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7News Spotlight: July 2

Europe correspondent Sarah Greenhalgh investigates religious group Providence, and hears from women who escacped its grip.

7NEWS Spotlight this Sunday features an investigation into a dangerous ‘religious’ group, known as Providence, and hears true stories of the women who escaped a dangerous cult.

“We’ve been investigating this cult for six months and it has led us across Australia, to the US and South Korea,” said correspondent Sarah Greenhalgh. “When we started, we knew there were serious allegations of coercive control and various forms of abuse, but we had no idea just how sinister this organisation is. What we’ve uncovered now involves the sex trafficking unit of the Australian Federal Police.

“Providence was founded in 1978 by self-professed ‘messiah’ Jeong Meong-Seok (JMS). The group claims to be a Christian religious movement with more than 40,000 Korean members and a presence in more than 70 countries including Australia. The ‘churches’ we’ve visited in Melbourne and Sydney are just like those in South Korea – there’s no signage, no lists of services, certainly no standard, ‘open door’ church policy. Instead, the faithful meet behind frosted glass, using secret pin codes for access.

“Providence is a cult. And the impact it has had on so many young women’s lives is enormous.”

They were two young Aussie women, enticed by faith and friendship, welcomed into a community made to feel safe and loved. But things quickly changed.

This week, in a 7NEWS Spotlight global investigation, for the first time the chilling true stories of the women who escaped a dangerous cult.

Branded as a religious movement, Providence has been operating in Australia since 1997, and is accused of recruiting young women in local shopping centres and universities then brainwashing them to travel to South Korea to become spiritual brides of a convicted rapist.

Spotlight has uncovered allegations of sexual assault, sex trafficking and brainwashing by the outfit which is registered as a charitable organisation in Australia.

7NEWS Europe correspondent Sarah Greenhalgh this week joins the 7NEWS Spotlight team and, in a world first, travels deep inside the secretive cult compound in South Korea to confront the leaders.

7:40pm Sunday on Seven.

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