Here’s what is truly going on at India UBF
|The Christ Figure|
|By: Isaac L. Hmar *|
|The University Bible Fellowship (UBF) came to Delhi more than ten years ago from South Korea and has more than 20 chapters in the United States. It calls itself a Christian Bible study group, dedicated to the taste of campus evangelism mainly among the students. UBF is under total and absolute obedience to Samuel Lee and his teachings, according to Dr. Ronald Enroth of California, a world-renowned sociologist who has had six books published on North American cults;
UBF is a part of a new wave of authoritarian mind-control groups quickly replacing traditional youth groups like the Hare Krishnas, Monies and Scientologist. Samuel Lee, whose real name is Chang Woo Lee, started the UBF in Korea in the 1960s along with American Presbyterian missionary Sarah Barry. Dissent among Korean members in 1976 over what they claimed was Lee’s abuse of spiritual authority split the group and brought Lee and Barry to the U.S. where they now control UBF operations from their headquarters in Chicago.
In the year 2000 another reform movement arose in the UBF worldwide. Main issues were again the spiritual, authority and financial abuse by Lee and UBF traditions and practices that were considered abusive. Again, any criticism was sharply rejected by Lee as being a “rebellion.” Lee died in January 2001 through a fire in his house. The new top leadership Sarah Barry and John Jun followed the course of Samuel Lee by expelling all reform minded members and rejecting any discussion about the problematic issues.
INTENSIVE ONE TO ONE BIBLE STUDY: In 1993, July I was introduced to their Sunday worship service and their centre which is situated in Munirka village, New Delhi is named as UBF, Jawaharlal Nehru University Centre. The worship service attendants were numbering around 50 and most of them are from Northeast Indians except few of them were from south Indians. The students are introduced to UBF Bible study by mainly Korean missionaries, referred to as shepherd by group members.
When I was being invited by one missionary for bible study, I couldn’t just refuse it but I was rather anxious and feeling excited about the invitation. I started with a few one-to-one intensive Bible study sessions with Peter, and eventually he became like my personal shepherd. Then I began attending Sunday services at the Bible house, early morning study, and latter a few months I was involved in several UBF activities each day, and I am completely changed in a few months.
I used to be ambitious student studying sociology honor in Jamia Millia University, New Delhi. During intensive bible study my Shepherd kept emphasizing on Mathew chapter 6: verse 33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” As a result, I began to deny worldly ambition and finally I became like full-time staff member and dedicated my whole life to UBF, JNU Center.
On 4, November, 1994 I was ordained as “Shepherd” in a simple ceremonial which was carried out by our Director Jimmy Lee and his wife Maria Lee by reading out the bible words from Mark chapter 3: verse 14, “He appointed twelve-designating them apostles that they might be with him and that he might send them out preach”. And after the ceremonial service was over, I was made acquaintance of my ordination as Shepherd from members with encouraged words, “Dear brother, Thank and praise God for raising up Shepherd Isaac as a campus Shepherd according to God’s will and time. May God bless your life of mission and help you to bear much spiritual fruit- UBF Brothers and Sisters.”
However, it was like a spiritual rape but I don’t really realize it until the serious bits and pieces starts coming down and by that time I was already too far. The newly recruited shepherd had been gradually isolated from family, friends and all other peoples except those directly connected with UBF. Even they restricted attending to our own Hmar church service. On one occasion I was involved in our community harvest festival without prior permission from my personal Shepherd and later on knowing this, they issued a strong decree of fasting prayer all night long until I broke down with tears of repentance.
TEST OF LOYALTY: In the first stage, the Shepherds displayed what is apparently unconditional acceptance and affection for the recruit. If we were shy and a bit insecure, that environment made you feel erudite and more open to what they had to say. During each one-to-one Bible Study, the sheep were encouraged to reveal information about themselves particularly their daily life-style through the Sogam (which is a Korean word meaning straight from the heart) method – their fears, guilt and insecurities. That’s where they got me into manipulation. Such information was turned around on people to be used painfully later on.
If they could cut you away from your friends, family and the people you trusted; then they could replace them and totally surround our life. They constantly occupied our time and started to make decisions so that I did not go home for Thanksgiving, weekends and summer vacation or studying with them. My Shepherd told me that my parents wouldn’t understand my new commitment and would probably persecute me for it. When that happened, the shepherd explained, I would know Satan was working through them. On top of that my Shepherd also pushed me to make maximum financial commitments to UBF.
And this was a series of loyalty tests to exact complete obedience from the recruit to God, and the UBF leaders would resort to physical abuse if stubborn members refused to break. Our Director Jimmy Lee was revered as a Christ figure and he wielded tremendous power over the lives of individual members in the group, including personally arranging marriages between members.
ROMANTIC LOVES AFFAIRS: If one fell in love with any girl outside the UBF member, such romantic affairs were considered evil and unspiritual by the group. If they found out that you were courting some girls, they would nail you to a wall, and yelled at you everyday, rebuking you by exposing all areas of your weaknesses. It’s a classical brainwashing technique used on prisoners of war. They got you to the breaking point and then they became your redeemers and rebuild you in the image they have for you. From this experiment, I came to know that they got a thrill out of the power they has over people’s lives. It’s a classical brainwashing technique used on prisoners of war.
UBF.CHICAGO CENTRE: According to Gillespie, spokesman for the Manitoba Cult Awareness Centre, “If they’re living with the group, it’s almost impossible to get them out, “Gillespie said. “A lot of people resort to forcibly pulling their kids from the centre of UBF.” But according to Gordon Gillespie, spokesman for the Manitoba Cult Awareness Centre the group uses classic cult techniques to recruit its members; they are very professional and very well organized.
The Korean women usually approach young white male students, while they are joined by a man when approaching female. They seemed to go after people who look socially unsure of themselves. Gillespie said youth cults tend to attract thoughtful and idealistic young people, often at a time when they are searching for meaning in their lives. “That’s the sad thing, “he said, “These cults have always had an appeal to an intelligent type of person who wants to do something about society and the way it works.”
“Its mean stuff and we’re just starting to hear more about it.” Blanche Brauns, head of an anti-UBF lobby group in Chicago, said in a letter she sent to cult awareness groups that UBF practices appear to be Christian, but many people who have left it, including her son, have suffered psychological problems when re-entering society, especially those who did not receive exit-counseling and rehabilitation.
“From the outside, it appears to be very much a Christian group with Christian beliefs,” she said. “But they twist the scriptures to suit themselves and their behavior and practices are abominable.”
According to another mother who joined the lobby group after her son was taken in by UBF, the group leaders destroyed her son’s self-respect using guilt and confession tactics, eventually building themselves up as his saviors and gods.” Pat was only in there for a short time,” she said.” But it still took five straight days to deprogram him. He had got to the point where he couldn’t do a thing without his shepherd’s permission. This is not a religious issue. This is mind control,” She said.
DISASSOCIATED FROM UBF: Once I was informed to meet our Director Jimmy Lee and we had a long discussion for my future course of mission. He bluntly told me that I am getting married by faith not by choice and assured me that this is God’s direction. Although I had tried hard to bargain for getting married with my own choice, I was rather accused as contravening God’s will and His purpose on my life. Then I had no choice but to disassociate myself from the mission.
In conclusion, I would like to express my views on this controversial mission as many of my brethrens are still actively taking part in it. Not all religious faith is true or helpful which was already tested in the University Bible Fellowship. If there is mysticism that is sacred, there is also that which is profane. Therefore, we need cool-headed analyses and reasonable criteria to distinguish true faith from false, divine from demonic, genuine from bogus.
Otherwise, we will again put faith in gods who fail, mocking the noble vision of their followers who want to reconstruct a culture with beauty, and live with meaning, freedom and fulfillment. Religious ideology is foundational for social order. It either legitimizes a given social order or seeks to change.