What People Believe: Aum Shinrikyo
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Aum Shinrikyo is a religious group based in Japan, more recently known as Aleph. Something like a Christo-Buddhist cult, members live in small, commune-like cells all over Japan. The group changed its name in 2000 from Aum Shinrikyo (an amalgamation of Sanskrit and Japanese which roughly means ‘religion of truth’) to Aleph (the first character of the Hebrew alphabet). Under both names, the philosophy of the group combines elements of Yoga, Christianity and the teachings of Nostradamus. Until 1995, however, the group was led by founder Shoko Asahara to commit various terrorist attacks against the people of Japan. Asahara began Shinrikyo as a yoga and meditation club in 1984. It gained the status of a religious organisation in 1989, and in the early 90s Asahara declared himself Christ, and began adding elements to the doctrine which were less than friendly: he suggested, basing his prophecies on the book of revelation, that an apocalyptic nuclear war with America was coming, and that various groups were precipitating this - including Jews, Freemasons, and the British royal family. Using these paranoid prophecies as a starting point, Aum Shinrikyo committed a number of terrorist attacks, culminating in the gassing of a Toyo subway with Sarin gas in 1995. The attacks killed 13 people, but affected almost a thousand. It is now known that the cult began gathering and manufacturing weapons in 1993, in preparation for the Armageddon they believed was coming. Several murders and kidnappings have also been attributed to Aum, but much of their activities still remain unclear - and most of their original leaders are still being questioned behind bars.
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