Contentious Christian group hosting world peace summit in South Korea

(Photo: SCJ website)

Shincheonji's 12 tribes with each one named after one of Jesus's 12 apostles.

A Christian religious group in South Korea that has been accused of being a cult is hosting the World Alliance of Religious Peace (WARP) Summit from September 17-19 in Seoul.

The Shinchonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony (SCJ) has organized a world peace summit to bring together world leaders, major religious figures, and political activists.

The WARP website says the summit is being organized in the "hope of creating a platform for dialogue between community leaders on national, cultural, spiritual, and ethnic levels."

SCJ dubbed the event as "the biggest peace-event the world has seen."

International delegates have signed up for the event, but recently more and more are having second thoughts.

"We didn't know the chairman of the peace summit is accused of being a cult leader who claims to be immortal," a Muslim participant of the event told The Korea Observer on his arrival at Incheon International Airport Tuesday.

SCJ is a religious group founded by Lee Man Hee in 1984.

The churches within Shincheonji are organized into 12 "tribes" each named after the 12 apostles of the New Testament.

SCJ claims that it is the nation of God and it was created to "fulfill what is heaven on this earth in today's time."

PD Notebook, an investigative journalism program in South Korea reported that SCJ makes its followers believe that leader Lee Man-hee is immortal. Lee denied the claims, saying that it is God who will determine his immortality and not him.

Shincheonji's organizational and bureaucratic structure has also been criticized as it resembles that of the North Korean regime.

Reports say that families have been destroyed and many students were encouraged by the movement to drop out of school and suspend their education.

The world summit organized by SCJ has successfully invited former heads of state of Romania, Croatia, Kosovo, Ecuador, Peru, Nepal, Mongolia, South Africa, Jordan, Argentina, Armenia, and Albania. The group also claims to have the Grand Muftis of Egypt, Macedonia, and Kosovo.

"Without fail, every leader we have spoken with has pledged themselves in support of our cause, demonstrating their desire to be a part of HWPL's work through a signed agreement of solidarity," Lee says in his greetings message on the organizers' official website.

The event was advertised as the World Peace Festival. But to Koreans, it is known as the SCJ 6th National Olympiad, an event held every four years to coincide with Lee Man Hee's birthday on September 15.

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