Ex-Wheaton students flee what they call 'definitely evil' cult

Chicago Sun-Times/March 25, 2004
By Cathleen Falsani

Several former Wheaton College students have escaped from a small, physically abusive cult controlled by a fellow student at the prestigious evangelical Christian college, according to the deprogrammer who helped them regain their freedom.

The deprogrammer, Bob Pardon, a former pastor and founder of the New England Institute of Religious Research, a clearinghouse for cult information in Massachusetts, said the former Wheaton students had been living communally in Maryland and Texas with Feroze Golwalla, 40, the Pakistani-born cult leader who recruited them while he was a graduate student at Wheaton in the early 2000s.

Golwalla, who is believed to be living in Texas and could not be reached for comment, ran the Parsee Missionary Team (also called Baruch Ha Shem), an evangelization ministry to the Parsee people of Iran. He lured students to him with that ministry and a planned mission trip to Pakistan, Pardon said. But those seemingly pious relationships took a bizarre turn.

Contacted Wednesday by phone, one of the former cult members, Carrie Andreson, declined to comment. However, earlier this week, Andreson, who met Golwalla while they were both students at Wheaton, and other former members told the Boston Herald newspaper that the cult leader treated them sadistically, pulling out clumps of their hair and beating them mercilessly.

While living with other cult members in a one-room basement apartment in Maryland, Golwalla forced Andreson to beat other members, kicked her to the ground and threw a book at her head, and once, as a punishment, made her lick a filthy bathroom floor, she told the paper.

"It was definitely evil," Andreson told the paper. "It was so isolated. That basement was my whole life, and Feroze was my god."

Golwalla has been charged with assault in Maryland. There is a warrant for his arrest.

Two other former members -- twin brothers, one a Wheaton student and the other at Harvard University -- escaped Golwalla's group last summer and went to live in August at Meadow Haven, a rehabilitation facility Pardon runs in Massachusetts. Andrew Wolfe, 24, completed the rehabilitation program Wednesday, Pardon said. His brother, Benjamin, a Wheaton graduate, left last week. Neither could be reached for comment.

But according to the Boston Herald story, the twins said they were subjected to brutal beatings by Golwalla for several years after meeting him at Wheaton in 2000.

"I spent hours and hours applying ice to fat lips, cuts. I got whipped so many times that I couldn't feel it anymore," Andrew Wolfe, who graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in 2001 and met Golwalla while visiting his brother at Wheaton in 2000, told the paper. "It was just monstrous."

Several of the former members and their families are considering suing Wheaton College, which they blame in part for failing to protect the students from Golwalla, Pardon said. Pardon claims the cult leader's master's thesis was actually written by Andrew Wolfe and that the college is aware of it.

"What does someone have to do to have their degree taken away?" he said. "He uses [Wheaton's] institution, in the degree that he has from [them] as a character reference, lending him credibility."

A spokeswoman for the college declined to comment, citing privacy concerns, but she did confirm that Golwalla received his master's degree from Wheaton in 2001.

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