Working to educate the youth

Doug Harris, member of the <a href="http://www.reachouttrust.org/">Reachout Trust</a>, explains the

My job, simply put, is to convince as many people as possible that cults and occult practices are potentially dangerous. It's obviously not your typical nine-to-five gig. Recalling my childhood daydreams of what I would do when I grew up, this certainly wasn't even on the list.

Just how I got to this point began in the early 1980s when Reachout Trust was born, initially to “reach out” and provide help to local people who had suffered as a result of their being involved with one cult or another. However, in just a few years we had expanded geographically and also philosophically. We ultimately realised that we needed to help those still involved in occult practices.

The creation of Reachout Trust drew responses from a few young people who realised that they needed to be free from the spiritual powers that had trapped them, and could achieve that freedom by turning to the greater power of the God of evangelical Christianity.

Since then, the work of Reachout Trust has often been maligned as being negative and hopelessly idealistic, but we maintain that what we do is positive; we help people find a better life. Also, what some people consider idealist rhetoric is actually some very sound advice that has helped many people. Nevertheless, there are an increasing number of young people today, who do not or will not accept this.

At first, this rejection was perplexing. We were, after all, trying to help them, but all they wanted to do was criticise and contradict us. However, over the years we have come to understand why young people are often hard to reach. Throughout their largely secular and media-influenced lives, they have not received any clear Biblical Christian education. They have instead been bombarded, or at least showered, with various aspects of the occult and other do-it-yourself religions. How can they understand and accept a message that has not been on their radar during their formative years?

Keep in mind that we are not accusing parents of falling asleep on the job. Starting in primary school nearly everyone warns his or her children about with stranger danger and the risks associated with playing near railway lines. As children grow the dangers of drugs and promiscuous sex become relevant. All this amounts to one big list of prohibitions, a list of what not to do. Yet is this advice perceived as negative? Certainly not! Then why shouldn’t we, in a similar vein, share information on the dangers of the occult, which can also yield negative consequences?

Unfortunately, such a warning is seen as too religious, and is discarded in favour of a more liberal stance on youthful experimentation. Most young people, however, do not content themselves with just a small dabble into the occult. They start to wade in to the excitement, intrigue and mystical paths that are explained in magazines, TV interviews and, of course, the Internet.

This is the struggle that Reachout Trust has been increasingly facing for the past 25+ years. It certainly isn’t going to get any easier and as long as society continues to label our efforts and intolerant and conservative.

Should we give up? Certainly not; that is the worst thing we can do. We will adapt to the situation in which we find ourselves, speak with a reasonable and considerate voice, make clear well-constructed arguments and continue to educate all those who will listen on the dangers of the occult. We will, in the same way, seek to show that there is a far safer way to experience spiritual enlightenment: through the tried-and-tested beliefs of the abundant life in the Jesus Christ of evangelical Christianity.

Felipe Araujo
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Hull revisited: What happens when a Brexit stronghold becomes City of Culture?

We report from Hull, to find out if you can replace the kind of nostalgia that led to a Leave vote with cultural investment.

At 75 metres long, the offshore wind turbine blade erected across Queen Victoria Square, in the heart of Hull, is a sculpture intended to mark a new chapter in the city’s history. For the next 12 months, Hull, a city of more than a quarter of a million people in the northeast of England, will be the UK’s City of Culture.

The 28-tonne blade hails from the local Siemens plant. The German technology company employs around 1,000 people in the area, making it Hull’s biggest single employer.

Seen up close in this context – laid dormant in the middle of a town square instead of spinning up in the air generating energy – the structure is meant to remind passersby of a giant sea creature. It is also, I’m told, an allusion to Hull’s rich maritime history.


All photos: Felipe Araujo

Nostalgia is a big thing in this part of the country. At one point, Hull was the UK’s third largest port but technology and privatisation drastically changed that. The battle over cod fishing with Iceland in the waters of the North Sea 40 years ago has also dealt a major blow to a region with a long and proud trawling tradition.

People here still talk about a bygone era when the fishing industry provided jobs for everyone and there was enough money to go around.

Fast forward to 2017, and the country’s new capital of culture is the same city that voted 67 per cent in favour of leaving the EU last June. Its new-found prestige, it seems, is not enough to erase years of neglect by a political class “too busy for commoners like us”, as one resident puts it.

“More than a message to Brussels, it [the Brexit vote] was a message to Westminster,” Paul Leeson-Taylor, a filmmaker born and bred in Hull, tells me. “For the first time in a long time people in Hull felt like they had the chance to change something, and they took it.”

But while speaking to people on the high street and hanging out with locals at the Community Boxing Club in Orchard Park, one of the city’s most deprived areas, there is one word that consistently popped up in conversation – more than any specific policy from Westminster or the much-hated rules “dictated” by Brussels. Foreigners.

According to official figures, Hull’s population is 89.1 per cent white British. Still, immigration is big on people’s minds here.

During my two-day stay in the city, I find myself being the only black person in most places I visit – I’m certainly the only black guy at the boxing club. So when someone begins a sentence with “I’m not racist but…”, I know a tirade on immigrants is about to ensue.

“There are just too many of them,” Nick Beach, an estate agent whose Polish clientele is a big part of his business, tells me as he is about to teach a boxing class to local children. Beach was born in Shepherd’s Bush, in West London, but has been living in Hull for the last 20 years.

“When I go down there these days and go into Westfield shopping centre, it is very rare you get an English person serving you now,” he says. “I just find it disappointing that you go into your capital city and you are a minority there.”

These are the much-discussed “left behind”, a white working-class community that has gained particular prominence in a time of Brexit and Donald Trump. Under economic pressure and facing social change, they want to have their say in running a country they claim to no longer recognise.

For Professor Simon Lee, a senior politics lecturer at the University of Hull, immigration is only a superficial layer when it comes to explaining the resentment I witness here. For him, the loss of the empire 70 years ago is still something that as a country Britain hasn’t come to terms with.

“The reason for us to be together as a United Kingdom has gone, so what is the project?”

As destiny would have it, a foreign company will now play a major role on Hull’s economic future, at least in the short term. In the wake of the Brexit vote, there were widespread fears Siemens would pull out of the region and take its factory elsewhere. With the massive blade looming large in the background, Jason Speedy, director of the blade factory in Hull, assures me that isn’t the case.

“The Brexit decision has made no difference. We have made our investment decision, so Siemens, together with the Association of British Ports, has put in £310m. It’s all full steam ahead.”

As Hull becomes the country’s cultural hub for the next few months, the hope is that its residents stop looking back and start looking forward.

For Professor Lee, though, until there is a complete change in the power structures that run the country, the north-south divide will remain – with or without the EU. “The way you kill nostalgia is to have something new,” he said. “The reason why people here are nostalgic is because there is nothing to replace it with.”

Felipe Araujo is a freelance journalist based in London. He writes about race, culture and sports. He covered the Rio Olympics and Paralympics on the ground for the New Statesman. He tweets @felipethejourno.