Kenya’s Catholic bishops have expressed disgust at a “starvation cult” and called for stiffer regulations in creating religious groups, after at least 73 bodies were exhumed from mass graves in the Khakahola forest, in the east of the country. Source: Crux.
The bodies, including children, are believed to be members of a Christian cult whose leader had manipulated them into believing that if they starved themselves to death, they would meet Christ.
“It is very unfortunate that we are witnessing a worrying reality in the country where so-called prophets and cultic leaders have mastered the art of exploiting gullible Kenyans in the name of religion,” the bishops said in an April 25 statement.
They asked how Pastor Paul Mackenzie’s church could have been “allowed to perpetuate its dangerous doctrine for such a long time, leading to the loss of so many lives with the state security machinery completely unaware”.
Mackenzie, a controversial preacher at Good News International Church, indoctrinated his followers to abandon “earthly life” and go to his 800-acre farm in Shakahola village for a fast “to meet Jesus.”
According to Kenyan police, the pastor advised his followers to stop mingling with anyone from the “outside” world if they had any desire to go to heaven. They also were required to quit their jobs, abandon their education, destroy all documents given to them by the government such as IDs and birth certificates, and come together for fasting.
On April 13, the government authorised a rescue operation after two children reportedly starved and suffocated to death on March 16 and 17. On March 23, Mackenzie was arraigned in court, but was released after the payment of $US74 in bail.
The police search at the site led to the exhumation of more bodies – 73 have been exhumed so far – but the Red Cross says at least 112 other people are still missing, implying the death toll could rise.
“Religion cannot be and should not be the cause of people losing life,” said Archbishop Anthony Muheria of Nyeri on Citizen TV.
Kenyan bishops call for tighter religious regulations after ‘starvation cult’ deaths (By Ngala Killian Chimtom, Crux)