Castleconnell area was base for child sex cult, claims victim
Press » Limerick Post » 2007-08-08
By Mary Earls
The shocking story of a religious cult which, it is claimed, set up base in the Castleconnell area in the 1990s, is detailed in a new book published by Harper Collins.
Limerick Post reporter Mary Earls interviews Julianna Buhring.
The Children of God cult, in which orgies and sex between adults and children was considered the highest expression of love, had one of its communes in county Limerick in the late 1990's, it has been claimed in a new book.
And Julianna Buhring, who lived in one of the religious cult’s rented homes somewhere near Castleconnell for over a year, said she is "positive" the organisation is still active in this region.
"The people who rented the house to the cult would not have known what was going on," she insisted. She also emphasised that local people would have had no reason to be suspicious of anything as cult members were hidden away from public view.
"Not Without My Sister" is a newly released book, penned by Julianna and her sisters Celeste and Kristina, about their struggle to escape the perverse community that robbed them of their childhood and saw them live in dozens of countries world-wide to maintain secrecy. The Children of God cult, which was founded by warped leader David Berg, is now known as 'The Family'. And today the three sisters work for a new organisation called RISE International set up to protect children from abuse in cults.
Speaking to the Limerick Post, 26-year-old Julianna alleged that "from as early as three years old, we were treated by our 'guardians' as sexual beings".
"Sexual activity was actively encouraged. We received love letters and sexual advances from men old enough to be our grandfathers, and were forced into openly abusive relationships. We were also denied access to formal schooling, forced to beg on the streets for money, and were mercilessly beaten for 'crimes' such as reading an encyclopedia.
"The children of God, now known as The Family International, started off as a Christian fundamentalist group. But then it diverted into paedophelia, incest and being brainwashed - all led by our leader David Berg, who twisted Bible excerpts, saying that everything done in love is good and sex was the highest expression of love.
"He believed in the sexualisation of children and there was widespread sexual abuse. We were constantly being groomed as sexual beings and shown how to have sex in demonstrations and made to watch massive orgies.
"As girls got older - eight and nine, they started "sharing God's love" or having sex. We were also put on a "Sharing" roster where we would have to "share" with others or "date naps" were arranged. You would also be encouraged to 'Love Jesus' - where you would basically be having sex with Jesus - through another partner. There were massive world-wide raids in the 1990's and I believe the sexual abuse has largely stopped because of public scrutiny. But how does this rectify the crimes that were committed against us and so many other innocent children? These communes are breeding grounds for sexual abuse and there are still no firm child protection policies in place to this day," she said.
Born into the cult in Greece, Julianna has a German passport even though she has never lived there and speaks with an American accent.
Her parents were both British hippies who joined the cult in the early 1970s. And her father, Christopher Jones, who has 15 children by eight women, is currently living in the cult’s commune in Uganda, Africa, where Julianna finally broke free, along with her mother.
"I lived in dozens of countries when I was younger, mostly in Asia and Africa. I went to Limerick in late 1998 and 1999 because my dad sent me away as he had visa problems in Japan because members of the commune had been living there illegally. The cult was based in house in the countryside around Castleconnell in Co Limerick. The cult always rented houses because they wanted to be able to leave straight away if people started asking questions. I'm not sure if they are still based there, but I know that there is still a base in county Limerick," said Julianna, who has now set up a new life for herself in Bristol, England.
During her time in Limerick, Julianna battled anorexia and extreme depression as the cult forced her to travel around the country seeking out recruits.
"We used to dress up as clowns in Limerick and make a living doing face paintings and going to shopping malls etc. And we raked in loads of money but this all went to the family leadership. I always dreamed about breaking free, but the group constantly instilled fear into us from a young age as regards the outside world. When I finally left at aged 23, I had no money and no idea of how to function in the outside world. People wondered where the hell I’d come from, because I’d no bank account etc. And after I left, I was shunned by family and friends It takes a lot to get out of the clutches of the cult because you were born into this and don’t know anything else," she said.
Being forced to dress up as a gypsy and crawl into a makeshift tent for some "gypsy loving," is one particularly vivid childhood memory for Julianna. Recalling memories as a five-year-old child, she claimed that another young boy "often tried to jump on me for sex during nap times.
"I did not like him, and usually pushed him away. One day, however, we were paired up together and I did not have a choice. I turned my head and saw mum and my teacher peeking through the sheets, giggling at our antics," she recalls.
Children in the camp were also forced to "dance naked and wiggle for the camera" while photos were taken. "Cuddle Time” was a euphemism for group sex and kids were encouraged to fill out an "Open Heart Report" every day detailing all their thoughts and actions.
Julianna now works full time with RISE International, www.riseinternationalcic.org, along with her two sisters, who were only reunited over the past number of years. She is currently working on a second book and also studying for a BA in Philosophy with Psychological studies.
Cult founder and leader, David Berg or "Moses" as he called himself, died in 1994, but his organisation is currently led by his widow, Karen Zerby.
According to Julianna, Berg preached the cult's beliefs "which changed all the time," and he constantly told his "flock" that Jesus was coming back and they had to pray to save as many souls as possible.
"We were not allowed to be kids and were trained in military style camps with marching, serious disciplining and indoctrination. He also promised us that the world was going to end in 1993".
Julianna was never raised by her parents as she was constantly forced to travel around the world, being raised by members of the cult.
"I couldn't respect my father for leaving me there, knowing what went on. Although my father never abused my sisters or I, he did lay in bed with young girls, and my sister found him in bed with her young friend once. He didn't see it as abuse - he saw it as love - so it was all just doublespeak".
She said that she has tried to keep in contact with her father for the sake of her five step brothers and sisters, who are half Japanese and are currently living with her father in Uganda.
Since the publication of the book however, her father has cut off all contact with his daughter.
The Family International has its own website, www.thefamily.org, describing itself as "an international Christian fellowship dedicated to sharing God's Word and love with others".
The website states that Ireland is one of 100 countries where they have "homes" stating that when possible "our members are joined in their ministries by their children".
Not Without My Sister, released through Harper Collins, is currently on sale.