Peter Amsterdam's Son Speaks Out!
Age: 28 years old, born and raised in The Family
Parents: Peter Amsterdam and Abi
I have been greatly disturbed by this pointless loss of life. I knew both Angela and Ricky, and still cannot quite comprehend the needless death that took place. It’s not every day someone you knew well was murdered, and rarer still, someone you knew who just four years earlier seemed like a normal individual, change to the point where he’d be willing to take the life of someone as sweet and harmless as Angela. I’m telling you, everyone reading this has done more harm to others through unloving acts than Angela, she was truly an angel.
Writing is not something that comes easy for me or that I enjoy doing, but the wish to have my voice heard overrides that difficulty. I’ve been hearing far too long about the “many” vocal former members, and have seen some of their threatening website postings, so I was thrilled that someone put up a site like this, and even more so by the 200+ young people who have stepped forward so far to contribute with their views and condolences.
I wanted to add my personal story and views on growing up in the Family, “abuse” in the past, and some thoughts on current claims from our detractors.
I would say that my life was not that typical of a young person in the Family. Because of who my parents were, much was expected of me, and as a kid, naturally I resented that fact. I recognize now that it was to be expected. Any child with prominent parents, in any walk of life, has more expected of him than others.
When I was two years old, my dad left to work with David Berg and Maria. I didn’t have much contact with him during my childhood years. My mom lived with me (or close by) for most of my life, but due to her leadership responsibilities, I was mostly cared for and raised by nannies and teachers. I lived in World Service Homes till I was a pre-teen, at which time I moved into big school-type situations. I lived in the Philippines “Jumbo”, the Japan “HCS”, the Macao “Teen Home” and subsequent “DTs”, and the Peru “Enterprise”.
I also went through my share of disciplinary type programs, such as the “Victor programs”—one in Japan and one in Peru. Both of those were typical of the types of programs used by the Family in some parts of the world in those days. In my opinion, these programs were no more harsh then their counterparts in secular society. There was silence restriction, extra labor and some corporal punishment—all to be expected from that type of system. These programs have not been used in the Family for many years—most likely for good reasons. However, considering that disciplinary boot-camp type programs are still actively used throughout the secular and Christian world today, I fail to see how one could be so up in arms about their previous use in the Family.
Sure, some of you may have been in a program like this yourself, but that was a long time ago. I’m sure you’ve “moved on”. I mean really, who can’t take a little silence restriction? Almost everyone’s been spanked, and had to work. You’ll live. I promise. :) Since these programs are no longer in use in the Family, if based on your experience, you feel it was terribly harmful, why not go and “rescue” the many young people currently in similar programs in secular society? Naturally, no participants especially like these types of intensive boot-camp programs, but it’s a disciplinary style used by some parents for difficult young people. The effectiveness of programs such as these can be debated on either side, but in the end, it’s the parents’, not the young peoples’, decision.
The one program I was in that I would consider excessive by way of corporal punishment and hard labor, was the DT (detention teen) program in Macao during the late 80s. There were under ten young people admitted to that program, so its use was certainly not widespread, nor was this program duplicated elsewhere. I know for a fact that half of the participants are still in the Family, and the other half have left. Those who were negatively affected by this program, I personally feel sorry for. I don’t think some of the things that went on were justified or necessary, and I consider it a failed experiment at best. It’s something I feel was unfortunate, but I lived through it, and I’ve put it behind me. And most importantly, I forgave those who I feel wronged me.
That’s what I consider the bottom line here: it’s about forgiveness! In life, you have to forgive people, just as you need to be forgiven. I’m sure there’s not one person reading this—including those who are seeking vengeance or retribution—who hasn’t needed forgiveness for something they’ve done. I would say a great percentage of people around the world could find something to criticize in their parents or upbringing. If you choose, there are always people or circumstances to blame for any problem in life. Those who succeed are those who choose to forgive and go on.
I am grateful for the life I have led despite any difficulties. Had the dice been rolled differently, I could have been born in the jungles of Africa and had very little opportunity for education. I could have been born into an abusive family and been introduced to a life of drugs and crime at an early age. I could have been born into a wealthy family, where education and success were all that mattered to my parents, with no love whatsoever. For any of the above reasons and more, I could have ended up hating my parents, teachers, or for that matter, anyone who had anything to do with my upbringing—an upbringing that I perceived as not to my liking or choice. When I think of the millions of people in the world who’ve had it so much worse than I have, it makes me thankful.
So I will add my voice to the many others in saying I was raised in a loving environment. I had good teachers and loving parents all throughout my childhood. As I mentioned above, in my early teen years I went through things that were not ideal, but I’ve moved on. I choose not to allow one small part of my life to negatively overshadow the rest. Sure, I could dwell on that difficult time in my life, mulling it over again and again, allowing it to grow in my mind, and I’m sure before long, it would be so blown out of proportion that it would take on a life of it’s own. But I chose the path of forgiveness, and because of it I’ve been able to continue to live a life free of bitterness and hatred. It’s a simple choice. Anyone can do it.
Before changing topics, I want to pre-state here that I know many young former members have moved on and are well-adjusted members of society, although they may not agree with everything in their upbringing, they don’t spend time thinking and planning how they can destroy the family that raised them. I realize this is the majority, and the below is not questioning you or the life you have chosen. I have many friends that have left our organization, and I am happy they have found a life that suits them.
But now I want to address the most recent rhetoric of our detractors: You try and tell me that you are on my side; you say you’re not after me, a “poor and abused” second generation Family member. You say you’re only after a handful of “abusers”. You say you have respect for the decisions and choices I have made, that you have no personal vendetta against me, and that you wouldn’t want to stop me from living a life of service to others. But I say to you: BULLSHIT! Do you take me for a fool with a short memory? You can’t gloss over your previous threats; you can’t make me forget what your true motives have been all along, no matter how you try to spin it now.
All one has to do is read previous postings on the “notmovingon.org” to see your true motives. How can I forget previous threats from the likes of your very own “Safe Passage Foundations” public relations officer Daniel Roselle who said in mid 2002, “Prepare yourselves for a future of fighting for your very survival as an organization. The tidal wave will grow. You will be washed away.”
If the recent tsunamis showed one thing, it’s that tidal waves are indiscriminate. Your true hope is to wash away the organization—which is all of us! Don’t try and change your story now when you feel it will better suit your own ends.
Mark my words, this “washing away” will never come, and don’t you dare threaten us again! Take a good look at myconclusion.com and see the hundreds of young people standing strong! We are not afraid. We post with our names in full, not hiding behind endless initials and multiple aliases as many do on your websites, and we will not go away. We’re your brothers and sisters, and this is what we’ve chosen for our lives. Nothing you say or do will move us. Your “wave” is no tsunami. It may wash around our feet as you try to whip up the media and others for your own ends, but nothing more.
I would like to end here with one request: I have heard numerous apologies from the Family and Family leadership for former mistakes and abuses in the past, and I have truly forgiven them. I have not, however, seen any apologies from our detractors. I’m talking here of the few who have threatened our organization for years, and who have mocked and ridiculed us. Some have even threatened my father’s very life. I would like to see an apology from each of you who are guilty of these things, or who have supported and encouraged them.
You have stated that the second generation in the Family has never hurt you and that you have no quarrel with us young people. I, however, have a quarrel with you! If I see an apology with changed actions following, I will forgive you. That is what I got from the Family, and it was enough for me. Can you not do the same?
Jon-A is a second-generation member of the Family International.