CESNUR - Centro Studi sulle Nuove Religioni diretto da Massimo Introvigne

The 2023 CESNUR Conference

Co-organized by:
Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR)
International Society for the Study of New Religions (ISSNR)
Religions Research and Information Centre (Lithuania)
Lithuanian Society for the Study of Religions
Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science


Vilnius Vilnius, Lithuania, 20–23 June 2023
Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science
Vokiečių street 10, Vilnius


Tuesday June 20, 2023

11–13 / Walking Tour in the City of Vilnius

Departure from Vokiečių gatvė 10, Vilnius

13–14 / Registration

14–16 / Session 1 - Opening Plenary Session - Room 402

New and Minority Religions, Political Religions, Crisis, and Resilience in Different Contexts


Welcoming Words
Margarita ŠEŠELGYTĖ (Director, Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science)

To Do or To Die—But What To Do? And Why and How? An Exploration of New and Minority Religions’ Reactions to Challenges from Within and Without
Eileen BARKER (London School of Economics [em.], London, UK)

Whence the Worldwide Church of God
J. Gordon MELTON (Baylor University, Waco, Texas, U.S.A.)

Pulling Back the Curtain: Chinese Communist Party Faith as NRM or Pseudo-Religion
Edward IRONS (The Hong Kong Institute for Culture, Commerce and Religion, Hong Kong)

1616.30 / Coffee Break

16.30–18 / Session 2 - Room 402

The Resilience of New Religions and Esotericism

Chair: PierLuigi ZOCCATELLI

Spiritualism in Contemporary UK
Eriko KAWANISHI (Professional Institute of International Fashion, Osaka, Japan)

Margins of Religion and Culture: Goddesses and Sexuality as Double Taboo in the Paintings of Erwin Sówka (1936–2021)
Karolina Maria HESS (Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland)

Gurdjieff, Esotericism, and Creativity: Movements, Music, Literature, and Cultural Environments
Carole CUSACK (University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia)

Disasters and Religious Response—Focused on Daesoon Jinrihoe
BAE Kyuhan and KO Namsik (Daejin University, Pocheon City, South Korea)

16.30–18 / Session 3 - Room 302

Resilience, Religion, and Politics

Chair: Rosita ŠORYTĖ

Interreligious Dialogue in a Volatile Context
Dyron DAUGHRITY (Pepperdine University, Malibu, California, U.S.A.)

Minority Religions and Their Position in the Macedonian Modern Society
Zoran MATEVSKI and Dushka MATEVSKA (Ss. Cyril and Methodius University, Skopje, North Macedonia)

“Cult” Controversies in Argentina: The Case of the Buenos Aires Yoga School
María VARDÉ (University of Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina)

1819/ Welcome Drink

Wednesday June 21, 2023

9–11 / Session 4 - Plenary - Room 402

Rethinking “Spirituality” in an African Context: The Revelation Spiritual Home, Etic and Emic Perspectives

Chair: Eileen BARKER

The Revelation Spiritual Home: An Introduction and Field Notes
Massimo INTROVIGNE (CESNUR, Turin, Italy) and Karolina Maria HESS (Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland)

The Revelation Spiritual Home: Social Outreach, Economic Empowerment, and Opposition
Rosita ŠORYTĖ (European Federation for Freedom of Belief, Turin, Italy)

The Question of Authenticity: How Africans Rediscovered African Indigenous Spirituality
Thembi TULWANA (The Revelation Spiritual Home, Johannesburg, South Africa)

Exploring the History of African Indigenous Spirituality
Palesa HLOELE (African Hidden Voices Research Institute, Johannesburg, South Africa)

1111.30 / Coffee Break

11.30–13.15 / Session 5 - Room 402

Religion and Resilience in the Americas and the United Kingdom

Chair: Dyron DAUGHRITY

A Church in Protest: The Christian Science Response to the 1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic
Cindy Peyser SAFRONOFF (Independent Scholar, Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.)

Western Esotericism Meets Mexican Folk Catholicism: Examples of Ritual Practices and Symbolism in the Santa Muerte Devotion
Piotr Grzegorz MICHALIK (Jagiellonian University, Cracow, Poland)

“I Am All Sympathy with Theosophy:” Arthur Conan Doyle’s Final Conversion
Michael W. HOMER (Attorney and Independent Scholar, Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A.)

11.30–13.15 / Session 6 - Room 302

European Religious Pluralism: Resilience and Controversies

Chair: Carole CUSACK

Aspects of the Buddhist Presence in Italy: First Results of a Research
PierLuigi ZOCCATELLI (University of Turin, Turin, Italy)

The Obstacles Faced by the Paris Church of Scientology to Open a Larger Church in Saint-Denis
Bernadette RIGAL-CELLARD (Bordeaux Montaigne University [em.], Bordeaux, France)

Possibilities of Resilience in Religious Practice: A Case Study of Hungarian Scientology
Attila MIKLOVICZ (University of Pécs, Pécs, Hungary)

13.1514.30 / Lunch Break

14.30–16 / Session 7 - Plenary - Room 402

Anti-Jehovah’s-Witnesses Campaigns East and West

Chair: J. Gordon MELTON

The Othering and Resilience of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Soviet and Contemporary Lithuania
Milda ALIŠAUSKIENĖ (Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania)

Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scandinavia, and the Swedish Example
Peter ÅKERBÄCK (University of Stockholm)

The War in Ukraine and Russian Conspiracy Theories About the Jehovah’s Witnesses
Rosita ŠORYTĖ (European Federation for Freedom of Belief, Turin, Italy)

Anti-Jehovah’s-Witnesses Campaigns in Japan After the Assassination of Shinzo Abe
Massimo INTROVIGNE (CESNUR, Turin, Italy)

1616.15 / Apple Break

16.15–18.15 / Session 8 - Room 302

Emic Perspectives on the Victory Altar: Theories of Immortality, Scripture, and Prophecy

Chair: Alexa BLONNER

About the Crisis of Mysterious Plagues, Fate, and Visions of the Future—Focusing on the Scriptures and Foreshadowing of Founders
HAN Gang-Hyen (International Academy of Neo-Humans Culture, Bucheon City, South Korea)

About Victory Altar’s Law of Peace to Overcome Inner Obstacles—Focusing on the “Law of Liberty”
KANG Yun-Min (International Academy of Neo-Humans Culture, Bucheon City, South Korea)

Victory Altar’s New Way of Salvation for Overcoming Samsara and Inner Karma—Focusing on the Scriptures and the “New Statement”
KIM Young Suk (Society for the Scientific Study on the Holy Spirit, South Korea)

A Study on the Three Stages of Hidden Manna and Experience Cases in the Victory Altar
SHIN Sun-Ei (International Academy of Neo-Humans Culture, Bucheon City, South Korea)

16.15–18.15 / Session 9 - Room 402

New Religious Movements in Taiwan and the Tai Ji Men Case

Presiding and Introducing
Massimo INTROVIGNE (CESNUR, Turin, Italy)

Traditional Taiwanese musical performance by Tai Ji Men. 

CHENG Hsuan-Ming (Tai Ji Men Qigong Academy, Walnut, California, U.S.A.)
HUANG Hsin-Jung (Saint Louis University, Saint Louis, Missouri, USA)
LIU Yin-Chun (TCI Biotech, Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
LU Yu-An (Kaohsiung Medical University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan)
Shelly TU (Tai Ji Men Qigong Academy, Walnut, California, U.S.A.)

Karolina Maria HESS (Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland)

Thursday June 22, 2023

9–11 / Session 10 - Room 402

New Religious Movements and Resilience in Taiwan

Chair: Ed IRONS

Connecting the World: Weixin Shengjiao’s Rituals for Transcending the Cross-Strait Relationship 
Fiona Hsin-Fang CHANG (Weixin Shengjiao College, Taiwan)

A New Religion Tells its Story: The Weixin Shengjiao Historical Exhibition, 2023
Benjamin PENNY (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

Exploring the Anti-secularization of New Religions in the Process of Globalization: A Case Study of Weixin Shengjiao 
Shu-Yuan CHEN (Weixin Shengjiao College, Taiwan)

Reflections on Translating Religious Scriptures: A Case Study of “The Heavenly Virtue Scripture of Immortal Master Guigu”
James Chun-Pei LEE (Weixin Shengjiao College, Taiwan)

9–11 / Session 11 - Room 302

Religion, Politics, and Resilience in Eastern Europe and the Post-Soviet Countries

Chair: Michael STRMISKA

The Community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Post-Soviet Armenia as a Coping Mechanism Amidst Social and Ideological Crises
Anatolii TOKMANTCEV (University of California, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.)

Poland, A Meeting Point During the War: Ukrainian and Polish Pentecostals in Transition
Ganna TREGUB (Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland)

New Wine in Old Wineskins: The New Apostolic Reformation, Traditionalism, and the Politics of Russian Orthodox Christianity
John R. POTTENGER (University of Alabama, Huntsville, Alabama, U.S.A.)

The Agency in Islam or (and) Human Rights? The Case of Pious Baltic Women
Morta VIDŪNAITĖ (Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania)

1111.30 / Coffee Break

11.30–13.30 / Session 12 - Plenary - Room 402

Lithuanian and Baltic Perspectives


“This is the Key to Many Locks”: On the Lithuanian Anthropotheosophical Movement
Audrius BEINORIUS (Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania)

The Sufism and Traditionalism of Algis Uždavinys in the Light of Todays’ Global Crises
Ina KISELIOVA-EL MARASSY (Lithuanian Culture Research Institute, Vilnius, Lithuania)

Facing Challenges of Freedom: The Case of the Old Believers of the Latvian Republic, 1918–1940
Ina KIRŅIČANSKA (Daugavpils University, Latvia)

Esoteric Paganism in Lithuania: Anželika Tamaš’s Teaching and its Reception
Eglė ALEKNAITĖ (Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania)

13.3014.30 / Lunch Break

13.1514.30 / Luncheon Meeting of the International Society for the Study of New Religions (reserved to members of the Society) - Room 302

14.30–16.30 / Session 13 - Room 402

Different Perspectives on the Anti-Cult Movement

Chair: Bernadette RIGAL-CELLARD

Is Anti-Cultism Making a Comeback?
Alexa BLONNER (Australian Association for the Study of Religion, Sydney, Australia)

Religious Liberty Problems and Discrimination of “Cults” in Eastern Europe: The Case of Romania
Camelia MARIN (Soteria International, Copenhagen, Denmark) 

Why Do the Post-Soviet States Discriminate Against Jehovah’s Witnesses: Who Is Behind the Persecution?
Anatolii TOKMANTCEV (University of California, Los Angeles)

Respondent: Massimo INTROVIGNE (CESNUR, Turin, Italy)

14.30–16.30 / Session 14 - Room 302

Old/New Trends and Controversies

Chair: Eriko KAWANISHI

UGB and the Thinking of Serge Raynaud de la Ferrière: A New Religion?
Rita SANTILLAN (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)

Behind the Bleachers: Motivations and Methods of Genesis II, the Controversial “Bleach Cure” Church
Tara Blue M. SMITH (University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia) 

The Revival of Neopaganism in the Slavic World and its Manifestations in the War in Ukraine
Giorgio CELLA (Catholic University of Milan, Milan, Italy)

16.3016.45 / Apple Break

16.45–18.30 / Session 15 - Plenary - Room 402

Crises and Resilience of the Ancient Baltic Religion in Contemporary Lithuania: The Case of Romuva

Chair: Audrius BEINORIUS

Contradiction as an Obstacle and a Way: Romuva’s Ongoing Struggle for State Recognition
Eva ARNASZUS (University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany)

Panel Discussion: The Case of Romuva
Milda ALIŠAUSKIENĖ (Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania)
Rasa PRANSKEVIČIŪTĖ-AMOSON (Vilnius University)
Eglė ALEKNAITĖ (Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania)
Arūnas VALINSKAS (the Republic of Lithuania Parliament member)
Gailė VANAGIENĖ (Romuva member)    

Introduction to the Field Trip to Trakai and the Pyramid of Merkinė and Farewell

Friday June 23, 2023

9.3017 / Field Trip: The Pyramid of Merkinė and Trakai

The bus leaves from Vokiečių gatvė 10, Vilnius, at 9.30 a.m, to visit the Pyamid of Merkinė, the new spirituality pilgrimage center in Lithuania, and Trakai, the ancient capital of Lithuania and the main center of the Karaite religion. Lunch will be provided.

20 / Celebration of Midsummer with the Ancient Baltic Religious Organization Romuva at Vilnius Verkių Park