The People's Temple reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Apr-2004
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People's Temple

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The People's Temple was a cult that is best known for a mass suicide at Jonestown on November 18, 1978. The Temple was founded in 1953, at Indianapolis, Indiana by Reverend Jim Jones. At the time it was a group advocating and aiding social justice.

In Indianapolis, and at the California cities of Ukiah, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, where Jones extended new branches of his church, they earned a good reputation for aiding the cities' poorest citizens, especially racial minorities, drug addicts, and the homeless. Soup kitchens, day care centers, and medical clinics for elderly people were set up, along with counseling programs for prostitutes and drug addicts that wanted to change their lives.

Then disturbing accounts began to spring up, told by a few people who had succeeded in leaving the cult. Jones was stealing from his followers, faked the miracle healings, was punishing the members severely and now considered himself the new Messiah.

By now, journalists, law enforcement officials, and politicians were showing interest in Jones' group. Jim Jones reacted with frequent long and angry speeches, where he claimed that the defectors lied, and the outside world was trying to destroy them. At the time, more former members told of beatings and abuse within the People's Temple, and relatives of members insisted that members were being forced to remain there against their will.

Jones reacted by moving his church, over 800 followers, to Guyana. The followers were promised a tropical paradise, free from the wickedness of the outside world, but when they arrived, they were forced to work by Jones' orders, and together they built Jonestown.

In November 1978, the cult was visited by Leo Ryan, a United States Congressman, who was investigating claims of abuse. A number of Temple members expressed a desire to leave along with the Congressman, and the entire group went to the local airstrip. Temple security guards fired on the group, killing Congressman Ryan, three journalists, and a Temple member who wanted to leave. The shootings were captured on film by one of the journalists who died in the attack.

Later that day, Jones ordered his congregation to drink a cyanide-laced soft drink in the Jonestown mass suicide. Those who resisted were shot, strangled or injected with a poison. In all, 914 people died (see Jonestown for details) .