Throughout August, a group belonging to the World Mission Society Church of God, a sect of Christianity originating from South Korea, has been preaching their belief in “God the Mother” to female-presenting students on the University of Saskatchewan campus.
While faith-based groups are known to promote their beliefs on campus, students have issued complaints with Protective Services citing that the WMSCOG missionaries use “aggressive” tactics. The group is said to abruptly approach students to ask if they are familiar with “God our Mother,” after which they use scripture to prove that there is both a male and a female god figure.
Rachel Adams*, a student in the college of arts and science, was about to take the bus home when she was approached by a group of women belonging to the WMSCOG. She explains that she felt uncomfortable with the interaction and pressured by the group to continue listening.
“To have a group that is kind of public awareness that’s being aggressive with people — and it’s female students that are being personally picked out — that’s disappointing to me,” Adams said.
On Aug. 15 and 25, posts made on USask Confessions about the WMSCOG had a number of people commenting about the controversy of the group being a “doomsday cult” and discussing how this group may endanger young women.
Caroline Cottrell, University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union general manager, commented on the Aug. 15 post, noting that she and the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union are aware of the group’s presence.
“The staff of the USSU are well aware of this group in Place Riel, and we have both informed them that they may not conduct their missionary work in the building and have had Protective Services speak to them and provide them with the same message. If you are approached, please let one of our staff members at the reception desk know or call 966-5555,” Cottrell said in the post.
The USSU Space Rental Policy specifies that “groups and individuals may not aggressively solicit or approach students,” as it is deemed harassment. In addition, the policy states that “respect for divergent points of view is expected at all times.”
The Sheaf asked a missionary from the Church of God who had been doing outreach on campus to respond to the concerns brought up by students, but the individual declined an interview.
Jennifer Thoma, media relations for the U of S, explained that Protective Services only escorts people off campus when a complaint has been issued that they can respond to.
For Isabelle Snow*, a student from the college of arts and science, the faith group approached her only, although she was with a group of male-presenting students, while she was waiting at a crosswalk.
“They were aggressive and persistent. I had no time for their shit, and they recognized that, but still, my interaction with them went on far too long and was very uncomfortable,” Snow said.
Snow had read the posts on USask Confessions the night before this interaction and knew that other students had reported the WMSCOG group. Snow phoned Protective Services after encountering the same people on campus in several different locations.
“I saw them in Place Riel, the Arts Tunnel and in Health Sciences,” Snow said. “This was in a period of maybe 5 to 10 minutes, so they were actively looking for women on campus. I saw them approach several women who were alone… They swarm around and get into your personal space. They continue to follow you and try to convince you even when you politely decline.”
*To respect the privacy of the individuals interviewed, their names have been changed.
Nykole King / Web Editor
Graphic: Jaymie Stachyruk / Graphics Editor