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  • Writer's pictureEric Navas

Canada UBF (Winnipeg UBF)– Brainwashing, ex-adherent calls flock’s methods

Winnipeg Free Press

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Sun, Oct 6, 1985

Cult fears raised

A Korean-based group whose activities are being monitored by U.S. cult-watchers has been recruiting in Winnipeg for more than two years, a former member says. The University Bible Fellowship uses high-pressure recruiting tactics, alienates members from their family, and uses forms of thought-control during prayer meetings at a Sherbrook Street house, says Bruce Alexander, 20, who was a member of the group for about five months/17

Winnipeg Free Press

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Brainwashing,’ ex-adherent calls flock’s methods

By David Roberts     Published date Oct 6, 1985

A Korean-based group whose activities are being monitored by U.S. cult watchers has been recruiting in Winnipeg tor more than two years, a former member says.

The University Bible Fellowship used high-pressure recruiting tactics, can alienate members from their family and friends, and uses forms of thought-control during prayer meetings at a Sherbrook Street house, Bruce Alexander said.

Alexander, 20, said he was a member of the Winnipeg group for about five months after meeting a woman named Rebecca Kim.

“I was recruited in July, 1984. They kind of pulled me in off the street.

“They like to pressure you. They try to keep you out of your parents’ influence. They say: ‘I’m your mother now, listen to me’ . . . they try to run your life.”

Sarah Barry, co-founder of the UBF, said yesterday it would be unfair to criticize the missionary project because of one person’s complaints.

Barry, in Winnipeg to conduct a worship service today, said the UBF uses traditional Christian methods to interest people in the Bible.

“We are not a strange cult of any kind,” Barry, 55, a native of Mississippi, said. “We are an established organization with a good reputation.”

Techniques a concern

But Gordon Gillespie, spokesman for the Manitoba Cult Awareness Centre, said he is concerned about some techniques used by the UBF.

The Citizen’s Freedom Foundation, a cult-awareness coalition in New York City, has a file on them, he said.

“They certainly exhibit cult-like tendencies,” Gillespie said.

“They use high-pressure tactics. I know there was quite a kerfuffle at the university in Chicago after a couple of their members defected.”

A recent edition of the University of Illinois Chicago Circle Campus newspaper said two UBF members were arrested at the campus following a physical altercation with a former member.

The mother of one of the Chicago defectors began a personal crusade against the UBF after past members alleged corporal punishment sometimes was used to discipline them.

Gillespie said the group’s North American headquarters are in Chicago. The U.S. chairman is Samuel Lee, although the Chicago student newspaper claims Lee’s real name is Chang Woo.

University of Winnipeg Student’s Association president Sean MacDonald said he was aware UBF members have approached U of W students.

“We have had complaints that they are proselytizing,” he said. “They’re really trying to convert strongly.

I gather they’ve been around for a while. We have a lot of very legitimate religious groups on campus, but this is the only one we’ve had any complaints about.”

Local UBF spokesman Sarah Lee said in an interview Friday Winnipeg is the sole Canadian operation.

Asked why Winnipeg was chosen she said: “It was the will of God.”

Barry said the female missionaries ended up in Winnipeg because they trained as sewing machine operators in Korea and Manitoba offered job opportunities.

Stories slanted

She adamantly denied all allegations against the local chapter, and said stories in the Chicago newspaper were slanted against the UBF.

“If we were a secular organization we would have sued,” she said.

Lee said in Alexander’s case it was he who initially expressed an interest in Bible study.

However, once the group paid for his trip to an Ontario study conference, Alexander refused to repay them and friction began.

“His actions changed from moment to moment,” she said.

Lee said there are 29 UBF missionaries working in Winnipeg.

Barry said one local university student, Daniel Massey, attended a UBF-sponsored training session overseas.

Massey’s brother Robert said he has mixed feelings about Daniel’s one-year involvement in the UBF.

“I don’t like their tactics,” he said. “They come on hard, really hard.

“We were almost wondering if this was a kind of Moonie thing.

“One thing I do know, is it hasn’t been a bad thing for Danny.”

Alexander said daily scriptural readings and Sunday worship services— where some recruits make large financial donations — are held at the Sherbrook Street house.

He said the missionaries are highly motivated. “They really believe they’re the servants of God.

“Its just their methods that are very cult-like. They turn you against your parents Families just don’t understand.

“They try to turn you into evangelists. They prey on the weak-minded.

“It’s definitely a form of brainwashing.”

Alexander’s mother said she was deeply worried about her son’s activity in the UBF and was glad he had left.

Barry said the organization was founded by herself and Samuel Lee when she was a missionary in Korea.

“We would never try to harm anyone or prevent them from leaving,” she said. “We don’t coerce people.”

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