Secretive Sect in Crosshairs After Coronavirus Spike

      February 27, 2020 12:45

      The secretive Shincheonji sect, which became a hotbed of coronavirus infections in Daegu, was until recently proselytizing in Wuhan, China, where the epidemic began.

      The sect earlier claimed its church in Wuhan had been shut last year, but a YouTube channel whose Korean name can be translated as "Eschatology Office" said on Wednesday that it obtained a transcript of a sermon from the sect's Busan branch, which manages missionary activities in Wuhan.

      According to the transcript, the head of the Busan church said on Feb. 9, "You know about Wuhan pneumonia. Our district church is there. More than 700 people have died in China, while there are more than 30,000 confirmed cases. But not even one of our disciples has been infected. If we stand firmly by our beliefs, God will protect us."

      Followers respond with a resounding "Amen."

      Officials put up a notice shutting down a Shincheonji church in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province on Wednesday. /Yonhap

      Members of the Busan branch visited the memorial altar at Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 of the older brother of the pastor of the Shincheonji sect. Eight members of the sect's branches in Busan and other southeastern cities signed the visitors' list, and 47 members volunteered to help out at the funeral.

      But a Shincheonji staffer told the Chosun Ilbo, "It's true that the Wuhan church was closed down last year. The head of the Busan branch got carried away and said the wrong thing."

      The sect's estimated 200,000 members often hide their affiliation even from friends and family members. They believe that their pastor, Lee Man-hee, is the Second Coming and gets his messages directly from God.

      Its full freight-train name is Shincheonji Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony.

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