TOKYO — The children removed from a cult commune two months ago appear to be adapting to their new lifestyles, said orphanage officials, although some remain affected by their time with the group.
In all, 102 children have been removed from the cult suspected in Tokyo’s nerve gas attack since police began searches of Aum Shinri Kyo‘s main compound near Mount Fuji. The cult leader and more than 30 members have been arrested on suspicion of being linked to the March 20 attack.
In the beginning, the children responded instantly with phrases like “Oh, our supreme master” when they saw the cult leader, Shoko Asahara, on television. But now they ignore his image, orphanage officials said.
Some children have begun to doubt Asahara’s self-claimed supernatural abilities.
“I wonder why our supreme master couldn’t predict his arrest or escape by using levitation,” said one child at a center in Gumma, northeast of Tokyo, where about 30 cult children are temporarily living.
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Education Minister Kaoru Yosano said yesterday that the children should be given careful attention so they will not suffer from the drastic changes in their lifestyle and education.
At an orphanage in Shizuoka, only one of 10 6- and 7-year-old cult children knows how to write, according to the Mainichi newspaper.
The cult recently announced that it plans to send all children back to their original homes so they can receive regular education.
So far, however, only seven children have gone to live with relatives. The rest have no place to go, as most of their parents remain at the compound, news reports said.
Most of the children enjoy television and playing outside, officials said. But others apparently remain psychologically affected by their cult experiences.
Gumma orphanage staff members said several children recently drew pictures showing people with horrible expressions on their faces, the Mainichi newspaper reported.
“I have never seen children draw such pictures,” the head of the orphanage was quoted as saying.