8 Questions With Lilia Tarawa As To How She Escaped From Gloriavale, A Religious Cult
An internet match made in heaven
‘You’re a breath of fresh air!’ I exclaimed. The teenager returned my enthusiasm, ‘I loved talking to you too! It was crazy to see you on YouTube and Instagram then finally have a conversation. Will send over the link as soon as it is published.’
YouTube had introduced the two of us. It was the virtual version of me who first greeted Madi through a camera lens from the TEDxChristchurch stage. She’d met me, the real life ex-cult member, via Instagram Direct shortly after.
Her message sang, ‘Hey Lilia!! My name is Madi and your TED talk was so moving!! Thank you for your message and for spreading positivity. I write for an online content creation platform called the Odyssey! I was wondering if you’d be interested in doing an interview with me?’
The traits of an emerging leader
When Madi Skyped me, her radiating smile, and sharp eyes struck a chord. She didn’t force an agenda, as many reporters had. She asked simple, thoughtful questions to unearth my truth. At just 16-years-old, the writer from Georgia U.S., was blossoming into a strong world leader.
By the end of the call, she had me laughing like a school girl. I opened easily, recounting fond childhood moments, as well as stories with tender wounds.
Tales of my life growing up in the cult of Gloriavale segued easily to present life. Madi encouraged wisdom to flow from me like a well. Her eyes were intent, and pen flicked fast as she drank what I had to say.
Starting at the heart of the matter
A few months later, the link zinged to my inbox. I plugged it with a load of thumb action and peered at the screen. The introduction strapped me in for a roller-coaster article.
Lilia Tarawa’s childhood home, Gloriavale Christian Community, seemed like a dream as a child. As she grew up, she came to understand the silent and deadly grip of oppression and a lack of freedom in this religious cult. Here is the story of how she escaped her past.
The rest of the article provoked me to tears and laughter. I re-lived precious memories of life in Gloriavale as well as, recollections that cut like whips.
I ran back to my cousin’s room, and they lived right beside me. I was pretty close to my cousins; they were like siblings to me. And I just hugged them and I said, ‘I love you so much. See you tonight at the meeting,’ except I wasn’t going to the meeting. And so, after that I ran across the ranch to the van, and we drove out down the driveway. I looked back at the compound, and I thought, “This is the last time I’m going to see this place” and we were gone.
The conclusion reflected on the learning my life experience gifted.
It’s more important for you to honor your own beliefs, and do what you think is right, no matter what everyone and your society says to you. Because everyone at Gloriavale, they all thought we were wrong for leaving. But we weren’t. It was the right thing for us to do. It’s the same thing that applies to the world out here. Sometimes, doing what’s right can actually feel like it’s not that right because so many people around you are stuck in their ways or still have rigid beliefs.
After gathering my emotions I reached out to Madi, ‘You are an amazing writer. I’m crying. Let’s do an Instagram LIVE. And a Facebook LIVE too.’Sometimes you have to pay a high price for freedom. Click To Tweet I wake up, and I cannot believe I used to live there. Click To Tweet When you change the way you look at the world, it changes everything in your life. Click To Tweet
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