French hamlet sanctuary for "end of world" in 2012
Published: 16 Jun 2011 09:41 GMT+02:00
Updated: 16 Jun 2011 07:16 GMT+02:00
In its most recent report, published on Wednesday, the government agency Miviludes warned that a prediction that the world will end on 21st December 2012 could spark a wave of suicides.
Miviludes, was set up in 2002 to monitor the activities of sects that pose a threat to the public and to help their victims.
The prediction of the end of the world comes from certain readings of the Mayan calendar, which reaches the end of a 5,125-year cycle on that date.
The president of Miviludes, Georges Fenech, told Reuters "I think we need to be careful. We shouldn't get paranoid, but when you see what happened at Waco in the United States, we know this kind of thinking can influence vulnerable people".
Bugarach, a mystical village in the Aude region, is believed by the sect Ramtha to be protected from the predicted apocalypse. The tiny village has become a focus for new age pilgrimages.
Fenech said at least six settlements have been set up by members of the sect and other groups have been organising conferences at local hotels. "This is big business" he said.