A woman who spent 15 years in the “cult”, where she married 60,000 other people to a stranger during a mass ceremony, says she was “manipulated” by the church.
Yolande Brener, 58, from Windsor, joined Unification Church (UC) at the age of 25, claiming she had been lied to by the organization, which told her “falsehoods” to convince her to join the religious group to close.
She told This Morning today that she could only sleep three hours a night, that she had to fast, that cold water was thrown on her back, and that she begged her days on the street for money, or that she tried to persuade people to join the group.
After marrying a stranger at a huge ceremony in South Korea, two-year-old Yolanda spent another two years in a dormitory with other brides because the religion doesn’t allow the couple to have sex years after the ceremony.
Yolande Brener (photo below), from Windsor, 58, appeared on This Morning today to speak about her 15 years as a member of Unification Church (UC)
She said she joined at age 25 and claims the organization lied to her, who told her “things that were not true” about her relatives recovering from an illness
She said, “I feel that when I speak about this, people want me to speak to church. I think I have been manipulated. It was my choice, eventually I was vulnerable and looking for answers. ‘
“I was told things that were not true. I was told that if I dedicated my life to God, my relative would recover, I was told the world would change in three years, I was told I would have eternal love. Sometimes I had to do things that I was uncomfortable with. ‘
In 1981, at the age of 17, Yolande moved to the art school in London and after graduating began a film about the human soul, where she met several members of the Church.
She said, “A close family member suffered from a mental illness and it deeply affected me. I wanted to find an answer. The man I was in love with didn’t work, I reached what I call a quarter life crisis and I wanted to answer. ‘
Known for its massive weddings, the Church teaches a unique Christian theology. It has caused a lot of controversy and the members are usually ridiculed as ‘Moonies’. Pictured, one of the mass marriages of the Church
What is the Unification Church (UC)
The Unification Church is a religious movement founded in 1954 in Pusan, South Korea by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon.
Known for its massive weddings, the Church teaches a unique Christian theology.
It has caused a lot of controversy and the members are usually ridiculed as ‘Moonies’.
According to Moon, the world is created from God’s inner nature, which is reflected in the ‘double’ expressions of life (causal, masculine) and (resulting, feminine).
The purpose of creation, Moon believes, is to experience the joy of love.
Controversy around the church led to congressional hearings, and in 1982 Moon was convicted of tax evasion.
His supporters, including many prominent Church leaders, saw the process as an example of religious persecution by the government.
In 1994, on the 40th anniversary of the Church’s founding, Moon announced the creation of the International Federation for World Peace, which fulfilled many of the functions previously held by the Church.
Source: Encyclopædia Britannica
In July 1990, she interviewed a man named Andreas, who worked at the Church’s Principle Life Study Center in London, and soon began studying the workings of the religion.
Yolande said she initially felt happy after finding the church, giving up worldly possessions such as clothes and books – but admitted that there were “difficulties” from the start.
She said, “At first I felt hugged and happy. I was in an unfortunate situation, many of my decisions failed.
“When I gave up responsibility, I gave up my clothes, read my books, and thought everything would be all right.
“At first I was very happy, I felt I had found the answers and found something bigger.”
The Unification Church is a religious movement, founded in Pusan, South Korea, by the Venerable Sun Myung Moon (photo) in 1954
She added, “There were difficulties from the beginning, I wasn’t supposed to speak to someone who wasn’t in church, my friends or family.”
In February 1991, the church sent her to New York after friends and her ex-boyfriend tried to convince her to leave the church.
“I had much more control,” she said, “I couldn’t sleep more than three hours a night. I had to go out to beg for money or to bring people to church. ‘
She later added, “There were conditions of fasting, conditions of cold showers. I had to throw 120 buckets of water on my back. There were times when people beat me for dreaming something bad against me.
“I don’t disagree with the church, but I agree that people are kept under such strict rules.”
In July 1992, she was told that the church had found a match for her, a man named Gabriel, 28, from Ecuador, and that she would be married soon during a mass ceremony.
It was a very surreal experience, “said Yolande,” I was excited and scared. I didn’t know my husband at the time, he seemed like a serious person, but not a bad person.
“I hadn’t had contact with a man in two years, and we hadn’t been able to marry for two years.”
In 2002, mother-of-two Yolande escaped from church after her husband left her, and in 2006 the couple were legally separated
She told hosts Holly Willoughby and Philip Schofield (both in the photo) that she was able to leave the church on her own accord and was shunned by other members
She added, “When you hear 60,000 people say ‘yes’ to the vows, it was exciting, it was frightening. Some people seemed happy, some tried to run and then came back. It was a very mixed experience. ‘
For the next two years, the couple would occasionally meet at religious events and exchange letters before finally having sex in 1994 after their church elders allowed it.
In 2002, mother-of-two Yolande escaped from church after her husband left her, and in 2006 the couple were legally separated.
She explained that she could leave the church on her own accord, but was avoided by other members. However, she was contacted to ask if her children would go to study.
She added, “I would be devastated if my kids entered some kind of cult because it keeps people from doing what they want to do.”
A spokesman for the Church said: “We conclude that all charges of washing the mind and controlling the mind are unfounded. We are saddened that Miss Brener tries to take advantage of her own shameful accusations. ‘