Students approached by religious group

The University of Otago is encouraging students to come forward and report any inappropriate behaviour, on or off campus, after reports a religious group dubbed a cult is operating in North Dunedin.

Critic Te Arohi student magazine reported international students living in UniFlats saying young Korean people had been knocking on their door, with an iPad and a bible, and trying to persuade them to go to a ''hidden'' location.

The magazine suggested their activity was consistent with the World Mission Society Church of God, which has previously been trespassed from campus.

The church has has been branded a ''cult'' by some commentators and former members.

Otago University Students' Association international officer Sabrina Alhady said she was aware of the recent report.

''This cult presents a potential threat to the wellbeing and safety of students.

''It is absolutely unacceptable that this cult harasses students into partaking in their beliefs. I would advise all students to refrain from giving these people any personal information and to immediately disengage with them.''

When asked about the group, police said they could not comment on requests for information about individuals.

Critic ran a story two years ago about another student being persuaded to go to the former Roslyn Presbyterian Church in Highgate, where the church is based, to be baptised.

The World Mission Society Church of God, which originated in Korea and operates around the world, has had a base in Dunedin since 2012. Attempts to call the Dunedin branch yesterday were unsuccessful.

The church has been associated with student groups the Elohim Bible Academy, which was disaffiliated from OUSA in 2017, and ASEZ (Save the Earth from A to Z), a volunteer group which failed to re-affiliate to the OUSA last year.

ASEZ members told the Otago Daily Times they were purely a volunteer group, and included some members who were not churchgoers.

One member said ASEZ had no knowledge of the apparent attempts to baptise the students, and that the normal procedure for the church would be for the person to sign a form saying they wanted to be baptised rather than persuading someone to get into a car.

Baptisms were voluntary and would take place at the church itself, generally after the person had already undergone bible studies.

''We would never force that on anyone.''

ASEZ has been active in the city this year, conducting a ''clean-up for crime prevention'' in North Dunedin in May.

A council spokesman said Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull had supported the group's efforts to see a community safe from crime and free of litter. However that was ''in no way an endorsement of their religious and or recruitment practices''.

Comments

How is the Presbyterian Church associated?

It isn't. The World Mission Society Church Of God simply purchased their building from them years ago. So it should be referred to by either its new name or as the former Roslyn Presbyterian Church.

Good news.