Indonesians talk of joining Korean religious ‘sect’

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ndonesia is no stranger to religious movements that derive from Abrahamic religions. Here, The Jakarta Post delves into the origin of a religious movement in South Korea that has been dubbed a cult, as well as its presence in Indonesia. Former local members also share their insights into the group, and how to protect one’s faith.

(This is the final part of a two-part story. Part one was published yesterday.)

What is Shincheonji?

Lenta Enni Simbolon is the executive secretary of the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI), which was founded in 1950.

But Lenta said the oldest Christian organization in Indonesia had no authority to determine whether Shincheonji was a cult or not.

“We are not like the Indonesian Ulema Council [MUI], which can issue a fatwa,” she said, adding that the PGI was also not “in a position to offer a statement [on] whether a particular church is a sect or heretical”.

But what is Shincheonji, exactly?

Formally called the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, the group was founded by Lee Man-hee in 1984 in Anyang in the South Korean province of Gyeonggi, which surrounds the capital Seoul.

The group claims that its founder Lee is the pastor promised in the New Testament and that only he can decipher the secrets contained in the Book of Revelation.

Today, Shincheonji is one of the world’s fastest-growing religious movements, and the group had at least 200,000 members in South Korea alone in 2020, according to The Guardian.

It deviates from established Christian teachings in some aspects.

According to a test paper from the group’s Bible class that former member Jay shared with The Jakarta Post, it alleges that the Book of Revelation was completed at the Tabernacle Temple in Gwacheon, at the base of Mount Cheonggye outside Seoul. According to traditional Christian history, the book was written by John the Apostle on the Greek island of Patmos.

Prior to founding Shincheonji, Lee was a member of another religious group called Olive Tree, founded by Park Tae-soon, a former elder of a Presbyterian church in South Korea.

Park proclaimed he was the Messiah, and the Olive Tree was reportedly the “fastest growing and largest of the Korean syncretistic religion” in the 1950s and 1960s. The Olive Tree also spawned a variety of Christian sects in the country.

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1 comment

  1. By exposing this Korean cult publicly the Jakarta Post has done a great service for the people of Indonesia, warning them about the cult, its troubled history and recruitment tactics.

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