Generally people believe that religion is a safe and harmless environment. It is a place where people find peace, love and serenity and are spiritually recharged to face the challenges of the post-modern world. Although all of the aforementioned characteristics and expectations of religion seem to be portraying what religion should be all about it is not always true. People can be hurt in any religion where the religious leader misuses his/her authority and position. Religious dynamics unfortunately, further contribute to the susceptibility of believers to be influenced negatively resulting in spiritual harm and suffering. An ideal market for religious groups to proselyte new members is the campuses of universities and colleges. Not only have a great number of the students on these campuses been removed from their known structures and families but they are also energetic and in search of challenges. The prospect of a religion that offers answers and solutions to the challenges of the day that can also bring positive change to the world immediately whet the attention of students. The closely knit community of love in these groups seems to be an ideal interim replacement for their own families.
After young people have joined some religious groups family members observe that previously strong family bonds are deteriorating and the behavior of their loved one has changed, sometimes drastically. When parents of these young people attempt to obtain clarity about the religious group and its activities they are faced with preset answers that seem to be recited in order to address the likely reaction and questions of parents. Parents realise that something is wrong and then look for help and assistance in order to understand what is happening. This aforementioned scenario is the cyclical story of many parents whose children got involve in what is known as alternative religious groups only the names of the people, groups and places differ.
Cultism Dialogue was approached by a mother of a student that got involved in an alternative religion that allegedly functions close by or on the campus of the University of Pretoria known as the World Mission Society Church of God. The WMSCOG is a religious movement that has started in South Korea and has over 2200 churches in 150 countries.
This particular group has a self proclaimed “Messiah” by the name of Ahnsahnghong who has founded the church in 1964. The second coming of Christ according to their belief took place on 14 May, 1948 when Ahnsahnghong was baptised. People can only be saved through Christ Ahnsanhghong and Heavenly mother – that is Ahnsanhghong’s wife. He died in 1985 and ascended to heaven whereafter his wife – Zahng-Gil-Jah became the godly figure that must be worshipped. It is furthermore important to keep the sabbath and to be baptised in order to be saved. Passover is the most important festival of God. All human beings were created in Heaven as angels. The church members seem to believe that they have the only “truth” – all other churches are deceived. Despite this belief they boast three failed doomsday predictions, 1988, 1999 and 2012.
What has become evident through a lengthy interview with the student involved in the group is the well rehearsed reciting of the doctrinal philosophy of the group. Every attempt to direct the person to the standard beliefs of the Christian tradition resulted in circular arguing every time bringing the person to the same conclusion namely that the true messiah is Ahnsahnghong. Although an interview with one member and his parents cannot be taken as a true reflection of the general status of members or the situation in the church it still raises concerns.
The above is only and introduction. Please consult the websites below and others and decide for yourself: