On November 18th 1978, 909 American men, women and children committed a collective suicide in the community of Jonestown, in Guyana. This atrocity aimed to be called “the Revolutionary Suicide”, took place amongst the cult known as the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project. The project had been founded by Jim Jones (1931 – 1978), a man from Indiana, who was not only highly religious, but also a firm defender of the marxist ideology and an affiliate of the Communist party. He founded his first church in the 1950’s in Indianapolis, and was known for accepting people from all races, a rare feature in those times. His congregation became know as the Peoples Temple, and eventually, Jones relocated it to California in 1966. Nevertheless, as his ambition was to create a “socialist paradise” where the community could live thanks to its agriculture auto-sufficiency, he relocated the group to the South American nation in 1974.
In 1978, pressured by a group called “Concerned Relatives”, US Congressman Leo Ryan traveled to Guyana to learn more about the Temple’s activities. Tensions arose as 15 members asked to return with the congressman, and loyalists to Jones opened fire at the airport causing the death of 5 people including the Congressman. Following the airport murder, the horror begun. Jones gathered his followers and convinced them to commit “the revolutionary suicide” with cyanide as he said that either way they would all be killed. Poison drink was distributed and survivors explain that people actually had no option to refuse as those who did not drink the poison, got shot. The tragedy of Jonestown is considered as the largest mass suicide in modern History. Check out this testimonial video of those who lived and witnessed the birth and death of the People’s Temple and this excellent piece in Time magazine.