IN THE NAME OF THE LORD: Cases of church members who ceded their lives to their religious leaders and paid a high price.
Name of Church: Catholic Church
Church leader: Pope Francis
Criminal Charge: Rape of thousands of children by their local reverends, bishops and arch bishops dating back several decades and still on-going. Some priests have been tried and convicted while several others accused of sexual abuse were/are simply transferred from one parish to the other.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Church in various lands have paid millions of dollars in settlements to victims of sexual abuse.
And plan by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to vote on a referendum this November on how to hold bishops responsible for failing to protect children from sexual abuse in the church was postponed by the Vatican which claimed that there was need for a coordinated approach to address the festering problem at a conference coming up in Rome February 2019.
However, the world has been waiting endlessly for that coordinated response from the Vatican for decades.
The nagging question: Where were the parents of these children during these abuses that lasted decades? Did they cede their lives and those of their children to the Catholic priests?
2. Country: South Korea
Name of church: Manmin Central Church. 133,000 members and 10,000 branches and associates worldwide. Church website claims their leader miraculously heals people with various diseases including AIDS and Cancer.
Church leader: Jaerock Lee
Criminal Charge: Rape of eight female followers after telling them he was carrying out “an order from God.”
Court records stated that the victims, who attended the church since childhood, believed that obeying Lee as a godlike figure is the path to HEAVEN. Apparently, the victims were psychologically positioned to be powerless to disobey Lee, and Lee took advantage of their status to commit the crime.”
The records further stated that, “The victims believed him (Jaerock Lee) to be a divine being who wields divine power.”
Therefore, “They would have accepted Lee’s behavior as a divine act, rather than a sexual one, and gave up questioning him, thinking that it would constitute a sin.”
Conviction: Jailed for 15 years on November 22, 2018.
3. Country: South Korea
Name of church: Jesus Morning Star
Church leader: Jung Myung Seok
Criminal charge: Rape of young and attractive female followers as part of a purification ritual. Pictures of female members were often brought to him to choose from and his choices were presented to him as gifts for sexual purification.
Conviction: Jailed for six years.
4. Country: USA
Name of church: Peoples Temple
Church leader: James Warren Jones
Criminal Charge: Sexual and physical abuse of both male and female members. When the heat became too much for him in the USA, he convinced his followers to come with him to an estate he built in the jungle and called Jonestown in the South American country of Guyana. There, the followers became his prisoners and sex toys. When a US Congress man was sent to go and investigate the crimes committed in the camp, he was killed along with some members of the sect that indicated interest to go back to the United States.
Before the American government could to take any action against Mr. Jones, he convinced all 909 inhabitants in the camp, inclusive of 304 children to commit what he called a “revolutionary suicide” by drinking a grape flavoured drink laced with cyanide.
5. Country: USA
Name of church: Branch Davidians
Church leader: David Koresh
Criminal charge: Sexual abuse of members including minors, single and married women. He claimed he had a revelation from God to father 24 children by women within the sect. These children were to serve as ruling elders during the millennium reign after the return of Jesus Christ.
US authorities besieged the sects’ settlement in Waco Texas and asked that they disband. After 51 days of tense and failed negotiations, security officials moved in resulting in the death of 79 members of the sect inclusive of 22 children and Mr. Koresh.
6. Country: South Africa
Name of Church: Jesus Dominion International.
Church Leader: Pastor Tim Omotosho, a Nigerian based in South Africa.
Criminal Charge: 97 charges of trafficking of girls and women from various branches of his church to a house in Kwa-Zulu-Natal, where they were allegedly sexually exploited. One of the alleged victims who testified in court said that,
“Pastor Omotosho often quoted the psalms and threatened God’s anger if she did not comply as he repeatedly raped her a year after she joined his church as a child.
Another alleged victim said in an interview to a South African newspaper,
“We were made to believe that Omotosho was the closest person to God and we can never have a relationship with God but only through him. We were actually pushed to please him. We were told that God will punish us if we ever say anything against pastor Omotosho. We lived a life full of threats and fear.”
Legal Status: Trial is on-going in a South African court.
IN THE NAME OF THE LORD: Cases of church members ceding the lives to their religious leaders.
7. Lagos, Nigeria
Name of church: Christian Praying Assembly.
Church Leader: Chukwuemeka Ezuego aka Reverend King.
Criminal Charge: 6-counts charge of Murder and attempted murder. He was involved in several cases of physical and sexual abuse of his followers.
Conviction: Sentenced to death. Sentence has been upheld by the Supreme Court and he currently awaiting execution. Some of his followers are still talking reverentially about him till date.
This case was close to home as the church in question was a stone throw from my former residence in Ajao Estate Lagos. We often heard the unbelievable stories of the members being flogged for coming late to church. Amazingly, during trial, Rev King was quoted to have said,
“I am a preacher. I know that the spirit of witch craft is against the Almighty God. If somebody is a liar, he is bewitching God. I don’t condone a lie. Dr King does not condone a lie. Dr King does not condone sin. I flog a lot. I have canes. If a husband and a wife mess up by having misunderstanding, I have to settle them. But the person at fault, I must flog. If he refuses to be flogged, I will send him or her out of the church.”
8. Sometime last year, Ahmed Isah, founder of Brekete reality talk show featured on Human Rights Radio Abuja, treated the case of a minor who was taken by her parent to a pastor for purification from “bad spirits”.
The pastor ended up sexually abusing the girl repeatedly under the guise of cleansing her with “holy spirit” until she became pregnant. It was in the process of pressurizing her into securing an abortion that the case blew open.
Part 2, which will be published tomorrow, will examine a few ways Nigerians are ceding their lives to their pastors intentionally and unintentionally.
Sources of stories: Washington Post, Reuters, BBC, news24 and many others.