Lowell Menorca says he fears persecution from the Iglesia Ni Cristo. They say his claims are 'fabrications''
By Eric Rankin, Gavin Fisher, CBC News Posted: Jun 14, 2016 2:00 AM PT Last Updated: Jun 14, 2016 10:52 AM PT
A Filipino man has applied for refugee status in Canada claiming the lives of his young family have been threatened by members of what he calls a "cult-like" Christian church in the Philippines — and he alleges to CBC News he's still being stalked in Metro Vancouver.
Lowell Menorca, 39, a former un-ordained minister in the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC), or Church of Christ, brought his allegations to the CBC in his first major English language interview.
His case has generated headline news coverage in the Philippines.
Iglesia Ni Cristo is the third largest faith in the Philippines after Catholicism and Islam, and it has hundreds of churches around the world, including many in Canada.
The INC preaches these are "the last days," and only its members will be saved. According to the church's doctrines, to be expelled means losing your salvation.
Menorca says the INC expelled him after a split developed among descendants of the man who founded the church. He says he was suspected of being an anonymous blogger who had accused INC leaders of overspending and corruption.
Menorca believes the leadership has wasted vast amounts of money on things such as a private Airbus jetliner (since sold) and the construction of the Philippine Arena, the biggest covered stadium in the world, built to celebrate the INC's centennial in 2014.
He alleges he was illegally detained by Church officials, arrested by police and then hit with more than 40 lawsuits for libel for speaking out about his alleged treatment from the church.
"This is an orchestrated effort by the church to intimidate me," says Menorca, "to put me behind bars, ultimately to silence me."
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Claiming religious persecution is often the basis for refugee status and this time, that persecution is coming from a church that claims to be Christian and of course, denies being a cult.