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Members of secretive religious cult open up after leader, convicted of sexual abuser Neville Cooper, aka Hopeful Christian dies – Life in a sect where women are sexually abused and forced into marriage

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Founder of secretive religious cult where women are abused and forced into marriage dies leaving behind a shocking legacy of abuse
Australian evangelist Hopeful Christian, formerly Neville Cooper, founded Gloriavale Christian Community in South Island, New Zealand, died Tuesday afternoon after a protracted fight with cancer
Cult leader ‘Hopeful Christian’, ultimately was convicted for ‘indecent assaults’ against a young woman in 1995, serving 11 months in prison based on his activities in the controversial, reclusive sect
He died aged in his 90s, and leaves behind a legacy of sexual abuse 
Former members of the reclusive community say they suffered while there Former members of the cult  have
Women they claim, faced submission, domestic servitude and fear of eternal damnation and hell, inside the cult
One ex-member, Yvette Olsen says she was sexually abused by Christian three times when she was 19,
For Olsen Hopeful Christian was ‘a dirty old man,’ full of ‘lies’ who  had ‘unbridled lust’
Neville Cooper, aka, Hopeful Christian 3.png.jpgHopeful Christian, formerly known as Neville Cooper, was the founder of Gloriavale Christian Community

With the death of a secretive religious cult leader who was convicted of sexual abuse , the lid has been opened on a mind numbing legacy of abuse and coercion in the commune he founded in New Zealand.
Hopeful Christian, who was born Neville Cooper before changing his name, was an Australian evangelist who founded Gloriavale Christian Community – a controversial and reclusive cult on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. He died on Tuesday afternoon.
Christian was in his 90s and had been suffering from prostate cancer, when he died, the New Zealand Herald reported.
Former members of the cult  have claimed women inside the cult faced submission, domestic servitude and fear of eternal damnation and hell.

Neville Cooper, aka, Hopeful Christian 2.png
Christian who served 11 months in prison in 1995 on sexual abuse charges, had been suffering from prostate cancer. He was in his 90s by the time he died

Christian founded the community in 1969 after moving from Australia with his wife Gloria, and was known as the ‘overseeing shepherd’.
In 1995, he spent 11 months behind bars for sexual abuse.
One of his victims, Yvette Olsen in 2015 ,said she was sexually assaulted by Christian three times. She was 19 at the time.
Olsen went to court to have her name suppression lifted after two decades in order to deliver a confronting message on TVNZ to the residents of Gloriavale, a small New Zealand commune.
Christian who she called a ‘dirty old man’ who had ‘unbridled lust,’ was full of “lies” and a thirst for “absolute power”.
Olsen who said she was inspired to speak after her niece, known only as Julia, spoke out about being the victim of a “wrong relationship” with an adult married man when she was a child, also revealed that id Christian had tried to break her spirit, forcing her to call herself a “harlot” after she became involved, aged 16, with a 14-year-old boy at Gloriavale.

The women of Gloriavale prepare meals 1.png
Women in sect were sentenced to a life of servitude and abuse
Yvette Olsen 1.pngYvette Olsen [photo], said she was sexually abused by Christian three times when she was 19

Christian faced three charges of indecent assault stemming from 1984, when the 19-year-old Olsen, then a member of the community testified that she was penetrated with a wooden object.
Christian argued that the Olsen was given the object and told to use it on herself as a means of ‘therapy’.
About 550 people live in Gloriavale, who follow a strict interpretation of the New Testament.
Women are considered to be subordinate to men within the cult – forced to wear headscarves, alongside loose, full-length blue dresses, high necklines and long sleeves.
A report on the controversial Christian sect by the government’s Charities Services unveiled a multitude of claims made by 11 former members and unearthed disturbing allegations of abuse, forced marriage and imprisonment.
Five female Gloriavale defectors claimed they were the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of the same alleged offender, with suggestions a sexual predator may be lurking within the community.

Elijah and Rosanna Overcomer .jpgFormer sect members Elijah and Rosanna Overcomer [photo] were evicted from Gloriavale after questioning leader Christian over his conviction for sexual assault on young women.

A former member of Gloriavale said most of the families living in the secretive community are unaware of their leader’s sex abuse conviction and believe he was jailed for preaching the gospel.
Elijah Overcomer was evicted from Gloriavale after questioning leader Christian over his conviction for indecent assault on young women.
“Most people in there believe that it’s because he was preaching the gospel. So everyone says, ‘oh, evil people put him in jail because he preached the gospel’,” Overcomer told said in a 2015 interview.
“Most people would not have any idea, and if you told them why he went to jail [they would say], ‘you’re a liar, you’re just accusing our leader’.”

Gloriavale members follow a strict interpretation of the New Testament.png
Gloriavale members reportedly,  follow a strict interpretation of the New Testament.

About 550 people live in Gloriavale, who follow a strict interpretation of the New Testament.
Two women from outside Gloriavale also claim they were victims of sexual assault by the same alleged offender.
Gloriavale spokesman Fervent Stedfast said the sexual assault allegations and suggestion a sexual predator lived within the community were ‘nonsense’.
Lilia Tarawa 2.png26-year-old Lilia Tarawa, [photo, left], grew up at Gloriavale and is the granddaughter of Hopeful Christian.
Lilia escaped the cult’s oppressive rules and now lives in the outside world.
She relives being openly mocked by Christian after receiving a school report praising her leadership qualities.
Tarawa said she was actively encouraged not to speak out in the repressive community
‘My grandfather read it aloud at dinner and mocked me in front of everyone,’ she remembered. ‘He called me ‘bossy’ and said we didn’t want bossy women in the community.
‘I was humiliated and still struggle with a lack of self worth sometimes today because of that.’
From there, things only got worse for Lilia, who witnessed a boy ‘being belted with a metal strap by a teacher’ at her community-run school.
‘Old-fashioned corporal punishment was encouraged.
Those memories are hard, but I shared those stories because it’s when I started to think ‘this isn’t right’,’ she explained.
While she knew that things weren’t right, Tarawa was actively encouraged not to speak out in the repressive community.
Children were lower than women in the hierarchy, and everyone was made to share everything – whether it was meals, prayers or breastfeeding.

Lilia Tarawa baptised 1
Lilia Tarawa [centre], grew up at Gloriavale and is the granddaughter of Hopeful Christian. Today she lives in the ‘outside world’ having escaped the cult

Meanwhile, young girls were married to much older men in arranged marriages.
‘I couldn’t speak out,’ Tarawa said.
‘Your whole life is lived in fear of hell and damnation.’
On another occasion from her childhood, Lilia Tarawa admitted to stealing rolled oats, after her charismatic grandfather told the community that it was better to speak out than stay silent and be damned.

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Various shades of blue: Regimented and standardized clothing was the norm for both men and women

‘Granddad reminded us of the consequences of stealing. “If your hand or foot causes you to sin then it’s better for it to be cut off than have all your limbs and be cast into everlasting hell fire”,’ she recalled.
‘I wanted to ignore my conscience but the guilt was too much. Condemnation festered in my soul. If I didn’t cleanse myself then I’d be damned to eternity with Satan… I’d rather look like an idiot now than lose my salvation.’
For members of the community, apparel was prescribed.  The standard clothing, for the women long, blue dresses and often cover their hair with scarves, while men have to wear neckties, dark blue pants and light blue sleeved shirt.

The life of women in Gloriavale 3.png
Women seen in their regulation headscarves, wearing loose, full-length blue dresses with high necklines and long sleeves

At the age of 16, like many of the women in the 90 families inside the Gloriavale community, Lilia made a vow to her grandfather during her commitment ceremony.
She promised, like others, that she would submit to males, look after her home and remain ‘meek’, ‘modest’ and ‘pure’.
Ironically while the cult leader indulged his penchant for abusive behavior, he young women at their commitment also renounced adultery, divorce, birth control and abortion.
‘Gloriavale told me that I wasn’t allowed to have sex with anyone until I was married,’ the leader’s granddaughter said.
‘In fact, it wasn’t until I escaped the cult later and had sex for the first time, that I was finally broken free from the religious chain.
Lilia Tarawa says: ‘I realized I wasn’t going to go to hell for having sex. That was the beginning of my freedom.’
Eventually, the Tarawa family left Gloriavale for good, at which point Lilia broke free from the religion which had defined her childhood and embraced the modern world.

 

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