Sunday Vision: Talk Back: Our dad lied about us

From XFamily - Children of God

Talk Back: Our dad lied about us

Press » Sunday Vision » 2008-03-08

ON February 24, Sunday Vision published The Family International’s Simon Peterson’s views on his daughters’ book, Not Without My Sister. However, Juliana Buhring, one of the co-authors says whatever their dad said was not true

IN the interview, dad implies that we were paid to write our memoir to persecute the group. As I explained in our book, I began writing my story as a way of making sense of my past. My sisters and I put our hearts out there in the book with very intimate and emotional details that were difficult to tell.

It was a story of our struggle and what we experienced when our father was not there as he should have been. I have put dad’s words as reported in the media in bold and my own response below it.

“We believe in communal groups just like the Israel Kibbutz system...They share their children, clothes and there’s complete sexual sharing.”

I find it interesting that he puts sharing children, and complete sexual sharing in the same sentence.

“We believe this is how Christians should live and it is how many of them are in Africa, Asia and Arabia live in extended families and that is very godly...If a father is called away, the others just pitch in, there are always other adults. It is the Biblical model in Acts 4.”

To allow your child to be passed to any willing adults, without knowing who they are and their background, is putting the child at instant risk.

“People adopt children. A child needs both a mother and a father and for fathers to just get up and leave is wrong. They should sacrifice their ideas for the children.”

People adopt children after very stringent checking to ensure that the adult is fit to adopt. Contrary to his words above, dad sacrificed his children for his own job and ideals. Children do indeed need a mother and father — something I did not have for most of my childhood.

“Peterson initially declines to discuss Not Without My sister, saying it would affect his relationship with his daughters. ‘They received a lot of money to publish the book.”

What relationship is he referring to when he has refused to speak with us or allow us contact with our young brothers and sisters in his care? When I called with another brother and sister at Christmas to speak to dad and our siblings, he slammed the phone down. In February, I had to fly to Uganda to see them, and he still would not speak more than the barest formalities required. During the time spent with my siblings, I was escorted everywhere by commune members shadowing me.

He has never been privy to any monetary dealings concerning the book so I don’t know how he can claim that we received “a lot of money”, when he has no basis for this assumption, nor does it have any bearing on the validity of the book. Most of the proceeds, however, have gone towards setting up our organisation, RISE International, which works to protect children from abuse in cults. Dad refuted accusations of sexual abuse in the Family.

“We are made of people, imperfect people. It was never meant for the law of love to be applied the way it was. As soon as Berg found out that the law was being abused, he put a stop to it.”

If dad had truly read the book, he would know that no accusations of sexual abuse in the present day were made. That it happened in the past is well evidenced. It is a laughable contradiction that Berg had put a stop to it when he was the one who instigated it, having sexual relations with his own daughters and granddaughter. Check link and

Dad said: “Sexual feelings are not sinful. We take a positive view of sex.”

We also do not believe sexual feelings are sinful. We take a positive view to sex, but we do not take a positive view of pedophilia.

“Juliana Buhring, in her story, alleges that most of the charity work is done to maintain the façade of a good Christian organisation. She claims that photos were taken to be used to ask for more donations and that many times they used some of the donated items, while the rest that could not be used were given out. Robin denies these allegations.”

It only requires stepping into their pantry to see the stacks of donated goods, which are consumed by the commune members. It is interesting that Robin should comment at all, as she was convicted of fraud in Canada and sentenced to eight months in prison. She was also convicted of theft and passport forgery for the cult leaders Berg and Zerby. She was also convicted of obstructing a police officer and it is well known that she assisted in the kidnapping of a one-and-a-half-year-old boy from his mother.

Kathleen adds: “We don’t have any ulterior motives; if we were selfish, we would not be doing all the work that we do.”

It is selfish to be living a self righteous existence off other’s hard earned money and goods while condemning those same people who support your “sacrificial” existence as “systemites”. None of the commune members keep a job. Obviously, they rely on donations to survive, or does it drop from the sky?

Dad said we made up most of the details in Not Without My Sisters to make it more sensational. He said he had found old pictures and hand-made cards that we had sent him when we were younger, to prove that we were not angry children then.

Once again, if dad had read the book, he would know that we never claimed to be angry children. Confused and suppressed children, yes. However, we never claim to have been miserable all the time, as we speak of both the good and the bad memories. The cards are only proof that we were not with our parents, or there would have been no need to write to him. We frequently elaborate on how much we loved our father, and love him still.

“According to Peterson, they were happy until they met ‘apostates’ who made them see the Family differently.”

Which apostates? I have not met any apostates, unless by apostate, dad means my own sister?

“The book cover is a lie. Those sad looking girls are not my girls. You would not find any kids in the Family looking like that.”

Of course you will not. One of the things we write about in the book is how we learned to wear smiling faces and not voice what we really thought or felt. The girls on the cover depict how we felt, but were not allowed to express.

“Secondly, that they were miserable is a lie. After meeting with bitter people, they reinterpreted their past experience.”

How does he know we were not miserable? He was not there with us for the most part. He saw me when I was severely depressed and anorexic. If that was not miserable, I don’t know what is.

“Juliana lived with foster parents whom she was so attached to, that she cried when she had to leave them.”

First of all, I never cried when I left any foster parents, I did cry frequently when I had to leave my father. I had many foster parents, which set is he referring to? Some of them were good, some were not.

“Juliana was very popular here in Uganda as part of the RadioActive dancers and even after she left, she worked here for two years at Club Rouge and Mamba Point. She was happy and had an active social life. As far as I know, she never suffered any abuse.”

I was part of RadioActive dancers — I actually started the dance group. I also worked at Rouge and Mamba Point. I was happy after I left, and had an active social life. However, emails between myself and my sister Celeste in 2002 indicate very clearly how unhappy I was while in the commune in Uganda.

As far as he knows I never suffered any abuse… well as far as he knows is very little as he did not raise me and all my letters to him were censored. Dad claimed he could not say that Kristina was not abused since she was not in his custody. He said the stepfather whom she accused of sexually abusing her sent him a video apologising to him.

“He said: ‘I don’t deny that I had inappropriate contact with her, but it was very mild, just fatherly love.’ He swore to me that it was nothing like she described. It was in her interest to make the story juicy.”

It seems a gross contradiction to say inappropriate contact was mild, fatherly love. How is fatherly love inappropriate? If he had not abused Kristina, then why the need to apologise?

It is interesting that some of the worst abusers remain in top leadership positions within the Family, including the heads of the group, Zerby and Kelly.

“Peterson states that Kristina is always there, when a witness against the Family is needed and in the media. He says her perception of Family homes is not based on current life since she left the home when she was 12. Her sisters left at 25 and 27 years, yet they were free to leave from 16 years. He believes they were instigated by Kristina and other people.”

This is a factual inaccuracy. I left at the age of 23 years old. It is interesting to note that when Celeste was 17, we were being hidden from her mother in Thailand, overstaying our visas and without our passports. How, pray tell, was she free to leave? Again, when fear of the outside world is instilled in you from the time you can speak, and knowing that you will be shunned from your own family and friends after leaving, having no money, resources or knowledge of how to function in the outside world, it is not so easy to just leave.

I began writing the book in 2005, long before I met up with my sisters or got a book deal. I sent these chapters to Celeste. However, they did not write their stories until months later. I had no contact with any ex-members, and all my friends in Uganda had no idea of my background. I moved from Uganda to the UK after a deal was signed, to finish the book there. Dad’s comments only confirm what we describe in the book about how for years he tried to keep us from our sister, Kristina, demonising her because she spoke the truth to the world.

His reaction to the stories of his own children, and his willingness to side with The Family over his own family, hurts more than any words could justify. I wish I could discuss things in honest dialogue with our father, but until he takes the steps to meet us half way, and be willing to listen to his own children, I cannot respect him as a father or a man.