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Apocalypse prediction could spark mass suicide, French agency warns

By Catherine Clifford, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Fragile members of the French population" could be at risk, an official says
  • Members of the American Ramtha School of Enlightenment are coming to Bugarach
  • Suicide resulting from apocalyptic beliefs already has occurred in France

Paris (CNN) -- The specter of a mass suicide tied to the widely predicted end of the world in December 2012 has prompted a warning from a government official in France, where people are already gathering at a place believers predict may provide the only escape from the apocalypse.

Georges Fenech, president of French government agency Miviludes, which observes sect movements and warns the public of potential risks, told CNN that he had alerted French public authorities, including the prime minister, to the issue.

"We fear that this message of fear could have serious consequences on fragile members of the French population," he said.

The small southern mountain village of Bugarach is prophesized by some to be one of the few places, if not the only place, that will survive the devastation.

According to Miviludes, settlements in the surrounding area have been established by members of the American Ramtha School of Enlightenment. The head of this presumed sect, Judy Zebra Knight, claims be in contact with Ramtha, a Lemurean warrior who fought the residents of the mythical Atlantis 35,000 years ago.

She has delivered messages about the 2012 apocalypse in front of thousands of followers in the United States, according to Miviludes.

The coordinator for the Ramtha School of Enlightenment in France, Valerie Sautereau, says that group has no apocalyptic beliefs and no link with the village of Bugarach

Suicide resulting from apocalyptic beliefs has already occurred in France in recent years. In 2002 a suicide and several suicide attempts occurred in the town of Nantes within a small circle of people who believed the end of the world was imminent.

"We know from history and experience that apocalyptic discourse can lead to tragedy," Fenech said. "This is why we have taken measures to notify police and other public authorities in order to monitor the situation."

In the late 1990s there was a series of 74 suicides in the late 1990s in France, Switzerland and Canada by followers of the Order of the Solar Temple.

"Around 500 000 French people belong to cults. They affect all kinds of people from all kinds of social backgrounds, including children." Fenech added.

There are growing concerns for the village of Bugarach, which also is known on Internet sites as an "alien garage" where extraterrestrial visitors supposedly wait beneath 4,000-foot Pic de Bugarach. Properties are being bought in surrounding isolated areas and construction of bunkers with underground tunnels and food supplies has also been noted, according to Miviludes, France's Interministerial Mission of Vigilance Against Sectarianism.

"If we see thousands of people arriving it will not be safe," Fenech said. "It's a mountainous area with dangerous mountain roads which would need to be closed.

"I have visited the site. People are really worried. It's a tiny village which is receiving thousands of visitors. They hold processions, pray, leave objects. It is essential that we anticipate dangers and take precautionary measures."

He expressed concern for a "climate of fear facilitated by the Internet."

The supposed Apocalypse 2012 has already taken on global significance, with around 2.5 million websites dedicated to the phenomenon. The theories are based on interpretations of the Mayan calendar, which it is said ends on December 21, 2012. Several other astrophysical events have been predicted for this time, including an equinox alignment of the planets.

Scientists dismiss the idea.

"There are no planetary alignments in the next few decades." NASA says in a Q&A page on its website. "Earth will not cross the galactic plane in 2012, and even if these alignments were to occur, their effects on the Earth would be negligible. ... Credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012."

The president of the French society Suicide Ecoute, Isabelle Chaumeil Gueguen, said the organization has so far received no calls "related to the apocalypse predicted for 2012."

However, she added, "it's certainly true that people who are mentally unstable can react strongly to dramatic announcements in the press. If it begins to be mentioned a lot in the media, especially on television, we can expect to have calls about it.

"People of a weak mental disposition are also much more likely to be influenced by cults, and messages spread by social networking sights can be equally dangerous."

 
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