The World Mission Society Church of God denied being involved in a sex trafficking syndicate.
Lesley Damons, spokesperson for the church’s Observatory head office, said a report in a weekend newspaper, which does not name the church, has damaged its credibility.
She said the church does volunteer and Bible study work at universities including the University of Cape Town (UCT) and Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s (CPUT) District Six and Bellville campuses.
Students reported on Stellenbosch University’s (SU) MatieMediasite, that they had been approached by a Christian organisation to talk about “God the Mother” and to encourage them to join their organisation.
The weekend newspaper report also had students saying they were surrounded by church members who were persistent to get information.
Ms Damons said her organisation does not surround students and force them to give their information.
She said whenever any of their church members approach students, they say who they are and where they’re from and introduce their beliefs.
“If they listen and are interested, we exchange contact details and we ask them where they want to meet and we also tell them where our office is,” she said.
SU spokesperson, Martin Viljoen, said the university was aware of articles in student media and social media posts doing the rounds of suspected sex-trafficking associated with a religious grouping called the World Mission Society Church of God which is known for advocating the idea of “God the Mother”.
“Allegations that the group is associated with human trafficking seem to be around for a good number of years especially in America, but as far as can be determined such allegations lack credibility and seems to be fake news,”said Mr Viljoen.
He said there has been no complaints laid at SU structures of any abductions or reports of sex-trafficking though he has cautioned students to take the necessary safety precautions as human trafficking is a reality in many parts of the world.
Hawks spokesperson Captain Philani Nkwalase said they have no records of an incident of human trafficking involving the SU students and the church.
Provincial police spokesperson, Captain FC van Wyk also said there was no record on the matter.
The church communications officer, Kusile Kewana said their student members were being victimised by other pupils when they evangelised either on campus or on the streets.
Ms Kewana said church members who worked in academia were also being stigmatised by students.
She said the organisation’s reputation had taken a knock, but they wanted to assure the public that they were still committed to doing volunteer work and sharing the word of the Bible.
The church, which was formed in South Korea over 55 years ago, has over three million members, with over 7 500 churches in 175 countries. It has been in the country since 2004.
Ms Damons said they worked in partnership with various organisations to uplift the community.
CPUT spokesperson, Lauren Kansley said the campus was aware that the church group did campus clean-ups and Bible studies, though the activities were arranged among themselves and not in relation with the university. She said the church was not an official CPUT affiliate.
Councillor Mark Kleinschmidt, whose office has interacted with the members of ASEZ, the church’s youth division, in upliftment projects, said they had always been professional.
“My interactions have been cordial and at no time did I notice anything untoward, or anything to bring the organisation into disrepute,” he said.