Cults hunting students

Challenge Weekly Christian Newspaper (New Zealand)/March 11, 2002

Soon thousands of new students will be beginning their first year at New Zealand Universities and Polytechnics. This is often an extremely emotional and turbulent time for the students. They are thrust into a completely new environment often without any friends. It is especially hard on students from out of town, not only don't they know anyone, but usually it's their first time away from home. For a few months some of these students are lonely, home sick, and even depressed.

Cult Watch director Mark Vrankovich, says that the cults know this short time is their best recruiting opportunity of the year, since the students are at their most vulnerable. They plan for months in advance to ensure maximum contacts are made.

Apparently cult members are given quotas of how many phone numbers they must obtain, and how many students they must bring to recruitment meetings. They ply the students with false friendships, parties, sports events and bible studies.

"Parents need to be aware. They need to realize that unless they take action, the risk of losing their child is very real," says Mr. Vrankovich.

Often the first thing parents know is that their son or daughter has joined a church.

At first there is nothing to be worried about. But eventually they realize they haven't heard from their child for a while. They try and phone, but their calls are not returned. If they are able to talk, then their child will sound distant. When they question about the group, the parents realize it has taken over their child's life. If they criticize the group then the parents are cut off from their child. The cult often instructs the child not to go home for holidays and tells them their parents are agents of the devil (for opposing the cult).

"Anyone who knows a student, including parents, friends, grandparents and youth pastors need to make a tangible effort to warn that student. It doesn't matter if a student is a Christian or not, they can be taken. Unfortunately Christians are most at risk since many cults masquerade as Christian," says the Cult Watch director.

Along with the spiritual deception, Mr. Vrankovich says the cults use sophisticated psychological techniques to recruit and control their members. The new Cult Watch web site details these methods.

"Cults must be understood for what they are - a tool of the enemy to destroy the faith of promising Christians, and those close to knowing Jesus. The spiritual fruit of `Christian' cult involvement is normally a total rejection of Christianity. We all must follow the examples of Jesus and the Apostle Paul by plainly warning about and exposing these false teachers including their false doctrines and practices," he says.

Mr. Vrankovich believes that students should be warned that the cults are waiting for them and be advised what to look out for. Also students need to be told not to give their phone number to anyone, rather instruct them to take the persons number and call them if they want to.

The cult most aggressively recruiting young Christians in New Zealand is the ICC (International Church of Christ), but their branches are only present on Auckland and Christchurch campuses (They are called the "Central Auckland Church of Christ" and "Christchurch Church of Christ" respectively). However cults are present on all campuses in New Zealand. Cult Watch supplies free information packs on cult threats to students.

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