Wednesday 13 November 2019

Jonestown massacre cult leader's name put on memorial

Nick Allen in Los Angeles

Attempts to commemorate the 1978 Jonestown massacre, when more than 900 members of a religious cult committed suicide, are mired in controversy after its founder's name was etched on the memorial.

On November 18, 1978 a total of 918 people died in north-west Guyana where the American cult leader Jim Jones had set up a "utopian" community under the banner of his quasi-religious organisation, People's Temple.

The horrific events began when Leo Ryan, a US congressman, three journalists and a cult defector were ambushed and killed on a jungle airstrip. They were there to investigate human rights abuses at the site.

Jones then orchestrated a ritual mass slaughter, which he called "revolutionary suicide". Members of the cult, about a third of whom were children, poisoned themselves with cyanide.

More than 400 bodies were eventually buried in a mass grave in California, where the cult was based before moving to Guyana.

Last week construction of a memorial, bearing the names of the dead -- including "James Warren Jones" -- was completed at the Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland, California. But it has been criticised by Jynona Norwood, who lost 27 relations at Jonestown. She said the inclusion of the cult leader's name "desecrates the memory of the victims".

The memorial was commissioned by a survivors' group. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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