Story of a former member of the community of Twelve Tribes in Spain
March 14, 2009
**Translated by Cheryl L – owner of twelve tribes-ex web site
They do not educate their children, recognize physical punishment as a form of education, and according to former members, in many cases refuse medical treatment. The community of the Twelve Tribes, which tries to live like the early Christians, has settled in various parts of Spain. They manipulate and brainwash you feeling that they are the elected. It is the story of a former member of the Twelve Tribes, a spiritual organization that seeks to live in the style of the early Christians. The Bible is the only book that its followers can read, because they strictly obey the doctrine of Elbert Eugene Spriggs, an American who calls himself an apostle and says he receives direct orders from Yahshua (Jesus in Hebrew). The members must abandon their work and their belongings, in order to live in the community far away from the “satanic” influence of society. They don’t educate their children and they are accused of hitting their little children with a rod of wood. The civil guard, in a report, points out that there are indications of which twelve tribes are a “manipulative group.” In Spain they have communities in Irun and San Sebastian (Guipuzcoa), Pravia (Asturias) and Nerja ( Malaga ) where some 150 people currently live. Around the world they have 3000 members in locations as diverse as Australia , Argentina and the U.S. This new culture stays pure because it does not allow anything strange or dirty that could contaminate it. One must leave everything to join the community, they explained to attract followers. They are defined as a new movement that is emerging across the planet and eventually, when the community is perfect and pure, Yahshua will return and clean the land of all traces of the old culture.
The Twelve Tribes farm in San Sebastian lies at the top of Mount Ulia , near a cliff overlooking the Bay of Biscay . About 30 people live here with families. There is a 40 year old man who has always liked “to live in brotherhood” and an ex-convict now repented of his previous life. Communal living is rigorously regulated. They get up at dawn, while one plays guitar and sings from room to room. Prayer and work mark every day of the brothers. They make bread they later sell in an ecological shop that they manage in the center of the city.
All adopt a Hebrew name when entering the community. “To avoid temptations,” the women do not shave or pluck and wear loose fitting and ample clothing. They wear a full beard and the hair is gathered in a pigtail. Guil, fictitious name, about 50 years, is the only bachelor in the house. He says that that a few years ago he led a frivolous life. Drugs, sex and alcohol. Pure rock and roll. Now he has changed, he has found “the light.” Nice and good natured, he doubts that the visitor knows what true love is. “In reality is that…” and let the words in the air. He snaps his fingers looking for the definition. He does not find it. “Things of the drug,” he says before a warm tea.
Subsequently Chanowk sits down. He is a strong youth with a woman and various children. It is clear that education in the community is the best thing you can give to children. Why go to college? Hence they say that man came from apes, something ridiculous. Or that homosexuals are normal people. He speaks with a tranquil and poetic air. Chanowk also a fictitious identity, does not like to be told to hit his children, but will refer to this as “an instruction.” Simply, we do not leave them to his air. Children at birth are selfish and only think about themselves. They must neither have time to think nor fantasize. It was with ease the devil takes possession of them, says Chanowk. Children, according to the testimony of those who have lived with them, are beaten with a wooden rod in the hands and buttocks for disobeying their parents. And why read another book than the Bible? They do not contribute anything to our life, he says.
At seven o’clock in the evening they meet in the upstairs. Moments before the start of the mincha, the religious ceremony in honor of Yahshua, Guil mentally searches for the meaning of love but without success. In a small room, the members place themselves in circle, adults and children. Zacharias, a leader of this community begins to play the guitar. A few enter the circle and hold hands. They dance in a zigzag fashion. They reflect what they have read in the Bible that day or simply on something that has happened to them. This morning I felt envy. I felt bad, very bad. I felt the call of the Evil, but I refused, exposes a woman with foreign accent. Another recounts a verse that pleases him. Guil speaks. And last is the key: “Love is giving your life for others.” He smiles satisfied. The community, which does not consist as a religious entity in the record of the Department of Justice, has businesses of selling natural products, carpentry, laying of photo voltaic systems and distribution of sea salt from the south of Portugal. They also take part in medieval fairs. There they met a former member who prefers to remain anonymous. It took only a week to go live in the house of San Sebastian with his wife and daughter. That happened seven years ago. He was baptized with his family in water immersion like the members must do to be accepted. Some years later, he got tired of being “manipulated.” “There is no freedom in the community.” “They completely control you,” he says. Now he does not want to speak much about the matter because he is tired. He left the house with his family, but his wife and daughter returned to the community. He is resigned, now he lives alone and does not hardly ever see them.
Miguel Perlado is president of Care and Research unit Socio Addiction (AIS), a private entity that has been operating for 35 years. He has treated on many occasions with ex members of the twelve tribes. He believes that what makes them a risk group is that life in the community is managed thus making the control of the group more “ironclad.” The follower is not very accessible to his family. “The entire structure of the community and its functioning corresponds to a coercive cult,” he explains. “In children, this form of life creates more problems. Only they have a criterion learned there inside. The control of information is total. Everything is public, the leader knows about the experiences of all, his fears and faults. The community does not respect the individuality of the person,” says Perlado.
The group talks that the followers have, where they recount their everyday experiences, look to him like “a very wild therapy.” They tend to give everything a very guilty feeling. He is very concerned about the mix of children and adults in these talks. Perlado also noted that the group puts much emphasis on including women since they may have offspring and ensure the survival of the group. For that reason conflict arises among couples that are inside (the community) when the woman wants to remain and the man to leave. This occurs frequently.
This is the case of another former member who does not want to provide his name for this report either, although it has been his experience in Internet forums with first and last name. It is the story of a struggle to extract his son from the twelve tribes. She ( Magdalena – fictitious name) came with her partner and a baby that belongs to both of them and two sons the fruit of a previous relationship.
Within months of being inside (the cult) Naky (as he desired to be called) wanted to go. Magdalena was opposed. There were mutual police reports. Finally she agreed. “Between your children and Yahshua whom would you choose?” The members of twelve tribes asked Magdalena this question when he said he (Naky) would leave. And they reminded her of Abraham’s sacrifice, his hand brandishing a dagger before the neck of Isaac, before his first born one. If you choose your children you will not serve to take care of them. They released the woman that for days had decided to leave the community with her three sons.
Naky was waiting outside. “When the babies cry they silence them (with their hand) and take the arms to reduce their personality from the time they are very small. They hit them from six months of age. I have seen them do this. It’s true, they do brain washing. I did not want my son to be a robot.” And ends: that was a nightmare that finally ended. Now we want to begin a new life from scratch.” The last house that Magdalena lived in was on the outskirts of Pravia, located on 12 acres (5 hectares) of agricultural land. The only known occurrence in this house is the police report lodged by a neighbor who in 2006 led to the investigation from the attorney general’s office of juveniles. The villager accused them of being a cult and not sending their small children to school. At that time, the social services in Asturias made a report, seen by this newspaper, explaining: “the children live with their parents with a strong ideology and a life mediated by the very strong ideological and religious community rules.” While recognizing that the basic needs of the children are covered, they see that a risk exists.”
The civil guard recommended carrying out a psychiatric exam of the small children who were not receiving education. Then, a psychologist from the Institute of Legal Medicine of Asturias explored the children and concluded the following thing: “It is established that children receiving alternative education from their parents and social environment and provide them the moral values implicit in these lessons, do not suffer from any disorder or symptoms that is attributable to any kind of manipulation.” The district attorney’s office, in view of these reports, filed the case in 2006.
The report referred to the twelve tribes use of alternative health resources. Scarcely do they go to the doctor. In 2001 in France two of its members were condemned for the death of a child, who suffered from a congenital heart condition, to which they denied modern medicine. At least in Spain, some families have started vaccinating their children. The district attorney’s office, in view of these reports, filed the matter.
The Defender of the Andalusian people, Jose Chamizo, opened also an investigation. The social services of the municipality of Nerja visited the community and did not see any risk to the children. A spokesman for the Defender said that, “not bringing them to school is not necessarily a case of neglect.”
The children of the group work with their parents in the fields. The girls sew and help make the meals in San Sebastian . Neither do they attend school. Their parents prefer to educate them at home. The example is Spriggs, the leader, who defines reasoning as, “a demonic influence of the soul.” “What luck the children have,” says Guil the bachelor. “They are pure, unlike how we were reared outside (the community).” He believes that they, “free from sin”, will be able to receive immaculate their Messiah.
A spokesman of the Commission of the Education of the Basque government points out that he is not aware that in the hamlet children do not attend school. “When there is a police report action will be taken,” he says.
The four communities of the twelve tribes will be consolidated into only one shortly, since leaders have agreed to sell the land on which they will settle on the outskirts of Gerona. In other countries, the group has experienced problems. A parliamentary commission in France investigated three years ago (the community) because of school concerns. The members asserted that the children were unable to explain the meaning of what they read. The French committee chairman on having visited the house, said he sensed of finding 18 year old Natasha Kampusch, the young Austrian who was held by an individual as a child in a basement. In 2004, the State of New York sanctioned two communities for child exploitation, while in Germany many of its members were arrested for the treatment of minors.
“They are the most destructive cult that exists now in Spain .” They jump over the constitution like a bull fighter in the opinion of Juantxo Dominguez, socialist councilman of Pasaia (Guipúzcoa) and president of Redune, the state environment association for the prevention of sectarian manipulation. For years he has worked with people who leave the twelve tribes. He considers the group “totalitarian and perverse with minors.” Dominguez had contacted a foreign guy who arrived in Valencia seven years ago as a student of Erasmus. He eventually enrolled in the group and became enthusiastic with its simple way of life. He left everything contrary to the opinion of his family. Everything went well for him until the day that he said I am going away. Then there was watching for him “the eternal death.” They treated him like Judas, says Dominguez. Upon seeing him, his parents thought that he came from a Nazi concentration camp. This young man has not wanted to make statements because he says he is going to denounce the community for manipulation, although his lawyer explains he has not moved on the matter for the moment.
After a sinuous footpath next to a dry river in Nerja, a painted placard with flowers welcomes the visitors. But once inside, the followers of the apostle Spriggs show themselves hostile towards newspapers reporters. A strong man with an Andaluz accent and long hair says he doesn’t want to speak to the press.