The young people speaking out against the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God | podcast

In Finsbury Park, north London, an old theatre building has been taken over by a church. It is covered with a logo containing a heart and doves and it has four letters on it: UCKG. The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God is an evangelical Christian organisation. For years, as she often walked past the branch, the Guardian’s Maeve McClenaghan was intrigued by it.

Then one day, out of the blue, she got an email from a former member asking to talk. It set off a reporting project and led to interviews with dozens of ex-followers who were ready to speak out.

She tells Nosheen Iqbal about the disturbing nature of what those young people described. Maeve heard stories of teenagers feeling under pressure to donate large amounts of money. Others felt obliged to cut ties with friends and family, or were told that demonic possession was the reason for their mental health issues or sexuality. Many were just desperate for someone to listen to them.

The UCKG told the Guardian it took allegations and complaints “very seriously” but that the complaints had not been raised directly with it and that without specific details it could only respond to the Guardian’s questions “in general terms”. It said no one was obliged or put under pressure to give money, and “no prayer, strong or otherwise, is ever promoted as a replacement for medical or any other professional help”.

Rachael Reign standing in front of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God help centre in Finsbury Park, London.

Photograph: Teri Pengilley/The Guardian

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