Like many suburban couples, Raphael and Patricia Azariah work and study hard, raise their children and attend church every Sunday.
Their religious beliefs, however, have thrust the parents of two into controversy – because they are members of the Agape Ministries Church.
Yesterday, the couple spoke to The Advertiser to refute “cruel and malicious” claims they promised their daughters in marriage to older men.
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They further denied accusations they allowed the girls, aged eight and six, to undergo firearms training. The couple detailed the persecution they have suffered in the wake of police raids on Agape properties that netted guns and ammunition.
“Now I have lost my job – we have no employment and no income, and I’ve lost all that work as a result of what one can only describe as malicious lies.”
The police raids, in May, triggered an avalanche of speculation about Agape Ministries.
Detractors claimed Leo told his parishioners the world would end after microchips are implanted into everyone by the end of 2012.
Mr Azariah’s mother, Lesley Baligod, told reporters her son and daughter-in-law had “betrothed” their children to much older men in the church.
Yesterday, Mr and Mrs Azariah spoke in the presence of their lawyer, Craig Caldicott, and two fellow church members.
Mr Azariah – whose chosen last name means “the Lord is my helper” – joined the church in 1993.
He said there was no truth to any of the allegations.
“Agape Ministries has never been a doomsday cult,” he said.
“It has never been preached, in our church, that the world is going to end. That’s contrary to our beliefs, and to the Bible which says God has established the Earth forever.
“I do not believe the world is going to end, and definitely not in 2012.”
He said “disgruntled former members of the church” had taken that concept “from movies and the Mayan calendar“.
“And I’ve never heard anything about an island in Vanuatu,” he said.
Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday July 1, 2010.
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