Several Boston University students have reported encounters with solicitors from the World Mission Society Church of God, a group that was recently and falsely accused of involvement with human trafficking in Kent, Ohio.
Kent State University’s Undergraduate Student Government tweeted on Feb. 12, warning students of “a potential sex trafficking scam in the Kent area that involves people posing as preachers of ‘God the Mother,’” a common expression among members of the World Mission Society.
A screenshot of that tweet was posted in the Official Boston University Class of 2020 Facebook group on Wednesday, and several students commented that they had been approached by individuals talking about “God the Mother” on BU’s campus.
Multiple sources have dispelled the rumor that the church is involved in sex trafficking.
According to the Record-Courier, a newspaper based in Kent, Ohio, Kent State University Community Resource Officer Tricia Knoles said no evidence indicates that WMSCOG is involved in sex trafficking.
“They are an established religious organization,” Knoles told the Record-Courier. “We have found no credible ties with any kind of human trafficking.”
Knoles’ statement was confirmed by Kent City Police Lt. Michael Lewis in the same Record-Courier article.
Katherine Cornetta, BU’s assistant to the Dean of Students, wrote in an email that allegations against WMSCOG preachers on BU’s campus have so far only been unconfirmed rumors.
“At this time, the people doing this along Commonwealth Avenue are not believed to be connected to any sex trafficking ring,” Cornetta wrote. “We understand how that rumor began, but it is not the case with these particular solicitors.”
WMSCOG missionary Victor Lozada said he believes that the rumors spread through social media are a danger to the members of his church.
“People automatically believing social media, they assume the worst,” Lozada said. “Now [our members’] lives are being affected by this. Our members almost got pepper-sprayed a while ago. I almost got ran over by a car the other day.”
While no evidence exists to link the church to human trafficking, several students still reported uncomfortable experiences with individuals preaching about “God the Mother.”
Several of the students who commented on the Facebook post in the BU group recounted their experiences with the WMSCOG missionaries for The Daily Free Press.
Erich Engelhardt, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, said he once agreed to talk to one of these individuals out of curiosity, but grew uneasy with where the conversation led.
“After about ten minutes, our conversation ended with him saying that I had to get baptized again,” Engelhardt wrote in a Facebook message. “He told me that if I came with him it could happen tonight. I told him I couldn’t, and he then got a little pushy. He finally conceded and let me go after giving me his number.”
Samantha Sajdak, a sophomore in the College of General Studies, said two women, possibly posing as graduate students, approached her while she was walking to class and pressured her to attend a Bible study.
“There was just something off about these girls,” Sajdak wrote in a Facebook message, “so I just said I was late for class and almost ran away and texted my friends that I think I was just invited to join a cult.”
Paige Pajarillo, a senior in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said a persistent solicitor approached her late at night and also invited her to a Bible study.
“I said I wasn’t interested, and she aggressively began talking again, telling me that I need to learn about God/Jesus and that I should come to this meeting,” Pajarillo wrote in a Facebook message. “She was incredibly insistent about going to this meeting.”
Pajarillo said she thinks BU should make sure all students are aware of the solicitors.
“I was lucky since I had no desire to go to their meeting in the first place, but what could have happened if I was a religious person who was interested in going?” Pajarillo wrote. “If I knew to be on the look-out in the first place, I would have definitely been alarmed/concerned about this situation.”
Cornetta wrote that if students are approached by “God the Mother” preachers, they should report it to Marsh Chapel, the Dean of Students Office or the BU Police Department, whose phone number is on the back of every student’s Terrier Card.
Though no evidence exists that links the World Mission Society Church of God to a scam for sex traffickers, Cornetta wrote that students should still be cautious of all solicitors on campus.
“This is not the first time a group like this has targeted campus,” Cornetta wrote. “Given that BU is along a large, long, public thoroughfare, these groups find us an attractive place to solicit. As always, we encourage students to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings.”
CLARIFICATION: In her quote in this article, it was implied that Samantha Sajdak talked to two women from the World Mission Society Church. Sajdak said she doesn’t know if the women were, in fact, from this organization.