This religious group formed a few years before this incident. What was remarkable is that its leader, a white guy with an outstanding charisma named Jim Jones, invited people from all races to join this church. It wasn't more than a large church where people prayed and sang together, joining with a sense of brotherhood.
That guy, Jim Jones, had an outstanding influence on his followers. It was gradual but very effective. With time it became more difficult for the followers to leave his church. As the US government started questioning this cult, Jones went with his followers to an isolated town in Guyana called Jonestown. When the families of the 1000 followers became very concerned about their family members, a Congressman flew there with a big team of journalists. He visited the Temple where the followers used to pray, and some of the followers wanted to leave the church and return with him to the US. Long story short, things turned very tense and one of the guards of the Temple shot the Congressman and a few members of the team and killed him with 2 journalists. Minutes later, Jim Jones made a speech that was taped (click here to listen, boy it's scary) asking all the followers to drink cyanide. The followers gave toxic cyanide to their children (300 children) then swallowed it themselves. A few of them refused to do so, so the guards forcibly injected them with cyanide. Jim Jones was then shot by one of the guards.
What may come to your mind, is that a bunch of hippies joined some weird cult formed by a weird guy, and they deserved what happened to them.
What you need to keep in mind, is that this religious group formed on good intentions. People from all around joined together, for a common cause, prayed together and sang together. It was fun. It felt right to them. Jones took it to the very extreme and that's why he and most of his followers perished. Very few of his followers survived, and they described in a few interviews how influential Jones was. Even those who drank the poison to kill themselves felt it the right thing to do, they were following the commands from upstairs.
I think every religion has its Jim Jones. Those Jim Jones' are a bit smarter, more qualified, more friendly-looking, less dramatic, but after all they are Jim Jones. Never underestimate the love of power many religious leaders have. Don't be afraid to question what they say, and don't hesitate to challenge them if you think they're leading you on the wrong track. You've got five senses, use them. Don't be blind. Maybe Jones killed his followers by making them drink cyanide, but a whole lot of poisons can kill faster and quicker than cyanide.
In this picture taken from the day after the incident , you can see the sign : "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it".... well-said Mr. Jones!!
To watch a clip of a report of the incident, click here.