Town target for recruiting - claim "Beware this cult of evil"

The Camberley News (UK)/June 22, 1993
by Adrian Creek

Cult activists from a "dangerous and destructive" church are said to be targeting Camberley as a fertile recuiting ground. Mr Ayman Akshar, of the Triumphing Over London Cults (TOLC) support group, claims he has inside information from the London Church of Christ that affluent Camberley is seen as the perfect target for recruiting wealthy converts and boosting church funds.

Those who join are expected to donate a large part of their income or savings to the church. Mr Akshar said that about 18 months ago there were two church activists in the area. "Now there are four or five flats in the town with people from the church living in them," he said. "Some of them are married couplesm but the others live in a sort of commune. There is one flat with five 'brothers' in it and another with four 'sisters'," he said. "I feel it is my duty to warn the community in Camberley that the group is extremely shrewd, devious and sinister. People talk about the Scientologists and Moonies, but in my mind they are far worse," he claimed.

Mr Akshar, who was a church member for seven tears, quit last March when he became disillusioned with their methods. Now he is campaigning to expose what he dubs the "extremely sinister practices" of the church, which he says can operate under different names in different locations. "Since I left the church I am a marked man," he added. "They tell people in the church that I am evil and they should have nothing to do with me. But all I am trying to do is to warn people about the way they work. It is a very dangerous and destructive cult."

The church - which has its roots in Boston, USA - has figured prominently in both the local and national media over the past four months. Mr Akshar has appeared on Carlton and London Weekend Television, and is currently advising the BBC "Newsnight" programme and Radio 4's "Face the Facts" programme on features of the cult group. Stories have also appeared in the national and international press.

"My first three or four years in the church were fine, but as I rose up the leadership and discovered some of their practices I became very, very alarmed," he said. "They seemed to be asking for more and more money all the time, and they made some members who were on income support borrow money to pay their contributions." Members were ordered to pay ten per cent of their wages each week and asked to contribute money to mission work and donate to the poor but there was "no evidence" where the money was spent.

"When I was married in February 1990 I was asked to lead what they called a 'marriage ministry'. I was expected to go out and counsel married members and it was then I realised the difficulties they were experiencing," he said. "They were expected to dedicate themselves to Christ and attend all sorts of meetings throughout the day. Some of them never had time even to have a meal together.

"It was a case of mind control - or brainwashing if you want. People just lost the ability to think for themselves. The only people you could ever meet were people from the church because you became so wrapped up in it. Even now I still don't have many friends. I have had to rebuild my life completely since I left the church," said Mr Akshar.

He explained why the church had chosen to look for converts in Camberley. "At the moment they are focusing on what they call 'white, sharp' people in places like Epsom and Camberley who are in good jobs and earn good money. That way they can get more funds for the church," he added.

Mr Akshar said members of the church who had managed to "escape" were left with serious psychological problems. Three former members were in mental homes and others suffered from severe eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia.

Mr Akshar explained how the cult worked. "What they do is to offer friendship first. They keep coming round or ringing you up to see how you are, and then they start inviting you to meetings. They keep on until you attend and then once you start going to meetings that's it. They take over your life."

Marriage outside the church was forbidden and relationships with members of the opposite sex were discouraged unless approved by church authorities.

"They target primarily students, the young who have no purpose in life. They latch on to them and tell them they have to seek Christ and follow his words. Then they bombard them with good news and about how wonderful the church is and what it can do for them - they call it 'blitzing'," said Mr Akshar.

"People are told that if they leave the church they will go to hell and they will be 'lost' to Christ."

Mr Askhar said the church tried to control every aspect of members' lives - including sex. "I knew one married couple who had to 'report back' after they'd been on honeymoon. The church wanted to know how many times they had sex and all those sorts of details. They wanted total control of their lives," said Mr Akshar.

Mr John Partington, press spokesman for the London Church of Christ, was unavailable for comment as the "Mail" went to press and was not expected to be available until tomorrow.

But the Rev Christopher Russell, Minister of Camberley Baptist Church, said the cult should not be confused with the Churches of Christ, which was a respectable church operating in both the US and Britain.

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