Media Reports on the Bonn UBF chapter
Translation of an article published on 8/23/2002
by the German newspaper “Bonner General-Anzeiger”
“He has a totalitarian power position”
Public prosecution department investigating the leader of the Bonn “University Bible Fellowship” – kindergarten teachers, neighbors and members report on neglected and beaten children
By Dagmar Blesel
Bonn. Somewhat hidden, but still noticeable among the commercial buildings lies the giant bungalow. On the main and side entrances, signs: University Bible Fellowship. Behind the walls, Korean and German members of the student organization, University Bible Fellowship (UBF) meet frequently.
Meeting place for UBF members in Bonn is, among others, this bungalow. The leader of the religious community moved to that house a few months ago. Picture: Malsch
The leader of the Bonn UBF is the Korean Peter Chang. And the public prosecution department has been investigating him since the fall of 2001 on charges that he did bodily harm to others.
According to the words of Andrew Schäfer, cult commissioner [the cult commissioner has the official task to observe and inform the public about cults] of the Protestant Church in Rhineland, Chang is regarded as a “hardliner between UBF loyalists and reformers of UBF.” Schäfer claims that Chang has a “totalitarian power position” in the Bonn UBF.
Already in the 80s, rumors had spread of UBF members neglecting their children. The youth welfare department had been informed, says Schäfer, and there had also been investigations. The results of the investigation, however, are not known. The youth welfare department knows very well about UBF, as a spokeswoman for the City government assured us on Friday. The youth welfare department stated that “Preventive measures” had been taken against the group.
On the Internet, Schäfer reports, reform-minded members of UBF have made public for a while what has allegedly been happening behind the walls and unknown to the broad public up to now Regarding the reports, the cult commissioner says: “I consider them all credible because the ones leveling the accusations are by no means desiring to take revenge for the things they left behind, but they have a sincere desire to reform UBF from within.”
On the Dortmund UBF homepage [Dortmund is a reform UBF chapter] a woman writes: “M. Peter teaches the children … with violence. When the child (meaning her own son) was whimpering in front of the door, he beat the child’s feet the entire evening until the child was exhausted and fell asleep on the floor. He (Chang) said that doing this he wanted to lead the child into submission, because the evil spirit was expunged that way by him.”
She continues: “The first son of Jakob and Sara … very often banged his head against a wall out of boredom when the parents left him alone at home.” That reportedly came to the attention of the neighbors, who then filed charges with the police.
Andrew Schäfer is cult commissioner of the Protestant Church in Rhineland. Picture: GA
The City government has confirmed that the police had been informed a couple of times about the child neglect – the parents being busy with worship services, Bible studies, meetings and writing testimonies.
A police spokesman told the General-Anzeiger that citizens had told an officer that Bonn UBF children were not dressed according to season. In winter, the children ran around outdoors barefoot or in short pants.
Kindergarten teachers also confirm this sort of neglect. They noticed that up to one or two years ago, children from UBF came to school in dirty clothes for an entire week. When a child once came to the kindergarten very sick, the kindergarten aides tried to contact the parents without success.
Later, Chang was reached [they tried to contact the parents, but they could only contact Chang], and “after repeated pushing,” the child was taken home two hours later. It has become better lately, but the kindergarten teachers still speak of behavioral abnormalities among the UBF children: “They are screaming, aggressive.”
Neighbors of UBF members noticed this, also: “The children are intimidated, stunted in their development.” The neighbors saw with their own eyes how children in the garden “had to stand at attention for 20 minutes, while Chang was watering the lawn.” A girl once told them with tears how “Grandpa Peter” had beaten her hands with a stick.
The Kindergarten teachers also report beatings. According to them, the stories of the children are “absolutely credible. They told so many details.” Among the details, parents supposedly said that a disobedient child has to be beaten. Physical signs of violence on the children, however, were not found.
On the subject of violence, the [Dortmund] UBF homepage states [in an ex-member’s testimony]: “M. Peter cares for the children of all coworkers in many ways. Then again, because of this, the children learn to obey him more than his parents.” When he [the ex-member] rebuked his son to not hit his sister on the head, he [the son] simply answered that M. Peter allowed him to give the girl clouts on the head when she was disobedient.
On the current status of the prosecution in progress, the public prosecution department did not want to give a statement, “for investigation-tactical reasons.” Similarly Chang’s lawyer, Stefan Hiebl, said: “I have no comment.” And the Korean himself was not available for an interview with the General-Anzeiger. Repeated ringing of the doorbell on Thursday evening was not answered, even though light and noise could be perceived from the bungalow. “He’s not here right now,” a female UBF coworker said, as she was cycling to the center.
The history of UBF
In 1961, Samuel Chang Woo Lee and the American Sarah Barry founded what later became the University Bible Fellowship (UBF, or “Universität-Bibel-Freundschaft” in Germany) in the South Korean city of Kwangju as an evangelical student movement.
UBF was founded with the rationale that a spiritual alternative should be offered in the environment of increasing student demonstrations. The worldwide headquarters of the UBF is in Chicago, USA. After a first reform attempt in the year 1976, a split occurred in UBF, according to information provided by Andrew Schäfer, cult commissioner of the Protestant Church in Rhineland.
Since 1969, this group has existed in Germany, also. Founded primarily by Korean nurses who evangelized among fellow Korean nurses in the beginning, UBF has been active in campus recruitment at many German universities since 1978 – one of the locations being Bonn.
According to information provided by Schäfer, UBF is continuing to recruit – despite a ban on entering the buildings – at the “Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität” in Bonn . A university spokesman stated, however, that they did not notice UBF recruiters on the campus recently. The spokesman stated that two years ago the university decided not to provide rooms for UBF meetings on campus.
At that time, the conference of college rectors (HRK) had warned in a circular about the “bible-fundamentalist group, University Bible Fellowship, recruiting on university campuses.” The HRK also spoke of UBF as a “worldwide cult-like group”.
The beliefs of the UBF
The UBF claims that basis of their beliefs is the Bible. “We believe that the Bible is the Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit. We believe that the Bible represents our standard of faith and behavior. We confess the Apostolic Creed.”
According to information provided by Andrew Schäfer, the cult commissioner of the Protestant Church in Rhineland, no appreciable dialog exists between the UBF and Christian churches. Through their “shepherds,” UBF consciously looks to gain personal-intimate access to recruits, or as they are called in the UBF jargon, the “sheep.”
The UBF practices one-to-one Bible studies. The group claims: Everybody is a pupil, everybody is a teacher. Schäfer believes that the one-to-one Bible study employed by UBF is potentially dangerous. Their division into “shepherd” and “sheep,” according to the conference of college rectors, holds the danger of dependency, at least for insecure recruits such as university students during exam periods.
According to Schäfer, this “hierarchical organization” of “shepherds” leads to a situation of the “sheep” blundering into a system that eventually exercises power over them. Also, an important part of the activities of this group is the sharing of “sogams” – a kind of personal Bible interpretation, mostly a confession of guilt, which is delivered publicly in groups. Another important practice in the lives of the members of UBF is the marriage of group members by arrangement.
Translation of a follow-up article published on 8/30/2002
“Children thankful for beatings”
Serious allegations against the leader of the Bonn University Bible Fellowship, Peter Chang – youth welfare department sees “no need to act yet” – Public Prosecution to hear Chang
By Frank Vallender
Bonn. They spent their time alone in a room, had to do homework with empty stomachs right after school before they were given what was left over from the adults to eat, and even had to be thankful for being beaten with a stick.
Michael Küsters, a 25 years old student in Bonn, was a member of the Bonn University Bible Fellowship (UBF) for three years and brings serious accusations against its director, the Korean Peter Chang.
“He does not lead a faith community, but a personality cult,” Küsters says. Members of the so-called UBF reform call him “Satan” who is bringing disaster to UBF, as can be read on the Internet at “www.voy.com/60734/”. On the German UBF reform web sites there are shocking reports of the conditions in Bonn UBF.
As reported, the public prosecution department began in October of 2001 to actively investigate the charges against Chang, that he did bodily harm to others. Especially, children were reportedly suffering under his brutal education methods.
Küsters: “The duty of the parents was to break the will of the children, so they could learn obedience. ‘The children need that,’ Chang said, who was called Grandpa by all the children.”
Those who cared too much for their children were considered “family-centered” and had to repent. Küsters: “‘God cares for our children,’ they said.” Chang’s own sons reportedly even thanked him for giving them beatings in the UBF assembly.
Michael Küsters is one of the few ex-members who openly and honestly criticize the methods of Bonn UBF. Others are more timid in this respect: Because almost all the female members are slaves to Chang, their husbands who are willing to criticize or leave UBF are “in a very difficult situation.”
If they criticize Peter Chang openly, the “Servant of God,” as Chang calls himself, threatens them with divorce from their wives. This is because UBF members do not have normal marriage lives, but “have to love the Servant of God more than their own husband/wife.”
Peter Chang, who once even called himself “God,” as another UBF member testified on the Internet, is a small, stocky man who initially makes a jovial impression on new recruits, according to Küsters.
Chang supposedly studied Pharmacy and comes from Korea, “which is certainly the reason for his methods of punishment.” However, even Korea is said to have outlawed corporal punishment in schools two years ago.
The youth welfare office has not intervened yet, even though kindergarten staff who care for UBF children reported UBF to the City government. “But so far, the youth welfare office sees no reason to act,” as a spokeswoman for the City government said.
Nevertheless, the City government is “in contact with the public prosecution department and the police. Next week there will also be a consultation with the kindergarten.”
On the Internet, an author encourages especially the women of Bonn UBF: “Please go to the police and tell your story!” But their submission towards Chang is tremendous.
This is because, according to Küsters, “he [Chang] makes every member promise to lay down their own necks [lives] for him, even in cases where Chang gets into trouble with the law.”
The student [Küsters] once witnessed how UBF members delivered such a written testimony of faithfulness [towards Chang] before their marriage ceremony. The public prosecution department will hear Chang’s response to these allegations soon. Chang himself cannot be reached by telephone, and his lawyer is currently on vacation.
Translation of yet another follow-up article published on 10/8/2002
“Be unobtrusive and don’t stand out negatively in public any more”
Public prosecutor is waiting for an explanation from the director of the Bonn “University Bible Fellowship”
by Dagmar Blesel
Bonn. In the preliminary proceedings against Peter Chang, director of the Bonn “University Bible Fellowship” (UBF), public prosecution is still waiting for an explanation from the Korean. The investigation on suspicion of bodily harm done has been ongoing for almost a year.
He [Chang] is under suspicion of having abused children in the form of punishments. Kindergarten workers had reported strange behaviors and beatings. They said, however, that they did not see physical marks of violence (the General-Anzeiger reported).
“The investigations are going on,” said Fred Apostel, a spokesman for the public prosecution department. In the meantime, another witness – a former UBF member – has reportedly made incriminating statements against Chang and his group, according to the district public prosecution authority.
According to information given to the General-Anzeiger, there has recently been a quarrel between Chang and his lawyer, Stefan Hiebl. “The mandate has expired,” Hiebl said on request. He did not want to say whether it was he or Chang who ended it. The Bonn UBF director could not be contacted.
Also, many UBF members have apparently gone into fearful hiding. Dropouts are only occasionally voicing criticism on the Internet now. “Be unobtrusive and don’t stand out negatively in public” – this is apparently the motto of the UBF for the moment. This impression is also comfirmed around the organization’s building – at least during the last few days, it has been completely quiet: there are no bicycles parked there as before, no students around anywhere.
Chang, as the General-Anzeiger has discovered, cooperates with Kaleb Hong more and more. Hong, leader of the UBF Heidelberg, was appointed to be the Germany and Europe director of UBF recently. Therefore, as insiders believe, the UBF headquarters in Cologne/Bonn might be transferred to South Germany.
(with kind permission of the “Bonner General-Anzeiger”)