must find their way in this world and we don’t do it perfectly all the time. We learn from mistakes, things are most often not as they first seem to be.”

That’s no doubt the case when it comes to the Twelve Tribes, but according to many who’ve made their way out of the group, those mistakes have been adding up for a long time.

A man who answered the phone number listed on Twelve Tribes’ site refused to give his name and would not answer any questions. He directed me to the Blue Blinds Bakery for any questions about their Facebook page.

“We believe in corporal punishment, and we stand by that, but we do not believe in child abuse by any means,” Zahar, the bakery employee, told me. “And we believe that a lot of the problems that you see in the world today probably could have been avoided if children understood cause and effect and understood consequences.”

Internal documents from the group reviewed by The Daily Beast lay out the justifications for their treatment of children, including the use of wooden reeds for punishment and training.

“The rod must be used to correct wrong thoughts, wrong words, and wrong deeds; thoughts are powerful—there is no sin without thinking about it,” Our Child Training Manual explains. Materials on the group’s website lay out similar practices.

“Train your child to submit willingly to his discipline; make sure he bends over submissively; guilt will not be removed unless he submits willingly.

“Discipline is vital. If you don’t discipline your child according to the Scriptures, you are not going to enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” it continues. “When we see a child receive what we consider mistreatment from such parents, we must remember that God is in control and has chosen to place the soul life of that child under those parents, specifically.”

The documents compare provisions against corporal punishment to the laws of totalitarian states, and deny the right of the government to intervene: “The governments of such nations as Sparta, Hitler’s Germany, and communist Russia have usurped the parents’ role, but today parental authority is being undermined in the USA through compulsory public education, child advocacy agencies, and child-abuse laws. Parents must not allow government to usurp their authority in those areas in which God holds the parents alone accountable.”

Corporal punishment is rooted in the Twelve Tribes’ literal reading of the Acts of the Apostles, according to Zahar. “We’re fundamental Christians and we take the Bible literally,” he told me. “We follow the pattern of the early church, early Christians, and they shared everything in common. We believe that Christianity kind of went off that pattern of living together and sharing everything and actually taking care of each other. That’s what we’re trying to get back to, to the pattern in Acts II.”

While he said they do not condone homosexuality, they also allege they do not believe in violence and would welcome an LGBT person into their home. As for the slavery question, he countered that the group has black members. In fact, he said one was working with him at the bakery as we spoke.

***

The second former member who spoke to The Daily Beast (and also asked to not use his name because of concerns about his family) said that corporal punishment is rampant. He told me he was hit 30 to 40 times a day growing up in the church.

“I remember getting whipped so hard I didn’t know if I was going to survive. I couldn’t breath, I was gasping for air.

“They used to teach that anyone in the group could spank any children, so some random, creepy motherfucker could grab you and beat your ass.”

The former member, a construction worker who was born into the group, laughed when I asked him if the Facebook posts were consistent with the group’s beliefs.

“That’s pretty much spot on. Basically, if you want to show the world what they believe, get your hands on their teachings about black people, Jews, children, women—there’s about 50,000 of these ‘teachings,'” he said.

“Multiculturalism increases murder, crime, and prejudice,” reads one such teaching on the group’s website. “It goes against the way man is. It places impossible demands on people to love others who are culturally and racially different. This is unnatural it forces people to go against their instinctive knowledge, like trying to love sodomites. They are told, ‘You can’t discriminate.’ Although discrimination is viewed as an evil sin, it is still within a person’s prerogative (right) to segregate himself.”

“Their teachings on black people are that they’re supposed to be slaves, about how God cursed black people back in the day,” said the same former member. “It’s crazy. Unless a black person is in the community, they need to serve white people. It’s so racist it will blow your mind.”

Copies of sermons given by Spriggs in 1998 and 1991, and reviewed by The Daily Beast, lay out the group’s attitude on race. “Martin Luther King and others have been inspired by the evil one to have forced equality,” states one titled “Châm and the Civil Rights Movement Unraveling the Races of Man.” “Slavery is the only way for some people to be useful in society. They wouldn’t do anything productive without being forced to. They would be worthless fellows.” (Châm is a reference to Ham, the son of Noah whom Biblical tradition credits with populating Africa.)

It goes downhill from there.

“What a marvelous opportunity that blacks could be brought over here to be slaves so that they could be found worthy of the nations,” read a second sermon. “A good master would work by the sweat of his brow. If his slaves were lazy and disrespectful, he would beat them, which is what he was supposed to do.”

It should be noted that the group does have black members, although they were not able to be reached by press time. When The Daily Beast reached out to the Twelve Tribes about the contents of the sermons, a spokesperson declined comment. The ex-members I spoke with explained this contradiction by noting that minorities who give themselves over to the Twelve Tribes are viewed differently than those who do not.

***

Women are meant to subjugate themselves to men, are allegedly required to wear head coverings that “serve as an outward symbol of her subservience to her man,” and are infrequently allowed to talk, claimed one former female member I spoke with, who asked not to use her real name for fear of retaliation, and provided photos of herself today and during her time in the group. She said that when she was 14 years old, a boy her age kissed her innocently. From that point forth, they were separated on opposite sides of the country and not permitted to communicate, but nevertheless were sentenced to be married when they turned 18.

She told me that she first tried to escape when they were married. She was gone for three months, but she claims the group guilted her into coming back, saying her husband would burn in hell for eternity if she didn’t. The pair was relocated to Florida, where family members outside of the group who’d taken her in couldn’t find her. Three months into their marriage, they were reprimanded for not yet having any children, she said. Previous reports on the group outline persistent pressure for young women to give birth to many children.

“There are a lot of good people there, but they don’t understand, they’re so brainwashed,” the male former member told me. “They find themselves defending stuff that doesn’t make sense.”

One way for the group to ensure total loyalty, he said, is by divesting members of any ties to their former lives, requiring them to donate all of their possessions and money to the church. “My ex-girlfriend’s dad died of cancer after he left the group. They realized he’d had it for 14 years. If they’d caught it any time before that he might’ve lived, but they neglected his health for so long. They do not go to the doctor ever, unless there’s some sort of catastrophic injury.”

The Boston Herald story cited numerous instances of stillbirth, with women allegedly being refused medical treatment during labor. “In fact, stillbirths are so common that the cult’s private burial ground in Island Pond, Vermont, includes several unmarked graves of dead children,” the story reads.

Mathias said he took over the bakery’s Facebook page in part to expose Twelve Tribes, but also as a means of explaining what his bizarre life inside the group was like.

For those who leave the Twelve Tribes, the assimilation process isn’t just difficult practically speaking. As Mathias said, it comes with a lot of psychological stress.

“Having talked to people who have left, it’s a five-year cycle of depression, self-loathing, doubt, hopelessness, and then finally acceptance and recovery. In my weird way, this is the acceptance stage,” he said. “I’m putting everything that happened out there in the hopes that people will realize what’s going on, but also as a way just to talk about it. Think about trying to have this conversation with a friend: ‘Hey, so I was in a religious cult that abused me. I just left a few years ago.’ It puts people off.”

Attempts by The Daily Beast to reach Mathias’ family for comment were unsuccessful.

Chris Pike is another former Twelve Tribes member—he belonged to the group for 14 years. He came to the community, like many others, through the Grateful Dead scene, and after a period of bereavement and loss in his life. While Twelve Tribes recruiters do prey on people in his position, he said, he was clear that it was his choice to join.

“It doesn’t need to be sensationalized. It’s just screwed all on its own. But I also want a clearer picture portrayed of the community,” he said.

“It’s not all demonized. There’s some of the nicest salt of the earth people there, and it’s not all creepy. That’s the delicate thing people don’t realize. Why do people join in the first place? What do you think I was attracted to, beating children? Are you kidding me?”

While the teachings instruct parents to “encourage their children seven times before disciplining them,” that’s not always how it works, said Pike, who was a teacher himself for a time.

“I can tell you everyone you come across that’s a former member will tell you that just doesn’t happen, it’s actually the opposite,” said Pike. “They spank seven times more than they encourage. Some parents are very good and do try, and then there’s the ones that are not. It’s all on an individual basis.

“It has the potential to be that wonderful, but also has the potential to be that horrible. And it does.”

Chris said he’s exasperated by the coverage of the Tribes over the years, as it never leads to any real help. What he wants to see is someone step up and show a real path forward for ex-members. He particularly wants help for the children, he said, who are often lost, entering a world they don’t know, with nothing to their names.

“I’m so tired of watching the media selling papers off the Twelve Tribes and they’re not helping. I hope somebody extends a helping hand and says, ‘Hey, any philanthropic people out there want to help these people, because they need some help. They need some help,’” said Pike.

“There’s got to be a landing strip. There’s got to be a cushion—and there’s not for these kids. We don’t need Bible reeducation, we need a helping hand out of the mess so that we can build a solid support system to help the children and ex-members.”

***

The former female member I spoke with, said one of her first memories was of being beaten so badly with a 2×4 that she went home black and blue from her neck to her kneecaps. She was four years old.

“I couldn’t get myself to raise my kids the way they wanted me to. That’s why I left, because of them. The way they brainwash you and stuff—I probably would still be there if I didn’t have children,” she said.

Still, says the ex-member who is skeptical of media reports about the group, the despicable actions of a few do not fully represent the group as a whole. All six of the ex-members I spoke to, in fact, said there are many decent people involved.

“Is the Twelve Tribes a religious sect full of manipulation, nepotism, elitism, haves and have nots in spite of their ideals of equality for all? Yes!” he said. “Does the Twelve Tribes have a leadership system full of egomaniacal religious fundamentalists? Yes! Have there been cases of child abuse within families of the Twelve Tribes? Yes…Does the Twelve Tribes have a system of belief regarding race that is misleading? Yes! Does it promote or practice hate against different races of the earth within or without? No! Do the teachings of the Twelve Tribes come from one man? Yes! Do all members of the Twelve Tribes adhere to said teachings? No!”

Many of the members, he and others explained, want to live simple lives in the hopes of pleasing God in the way they’ve been taught. But, he added, that gets complicated when they’re not encouraged to think on their own, or draw their own conclusions about life outside of the group.

“Do members work without pay? Yes, it’s a commune with a common pot. Everyone that moves in knows that. There’s no secret there. Children born and raised know that it’s just life. Food, clothing and shelter are provided for. Some Twelve Tribes communities are rich while others are very poor. Some members have access to computers, the Internet, social media, news etc while others don’t.

“Does the Twelve Tribes believe they are the harbinger of the return of Jesus? Yes! Are there current members of the Twelve Tribes that live in turmoil every day doubting, struggling against believing that what they’re doing is right? Yes. Are there current members that wish they could leave but don’t know how? Yes! Should Twelve Tribes be exposed for what it really is? Yes!”

Does God care about how you parent?

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For my parents, it was Dr. Benjamin Spock.

For us, it was T. Berry Brazelton and Penelope Leach.

And for this generation, it might be Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg.

It’s not that Rabbi Ruttenberg is an expert on child-rearing. Not quite. You’re not going to be consulting her new book — Nurture The Wow: Finding Spirituality in the Frustration, Boredom, Tears, Poop, Desperation, Wonder, and Radical Amazement of Parenting — for advice on, say, dealing with colic.

(And, in fact, there are several great books on Jewish parenting — including by my colleagues, Paul Kipnes and Michelle November  — as well as the books by Wendy Mogel, which are totally informed and influenced by a Jewish read on the world).

No; here is what Danya does — and it is unique.

She takes the experience of parenting, in all of his varied dimensions, and she figures out where God is located in all of this.

So, the book is not about how to parent.

It’s about why you would even want to.

Her insights flow naturally, lovingly, and credibly. (Have I mentioned that Danya writes like no one’s business?) She figures out how parenting is a metaphor for the stuff of religious life.

It’s about selfless love, and making sacrifices — as in seeing your work as a parent as a sacrificial offering.

It’s about the mundane repetitive work that comes with being a parent — like reading “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” to your kid for what seems like the nine thousandth time — which, as it turns out, is not terribly different from reading the same prayers from the same book, week after week, to the same God — because it’s the same kind of love.

It’s about the mystery of life, and about its unfairness.

It’s about how you watch your child grow, meaning that his or her body is growing, at the same time as you watch your own body grow and change.

And, yes, it’s about stuff — the bodily fluids that are part of the birth process; the sweet milk that is part of nursing (and she retrieves the prayer of an eighteenth century Italian Jewish women, thanking God for the gift of that milk); oh, and yes — it is about the poop. Danya reminds us, eloquently — there is a blessing for elimination in the Jewish tradition.

And she reminds us, as well, that a religious tradition that cares so much about intentionality and focus hasn’t quite figured out what it means for that intentionality and focus to be interrupted by the need to change your kid’s diaper.

But there is a deeper message in Danya’s book — and it is something that I have thought about many times over the years.

It is simply this. Danya quotes my teacher, Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman:

Imagine a continuum of spiritual behavior, with the normative men’s prayers at one end. The official Jewish record of spiritual striving, that is the rabbinic literary corpus, records only that end of the spectrum…It is as if women walked through history carrying spiritual flashlights from which there emanated only infrared wavelengths, in a world where an automatic light detector recorded only ultraviolet.

In other words, the people in charge of recording and formulating Jewish religious expression…didn’t have the capacity to understand women’s spiritual experiences.

In texts written, shaped, edited, and canonized by men, where are the women’s voices — especially about those things that have to do with women’s lives, experiences — and, ahem, bodies?!?

Try reading the descriptions and prohibitions regarding menstrual blood in Leviticus — not to mention the adjacent rules regarding childbirth — and you will ask: “Who wrote this?”

Which is the same question that you will ask about the section of the Talmud called “Nashim” — women.

So, Danya’s book fills a necessary gap, and it adds to a rapidly growing body of literature. It is the work of a woman writing about a primal experience that many women have. In this sense, she continues the work of her great-great-grandmothers, the pious Jewish women who wrote tkhines, their own prayers to God.

Men also need to be open to the divine nature of parenting.

Years ago, I wrote in Searching For My Brothers:

The only glimpse we can have of God’s inner life is thinking about what it’s like to be a parent. You watch your infant roll over for the first time. You coax her to do it, wondering if you should help or not, wondering if she will get it on her own. That’s the way it is with God and humanity as well…

Then, your child starts to walk. You are terrified that he may fall and that he may get hurt. You must step back and let your child fall. It’s the only way he will grow. That’s the way it is with God and humanity as well…

You entertain your child with a game of peekaboo. “Here I am…oops, I’m gone…I’m back again.” Your child smiles at your presence, gets worried about your absence, and laughs in delight when she sees you again. That’s the way it is with God and humanity as well.

Source : Religion News