It's a good feeling to be wanted or to feel you belong. It's flattering to be asked to join a group.
At university you'll get lots of invites to all sorts of clubs and groups. Most rely on your free choice but others will use persistent and pressurising methods to win you over.
Among the clubs and groups you'll find a range of faith groups. Some are UH societies affiliated through the SU, others are not.
Choosing a faith group is an important decision in your life while you are at uni. The Chaplaincy can offer support and information to help you make an informed, free choice about such groups.
On campus and on-line there are sometimes religious groups using high-pressure tactics.
WHY ARE THEY SO HARMFUL?
- They can isolate you from your friends and family
- They may encourage you to give up control of your life, thoughts and decisions
- They tend to focus on guilt and shame
- They may promote crises with your studies, your career or your personal relationships
- They may frighten you to the point that you stop making your own decisions and asking questions for yourself
HOW CAN YOU IDENTIFY THESE GROUPS?
Just take a look at the group's responses to you and how you feel. If you can answer 'yes' to any of the three statements below, you should seriously consider your involvement and ask for help:
- The group seems to be perfect. Everyone agrees and follows all orders cheerfully
- The group claims to have 'all the answers' to your problems
- You are asked to recruit new members soon after joining
- You are made to feel guilty, ashamed and unworthy as a person
- The group encourages you to put their meetings and activities before all other commitments, including study
- The group speaks in a derogatory way about your past religious affiliations
- Your parents and friends are definded as unable to help you with religious matters
- Doubts and questions are seen as signs of weak faith. You are shunned if you persist in these doubts
- Leadership is mostly male and men in gerneral are believed to have different rights and abilities to women
- You are invited on a retreat with the group but they don't say where it is
THEY MAY EXPLOIT THE FOLLOWING -
You are hurting:
- Your friends have left you out of a party
- You've just had an upsetting phone call with your family
- You are grieving over a person or relationship
You are having a tough time socially:
- Everyone seems to have a partner for a big social event except you
- It's the same endless cycle of study, dinner, sleep
You are having problems with your studies:
- You feel a failure because you haven't passed one or more modules
- You are under pressure to improve your grades, from yourself or your family
- You are embarrassed because you have never failed anything - until now
Remember your feelings can be put in proper focus and dealt with. They can however make you vulnerable if not addressed and they make you attractive to high-pressure recruiters, especially religious ones.
YOU CAN TAKE STEPS
- Talk to someone you trust who is not a member of the group, such as a long-standing friend, lecturer, parent, counsellor or a chaplain
- Don't be afraid to question and don't accept evasive answers
- Don't be afraid to make a stand
- Learn to say: 'No thanks!'
- Be self aware: are you vulnerable?
- Think before you go to a meeting: how many people will be there? Are you comfortable with that?
- Contact the Chaplaincy (email@example.com) or Student Wellbeing (firstname.lastname@example.org) to ask for help or advice
Do not give your address or mobile number to anyone unless you are sure of who they are and what they want. You may receive unwanted calls and visits. Being cautious and looking after your own safety is not being rude.
WHERE CAN YOU GET HELP?
If you want to talk about your faith life and ask questions, then talk to somone with broad experience and understanding. At UH we have a number of Chaplains from different faiths you can contact who will listen and help.
Use the AskHerts app - search for 'Chaplaincy'
Reverend Fiona Souter, University Chaplain
Mobile 07702 442 696 (Office hours only)
Social media: @uhchaplain