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When a UK student felt like she was losing her boyfriend to a mysterious South Korean group last year, all hope for their relationship seemed lost.
However, writing anonymously in The Independent, one woman has told the story of how she convinced him to leave the sect for good.
As she describes, it all began innocuously enough. In November of last year, her partner received a 'seemingly harmless' LinkedIn message from somebody, asking whether he'd be willing to help out with a men's mental health project.
Happy to oblige, the woman's boyfriend then had an initial phone call with the person, which was where the idea of a bible study course was first floated.
Ran by an alumni of a top London University, it had the feeling of respectability and a layer of professionalism.
As the anonymous partner states, the study sessions certainly had a big impact on him: "He said he never felt as connected to God as he did during the time he was going to these 'bible study sessions'.
"I put that in quotation marks because I don’t think it was a bible study," she adds.
Over the following months, the bible study sessions continued.
While initially respectful of the course and its lecturers, our narrator soon turned suspicious.
"The teachings sounded strange and apocalyptic, nothing like I was used to. The teachers were young with unknown credibility, yet they were the only ones who were delivering the words of the bible," she writes.
"They seemed to prey on fear and I felt they didn’t promote typical Christian values of love and generosity."
It soon dawned on her that he was being led astray not by the word of god, but by a 'sly and easily hidden cult'.
"The grasp this cult has on people is unlike a normal church, they require dedication in ways I have never seen," she says.
"We spent our Valentine’s Day evening listening to the bible study because he was too afraid to miss it. Any sessions missed had to be made up, yet there was no apparent structure to the course."
As it transpired, her boyfriend had in fact been recruited by the 'New Heaven New Earth' sect - or Shincheonji as they are also known.
Representatives for New Haven New Earth have previously stated that the group objects to the term 'cult'.
Founded in South Korea in 1984, the group has since ballooned in scale, and now has an estimated 140,000 or so members around the world, reports The Independent.
Of these, only around 400-450 members are thought to be from the UK, although recruitment tactics on LinkedIn and even Instagram are thought to be having an affect thus far.
As for the anonymous couple, the way out of the cult was a long and painful journey which very nearly didn't happen.
As the women writes, at one point, her boyfriend simply replied: "I don't know," when he was asked whether he would leave her for the group.
"I’m worried that this cult will grow while they keep recruiting curious Christians. After all, that is the easiest target for them," the anonymous woman writes.
"But for us, our journey with them is over, and I am glad for it"
Her partner eventually gave in, and gave up on the group entirely.
"In March 2022, after many arguments and tears shed, he had decided to leave New Heaven New Earth," she concludes.
Lawyers for New Heaven New Earth/Shincheonji told The Independent they object to being called a cult, seeing the term as a 'derogatory, stereotyping label' which had been abandoned by scholars of 'new religious movements'.
They add that not all members are full-time missionaries who decide to devote their life to the church, saying many members "work in secular jobs or are studying full-time at university."
UNILAD have also reached out to New Haven New Earth for comment.
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