A Response To My Father
By Juliana Buhring
A series of articles were recently released in Uganda’s New Vision, addressing our book, “Not Without My Sister” and our father’s response to it. Below is my reply to our father and the newspaper.
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 to make sense of my past—a kind of self-therapy. 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 and the article in italics and my own response below it.
“We believe in communal groups just like the Israel Kibbutz system where everything was shared. 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. It is not like in the West where people are selfish. If a father is called away, the others just pitch in, there are always other adults. It is the Biblical model in Acts 4,”
This is instantly worrying. 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 own ideas for the children.”
People adopt children after very stringent checking to ensure that the adult is fit to adopt. Contrary to his above words, dad sacrificed his children for his own job and ideals. Children do indeed need a mother and father—something I did not have for the majority 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. I don’t understand how anyone can do something like this,” he says.’
I call into question what relationship he is referring to, when since the release of the book 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 for Xmas to speak to dad and our siblings, he slammed the phone down on us and disconnected it. In February, I had to fly all the way to Uganda just to be able 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 like guards.
He has never been privy to any monetary dealings concerning the book and as this was a private matter, 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.
‘Peterson says accusations of sexual abuse in the Family are false. Each individual community is responsible for its own work. Kathleen emphasises that members of the homes carry out evaluation every six months to make sure they are on the right track.
“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.”
First of all, 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 and included in the court ruling of Lord Justice Ward. It is a laughable contradiction that Berg “found out about the abuse and put a stop to it” when he was the one to instigate it, having sexual relations with his own daughters and granddaughter. Lord Justice Ward, after hearing the evidence of Merry Berg, believed her account to be accurate. Berg admits to sleeping with her in his own words. (See ** http://xfamily.org/index.php/Berg_on_Incest and http://xfamily.org/index.php/Merry_Berg)
“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, as do, I believe, most of the world. We do not, however, 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. “We do not get money, just goods. We have many good people who give tonnes of stuff, useful things and it is all going out to those who need them. We do not keep any of it for ourselves.”’
This is an outright falsification and 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, convicted of theft and fraudulent 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 1 and a half year old boy from his mother. Based on this background, I would very seriously call to question any statements she may present.
‘Kathleen adds: “We are using particularly radio to teach Christians to love Jesus and to be effective witnesses and the chain goes on. To imply that we are trying to use these things ourselves is absolutely not true. We don’t have any ulterior motives; if we were selfish, we would not be doing all the work that we do.”
Rather, 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?
‘However, they argue that it is not unusual for missionaries to sustain themselves by the donations they receive. Through the donations, FCU gives food, clothing, books and other necessities to children’s homes and other needy people.’
In the same sentence they imply that they are, in fact, sustaining themselves through the donations received. On the contrary to the above statement, it is not usual for missionaries to sustain themselves through the donations they receive from the people they are trying to help, Most legitimate missionaries I know are supported by their home base.
‘After a local newspaper printed a review of Not Without My Sister, Peterson met Sunday Vision again. He maintained that the girls made up most of the details to make it more sensational. He had found old pictures and hand-made cards that his daughters had sent him when they were younger, to prove that they were not angry children then. The letters and pictures showed that they loved him and were happy. There are photos of the girls visiting relatives, contrary to the view that they were not allowed contact with each other. There are photographs of Celeste and Juliana in Uganda.’
It’s all good and well to accuse us of making up details, but what details? That is conveniently vague, if he would be good enough to detail which details were made up, we can appropriately respond.
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 as they occurred. The hand made 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.
The book clearly details the times we were together and the times we were separated. Never did we claim that we were never in contact with each other, but rather that it was sporadic contact. Again, it seems, he has not read the book. What these pictures and letter do prove, however, is the validity of our story. The times and places we speak of in the book are backed by the hard evidence of the photographs and letters.
‘According to Peterson, they were happy until they met ‘apostates’ who made them see the Family differently.’
Which apostates? I still to this day have not met any apostates, unless by apostate, you mean my own sister?
“First of all 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. We were not allowed to not smile when sitting for photographs for our father, a fact he knows because I told him many times, and is also detailed in the book.
“Secondly, that they were miserable is a lie. After meeting with bitter people, they reinterpreted their past experience, which is a psychological phenomenon that scholars have studied.”
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.
After “meeting with bitter people”? What people? Another vague, sweeping statement without any substance or factual backing.
‘Juliana lived with foster parents whom she was so attached to, that she cried when she had to leave them. She was with foster parents because as a single father, he could not take good care of her.’
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, and I certainly do not lump them into a general negative category. Again, he clearly has not read the book.
‘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. She basically spiced up her story to fit in with the rest of the stories,” he says.’
I will agree with the first half of this statement, which only validates my own story. 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. One such email is printed in black and white in the book, again begging the question, has he even read the book?
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. I challenge him to detail which aspects of my story were “spiced up”?
‘Peterson says he cannot say Kristina was not abused because she was not in his custody. He says 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? And it sounds to me as if he is quick to believe the justification of the abuser over his own child. If he had not abused Kristina, then why the need to apologise?
‘Peterson reiterates that such behaviour was corrected long time ago and such people excommunicated, never to be readmitted. In the book, it appears that Kristina’s abuser was not excommunicated like Family rules state, but moved to different communes around the world, under different names as often happens in the group. Peterson says this man was doing missionary work in Kenya recently, but has left the Family.’
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. If Kristina’s abuser left the group recently, then he obviously was not excommunicated, never to return, certainly not back in the day when he should have been.
‘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 23 years old. It is interesting to note that when Celeste was 17, we were being hid 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. Again, this is covered in the book, which, if he had read, has been addressed.
It is interesting that he implies that Celeste and I were instigated by Kristina, and that my head was turned by “bitter people” and “apostates”. 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. If dad is going to make vague statements of “people and apostates” would he please be more specific as to who these said people may be? In fact, it only confirms what we describe in the book how for years he tried to keep us from our sister, Kristina, demonizing her because she spoke the truth to the world.
His calloused 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. It is impossible to reason with the unreasonable. His quest for the “truth” has left him hopelessly entangled in a web of lies.
The Family has all the appearances of a “legitimate organisation” until you begin to dig into the heart of the matter. When the foundation of the group was built on evil, and the leaders to this day refuse to admit to or make retribution for the widespread abuse of a whole generation of children, then no matter how shiny the apple looks from the outside, the inside will remain rotten to its core.