19 Feb 2016

American evangelists export biblical literalism to Africa triggering murderous homophobia and child sacrifice

AlterNet - May 10, 2011

How American Evangelism Triggered the Murder of Gays Overseas

By Valerie Tarico, Away Point

Christian extremists in Uganda’s parliament are hoping that hunger and high gas prices will provide the cover they need to finally subject gay men to punishment of biblical proportions. They have introduced a bill, up for vote on May 11, that seeks life imprisonment for gay sex and, for repeat offenders, the death penalty. Last year, similar legislation was averted by international outrage. President Museveni was afraid of losing valuable aid dollars, and after outcry arose across the West, with Barack Obama calling the law “odious,” Museveni prevented the bill from coming to a vote.

Stopping the bill was insufficient to save the life of one Ugandan, David Kato, who was beaten to death with a hammer in January. Kato was Uganda’s most outspoken gay rights advocate and had received many death threats before he was killed.

In the winter months before his death, one newspaper ran a front page photo of Kato with an anti-gay rant and a banner urging “Hang them.” Last spring I traveled in Mozambique, where a full-page article in a local paper interspersed Bible verses, exhortations to spiritual living, and similar anti-gay vitriol. Although leading fundamentalists like Albert Mohler appear increasingly resigned to “tolerance” here at home, across Africa the marriage of Christianity and homophobia appears to be thriving—thanks in part to an American tendency to take our outdated wares and social movements overseas.

Two years ago, I wrote an article that asked, “If the Bible Were Law, Would You Qualify for the Death Penalty?” It described some of the thirty six causes for capital punishment listed in the Good Book, including cursing parents, witchcraft, being raped (only within the city limits), adultery, and of course, homosexual sex. Mercifully, even the most old school American Christians seem to ignore the Bible on these points. But one of the unfortunate consequences of Americans exporting biblical literalism to developing countries is that people in those countries take the Bible literally – including the parts we all, missionaries included, wish they wouldn’t. In Nigeria, American Pentecostalism has fused with local animism and resulted in children being beaten and burned as witches, just like the Bible prescribes.

In Uganda, American evangelism may be similarly responsible for Kato’s death and the proposed law. In March 2009, frustrated by their inability to block the gradual inclusion of gays in the universal human rights umbrella at home, Evangelical leaders traveled to Uganda and led incendiary workshops seeking to increase Ugandan fear that gay men are a threat to straight marriages and children. It would appear that Uganda’s already fractured and restive society is reaping what the American missionaries have sown: further contention and violence.

“I don’t want anyone killed,” said Mr. Schmierer, one of the Evangelical leaders who traveled to Uganda two years ago. “But I don’t feel I had anything to do with that [Kato’s death].” Many evangelicals, those who see the Bible as literally perfect, find it almost impossible to imagine that the Bible itself could be responsible for inciting violence or that those who preach biblical inerrancy could be complicit in that violence. And yet other Christians, those who see the Bible as the imperfect record of the imperfect struggle of our spiritual ancestors, find this causal chain quite plausible. According to theologian Thom Stark (The Human Faces of God), the biblical record attributes divine sanction in places to some of the worst of Iron Age impulses, including human sacrifice. Unless we understand those writings in their human context we are bound to glorify passages that instead should teach us about the darkness in the human spirit. And glorifying human darkness puts us at risk of enacting it.

It is troubling that of the many offerings that might have been carried to Africa by American Christians in the service of the Great Commandment, what has been carried instead are seeds of homophobia that produce fear, hatred, and death. It will take many voices raised together to reverse the damage done. I hope those voices will be raised this week (petition here) and again next year, and for as many years as are needed until Uganda’s gay community can live in love and peace.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light. Founder of WisdomCommons.org.

This article was found at:


Child sacrifice and other atrocities ignored by believers who consider the Bible the source of morality

Nigerian children's rights advocate harassed and arrested before he could give evidence to Commission of Inquiry into Witchcraft

Liberty Gospel Church members assault children's rights activists at meeting to end 'child-witch' atrocities

Witch hunt: Africa's hidden war on women

African Children Falsely Accused of Witchcraft

Persecuting the African child

Abuse of child 'witches' on rise, aid group says 

Children are targets of Nigerian witch hunt

Widespread human rights violations are taking place on a daily basis against Nigeria's so called child "witches"

Protecting the Akwa Ibom Children of Nigeria From Ritual Abuse

Nigerian State Governor warns churches against labeling innocent children witches

'Child-witches' of Nigeria seek refuge

Saving Child Witches: A Nigerian Perspective

Child sacrifice and ritual murders rise in Uganda as famine looms

Uganda’s epidemic of child sacrifice

Uganda: Muslim women ask parliament to convene special session on child sacrifice, ritual murders

Spiralling acts of bloody child sacrifice in Uganda linked to West African prosperity cult

UGANDA: Church leaders want action on ritual killings of children

Angolan police rescue 29 children accused of witchcraft

Tanzania: 13-year-old albino boy killed for body parts sold for use in witchcraft

Pastor held for locking up 'child sorcerers'

Young girl murdered after being accused of witchcraft


  1. Kibwetere is Uganda’s most wanted man

    By Vision reporter, New Vision Uganda March 17, 2012

    Ugandan cult leader, Joseph Kibwetere who masterminded the tragic inferno in which 1000 people died in early 200, is still Uganda's most wanted man.

    Kibwetere led the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God cult movement.

    Heis still wanted in connection with the tragic death of 1000 people who perished in an intentionally set fire at the group's church compound in Kanungu.

    Kibwetere's is believed to have fled the compound as soon as the church went up in flames.

    Government has maintained that police is working with Interpol to track down Kibwetere and his accomplices

    Kanungu tragedy – March 17, 2000

    On 17 March 2000 about 1000 people were burnt to death in Kanungu, Rukungiri (now Kanungu) District.

    Those who were burnt belonged to a religious cult calling itself the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments, popularly known as Kibwetere cult, led by Joseph Kibwetere, Credonia Mwerinde, Angelina Mugisha, Fr. Joseph Kasapurari and Fr. Dominic Kataribabo.

    At first it was assumed that the Kanungu massacre was mass suicide by the members of the cult who were convinced about going to heaven through fire but later it was established that it was planned and executed by the cult leadership.

    The victims of the inferno included children too young to make independent decisions.

    Before dust could settle after the Kanungu tragedy, it was discovered that many more people belonging to the same cult had died and been secretly buried in other camps outside Kanungu including Bushenyi and Buziga near Kampala.

    By the end of March the death toll of the cult members had risen to about 1000 people. The Kanungu tragedy and its aftermath invariably generated national and international concern.


    Joseph Kibwetere was a primary school teacher by profession and at one time an Assistant Supervisor of Schools in Mbarara Catholic Diocese.

    He had about 16 children including 3 he had got outside marriage. He was recruited by Credonia Mwerinde together with two other women, Angelina Mugisha and Ursula Komuhangi.

    The cult leader ordained ‘bishop’ of the cult Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God in 1991. He was Mwerinde’s right hand man. He separated with his wife in 1992.

    Credonia Mwerinde was born in Kanungu at Kateete, Nyabugoto, the place where Kibwetere’s camp was situated. (She donated her father’s land at Kateete as the cult’s base) Mwerinde became a key figure in the cult’s leadership and was put in charge of all programmes.

    She was known as the ‘programmer’ among her followers and religiously as ‘Ekyombeko kya Maria’ (the Virgin Mary’s structure). She was believed to represent a message from the Blessed Virgin Mary.

    The Cult’s Doctrine

    The whole cult revolved around a belief that some people were talking with God through visions and had received warnings from the Blessed Virgin Mary about the end of the world by the year 2000 (apocalypse).

    The followers were not supposed to go to hell if they strictly followed the cult (The Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God).

    For the devout Christians the whole concept of ‘okubonekyerwa’ (getting heavenly visions) was very appealing.

    The cult talked of the doomsday. According to their former preacher, Martino Nuwagaba, they preached as far back as the Easter of 1992 about how on that "last day" snakes as big as wheels of tractors and big blocks of cement will fall from heaven onto the sinners.

    They preached of three days of consecutive darkness that will engulf the whole world and how only their camps were supposed to be safe havens, something reminiscent of the biblical Noah's Ark.

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    It is said that even sealing the church doors and windows by nail before setting the church on fire was to create that darkness situation that was a prelude to the apocalypse.

    They promised their followers that when all this happened, everybody would perish except their followers and that whatever remained on earth would be theirs alone and that they would then start communicating directly with Jesus.

    Followers believed in this so much so that they considered themselves the most privileged people on earth.

    Characteristics of the cult that enabled it do what it did

    Leaders warned the cult members about the end of the world and the visions.

    The cult and its leaders violated human rights (the right to education, health, property, marriage, freedom, speech, parenthood, childhood, etc.).

    The leaders rarely recruited close relatives or neighbours.

    They separated families, including children, and took them to different camps in a new environment where they would not socialise easily.

    They used to erect fences around their buildings/camps. The fences would be opaque enough to prevent those outside from seeing what was happening inside.

    They created total detachment between their followers and the society around them.

    Producing children and having sex among followers even between spouses were strictly forbidden.

    Leaders instilled too much fear among their followers.

    It relied on deception, prophecies and lies through selective readings of the Bible. The Bible was usually read out of context.

    Apart from the leaders, other members of the cult were not allowed to talk. They used signs to communicate among themselves and to their cult leaders.

    They had a tight day's schedule that kept the followers extremely busy so that there was virtually no time to discuss, not even in signs.

    They tried to keep within the law and be close, very friendly and generous to the authorities, which helped them to avoid any suspicions from the state.

    They usually travelled at night so they could not easily be noticed even by neighbours.

    They did not own their own transport/vehicles. They usually hired vehicles to travel, they were therefore not easy to identify.

    They used to command all followers to sell all their property and bring all the proceeds to the cult leaders.

    They used to burn property under the pretext that the Blessed Virgin Mary was annoyed with the owners.

    They created a property-less and helpless society of followers who became totally dependent on the cult and had nothing to fall back to.

    They fully exploited the general view among Ugandans that religious people are always innocent, humble, harmless and peace-loving which helped them plan and carry out mischief and crimes without being detected at all.

    Cult members got completely detached from their 'non-believer' relatives. Therefore the latter could not follow, know or detect what was going on in the cult camps.

    All cult camps were terminus so that there would be no passers-by.


  3. Mission From God: The Upstart Christian Sect Driving Invisible Children and Changing Africa

    By Josh Kron, The Atlantic Apr 10 2012,

    In a 2007 Invisible Children event at San Jose State University, hundreds of people thronged to experience a full-entertainment night, beginning with a Christian rock group, then a Christian dance troupe, then Invisible Children, the movie.

    "Millennial generation, there is something about the way we think and see the world," Randall Wong, a blogger and a Christian student club leader who helped organize the 2007 university event, wrote days after Kony 2012 came out. "As Christians, we need to look beyond what's going on in our little circles, but actually go out and do something."

    Their Gospel message got more creative, blending political advocacy with song and dance. It didn't always seem to work.
    To promote the organization's 2006 Global Night Commute campaign, Invisible Children filmed a comedic and at times self-deprecating musical featuring Russell and his two co-founders dancing and singing, in a style reminiscent of a Michael Jackson video, in a high-school gymnasium to get people excited about the Ugandan conflict.

    In the music video's story, Russell and the two others fire lasers out of their hands at suspicious youths, turning them into rainbow-clothed, line-dancing converts to the cause. "We're on a mission to put Uganda deep inside your mind," they sing. "It needs attention and a dance to make it sparkle and shine." The chorus intones, "We're on a mission to change the world."

     "Romans 12," Russell told me in explaining his worldview on faith and missionary work. "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world."

    It's a "stealth movement flying beneath the radar that's changing literally thousands of churches around the world."
    It worked. However unlikely, Russell was creating a movement. In 2006, Invisible Children mobilized about 80,000 people, mostly youth, across over 100 American cities, according to the organization's statistics, for the "Global Night Commute" campaign. In 2007, they mobilized 68,000 in 15 American cities for their "Displace Me" campaign. In 2009, they led a rally called "The Rescue" in 10 worldwide cities, mobilizing 85,000 people. In 2011, a campaign called "25 and Break the Silence" attracted 90,000 participants at 18 events across the U.S.

    In Washington, D.C., Invisible Children held three different lobbying events over the years, bussing in more than 3,000 young Americans to meet with congressional representatives considering anti-LRA legislation. The law passed. On May 24, 2010, President Obama signed the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act.

    "They are a movement-building organization," said Sarah Margon, a former staffer of Senator Russ Feingold, who spearheaded the anti-LRA legislation. "Young active Americans who took up the LRA issue were essential in getting the LRA on the foreign policy agenda of senators, and frankly the President of the United States."

    From its tours and screenings at schools, churches, and other organizations, Invisible Children recruited scores of teenagers and young adults driven by a sense of idealism, particularly young Christians. Many of them took on jobs and later leadership positions in Invisible Children while staying in touch with their alma maters.

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    As of the Kony 2012 video release, senior officers of Invisible Children who are affiliated with Christian entities or identify strong Christian backgrounds include: national tour coordinators, lead graphic designers, the "director of ideology," on-the-ground Africa programs officers, finance officers, communications staff, all of the founders, and most of the Board of Directors -- one of whom himself leads an Emerging church in San Diego that Russell and his colleagues sometimes attend.

    Russell has rebuked long-running criticisms that Invisible Children feeds off emotion to gather support.

    "Our goal at Invisible Children is not to guilt you into doing something, because we don't believe guilt does much except makes you cry, and then you give your money, and then you feel bad and go to Starbucks," Russell told students at Liberty University last year.

    The Invisible Children website's bio for Hailey Mitsui, a regional tour manager who joined the organization in 2006, reads: "Hailey first got involved with Invisible Children her freshman year of college when her friend took her to see a screening, she cried her eyes out and bought everything at the merch table."

    By the time Kony 2012 was ready to go public, Invisible Children had built a widespread and tight-knit network of college and high-school activist cells across the country, ready to be mobilized at any moment.

    It wasn't just luck when Kony 2012 exploded on social media. The initial 5,000 Twitter users who posted the video, launching the online momentum that made it the fastest-growing social media campaign in history, largely came from "highly connected groups of users," according to data analyzed by SocialFlow, a social-network monitoring site.

    SocialFlow found two trends in the story of Kony 2012's social media success. First, these mini-networks were largely clustered in "small-medium cities" such as Pittsburgh, Oklahoma City, and especially Birmingham, where #Kony2012 trended several days before the video even launched, suggesting it was driven by a network of Twitter users who were connected enough to Invisible Children to know about the video in advance.

    The campaign was also "heavily supported by Christian youth, many of whom post Biblical psalms as their profile bios," according to SocialFlow. An analysis of the users in these core activist networks found that the most common words in their Twitter bios include "Jesus," "God," "Christ," "Life," Love," "University," and "Student."

    "Having them all operate at the same time, effectively spamming celebrities and spamming them enough times for them to all talk about it at the same," says Gilad Lotan, vice president of research and development at SocialFlow, "you reach such density in the network."

    "I've never seen this tactic being used on such a large scale," Lotan says. "You see it with bots, but organizing actual humans? I hadn't seen that yet."

    •       •       •       •       •

    American Christians from an array of backgrounds have long found a purpose in Africa, from proselytizing to adopting orphans; from preaching social values, some so conservative that they're illegal back home, to delivering life-saving humanitarian aid.

    They even care about saving the bad guys. A website called Adopt a Terrorist For Prayer lets people pay money to, well, pray for a terrorist.

    "I've never seen this tactic being used on such a large scale."

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    "At the core of a faith-based group are people with a passion for Christ or God that drives them in ways that money, politics, and nations cannot," said J. Robert Hunter, who works as a consumer advocate in Washington, D.C., and who has performed ministry work across Africa for decades with the Fellowship Foundation. The Fellowship, as its known, is a Christian fraternity that counts many politicians around the world as members, including a number of U.S. Congressmen. It was as a member of the Fellowship that Hunter helped broker peace talks in Burundi to end its 12-year civil war.

     "The idea behind creating charities and getting close to politicians and trying to encourage their spirituality is the same idea: helping the people on the ground," Hunter told me. "Directly helping the LRA-damaged children is a blessing; getting a leader to become a friend with an enemy is a blessing; getting leaders to recognize their own humanity, turn and see the hurting people they lead is a blessing. My motivation is all because Jesus loves the poor and He can be seen in the poor and these steps might help them."

    Yet the American evangelical community's involvement in Africa has also contributed -- at times, through some of the same charities and organizations doing so much good -- to some of Africa's cruelest policies, particularly Uganda's 2009 anti-homosexuality bill, which would call for "repeat offenders" of homosexuality to face the death penalty.

    Three American evangelicals who specialize in "sexual orientation correction" participated in a 2009 anti-homosexuality conference in Kampala that is widely seen as having inspired the bill.

    The bill's architect, David Bahati, once told me that he first got the idea for the bill from conversations with members of the Fellowship Foundation, with which Bahati was once associated.

    Evangelists fly to Uganda regularly, holding mass prayer sessions with blind, broken-limbed, or AIDS-afflicted Africans. They pass out bibles and political advice.

    Invisible Children is smack-dab in the middle of this evangelical activist community, and has received hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years in funding from some of the most right-wing evangelical charities in the United States: Christian Community Foundation, Pro-Vision, National Christian Foundation, and the Terry & Rosann Douglass Foundation.

    "As a Christian, I believe that God is putting this burden in the hearts of hundreds and thousands of young people, even if they don't believe in Him," Faith McDonnell, a director at the Institute on Religion and Democracy, exclaimed to me.

    But Russell's evangelism, like the Emerging Church faith that drives him, is different. And that's part of Kony 2012's power, as well as the subtext against which many critics seem to be reacting.

    "We are able to be the Trojan horse in a sense, going into a secular realm and saying, guess what, life is about orphans and it's about the widow. It's about the oppressed," Russell said during the 2005 conference. "It's driven by an adventure and the adventure is God's and it's his story."

    And he's not targeting Africans. He's targeting you.

    "When Jesus talked about Heavenly Kingdom, the Kingdom comes now, it is now, it's like today," Russell told me, in describing the role his faith played in his mission to stop Kony. "A lot of us doing this work, we are sometimes disappointed in the church not showing up. Not fulfilling the mandate."

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    Rick Warren, the evangelist pastor who wrote The Purpose Driven Life and is famously close to a number of African presidents (as well as some American ones), contributed to a book about the Emerging Church alongside McLaren. He describes his movement also as a "stealth movement flying beneath the radar that's changing literally thousands of churches around the world."

    "Invisible Children wants to be attractive to anyone from any background, period," as Ben Keesey, the CEO of Invisible Children, explained their movement. "We want to build loyalty around a lifestyle brand."

    Indeed, staying silent on explicit religious topics while oozing a Jesus-y pheromone has allowed Invisible Children to tap an entire spectrum of Christian charities, philanthropists, and celebrities, from the most liberal to the most conservative.

    The National Christian Foundation, which has provided Invisible Children with more than $600,000 over the years between itself and subsidiaries, according to figures from financial statements, gave $817,000 in 2008 alone to Ed Silvoso. An evangelist minister in California, Silvoso works closely with Julius Oyet, a prominent Ugandan Bishop and leading advocate for Uganda's notorious anti-homosexuality bill.

    Much has been made of Invisible Children's funding from the religious right. But the truth is that these donations are far outweighed by those from pop-culture behemoths, who happen to be some of the most liberal Christians in the U.S.

    Oprah Winfrey recently donated $2 million to Invisible Children. Tom Shadyac -- director of Ace Ventura, Bruce Almighty, and a new spiritually centered movie, I Am; and a self-described "Jesus freak" -- has given Invisible Children nearly $1 million over the years. He was one of the organization's earliest high-profile supporters.

    Invisible Children has chosen to target a number of enthusiastically spiritual personalities, from Winfrey and Rick Warren to Bono, Tim Tebow, and Justin Bieber, whose faith (he's got Jesus tattoos) was on display in a recent documentary and Christmas album.

    In 2006, Invisible Children received roughly $10,000 from an Emerging church in Santa Barbara. In 2007, it received $10,000 from a foundation that emphasizes faith spirituality, $20,000 from a foundation that focuses on the relationship between science and spirituality, nearly $10,000 from a Christian media organization, and $5,600 from a Catholic performing-arts high school.

    In 2008, it received $5,000 from a Christian rehabilitation ministry that includes sexual orientation struggles. It received $6,000 from a Christian philosophy ministry and nearly $80,000 from an American Christian charity in Uganda that helps orphans. And it's not only Christians who are giving: Invisible Children won $1 million from a Chase Bank charity competition.

    Jason Russell's experiment seems to be working. He's getting Christians, and others, to embrace his message of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ means without actually discussing religion explicitly.

    The campaign contributed to a remarkable bi-partisan effort in Congress to introduce and pass legislation condemning Kony and the LRA, and eventually calling for money, equipment, and human expertise to be dispensed by the United States to regional African armies to stop them.

    "The American response was highly correlated to people's religious beliefs," said David Rubenstein, a founder of the Save Darfur campaign, referring to that conflict's advocacy history. "There is certainly a religious and spiritual energy to advocating on Capitol Hill."

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    Even within the Invisible Children organization itself, a surprising blend of liberal and conservative have come together. Of Invisible Children's four independent board members, one is an openly gay pastor (and the head of an Emerging Church); another donated to California's Proposition 8 campaign to ban gay marriage.

     "If Jim Inhofe and Jim McGovern can get together," Keesey told me, in reference to board members Pastor Rich McCullen and John Bradel, "That's the beauty of this thing."

    •       •       •       •       •

    But it's been a hard journey for Russell. Almost as soon as he and his movie became famous, they became infamous, and the criticism -- from bloggers, university professors, politicians, and LRA victims themselves -- has been vitriolic. Russell was ridiculed in part for comments he'd made referring to himself as "the messenger."

    Ultimately, it may have gotten the best of him. Criticism of Russell's campaign became overwhelming, from financial spending to the video's inaccuracies to a photo of the Invisible Children founders posing with weapons in Central Africa. From bloggers to academics, it seemed like virtually everyone wanted to bring him down.

    Invisible Children even released a sequel to Kony 2012 last week. Yet only 1.3 million people have bothered watching so far -- less than 1% of the original viewers.

    When a TV anchor asked last month if criticism of the organization felt surprising, Invisible Children CEO Ben Keesey gave the business answer, "No, I don't think so." But when the anchor pressed on Russell, he opened up.

     "It does, just a little bit," Russell said. "It's about the heart of the messenger." He paused again. "And we were like, 'Oh, wow, I didn't know this tension was out there.'"

    Last month, Russell's family released a statement that, after his public breakdown, Russell was still being hospitalized and had a "long way to go."


  8. African countries clamp down on churches tied to miracle cures

    by Fredrick Nzwili, RELIGION NEWS SERVICE February 16, 2016

    NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) Led by charismatic preachers and self-proclaimed prophets, African churches are swelling with promises of miracle healings, signs and wonders.

    But in recent months, governments across the continent are trying to rein in these churches.

    Africa’s experience with Christianity has for the most part been positive. About 63 percent of Africans identify as Christian, and Christian denominations founded and still run schools and hospitals. They have played critical roles in helping to keep communities together and stitching together a fraying social fabric.

    But while trying not to trample on religious freedom, governments are increasingly frustrated with tales of clergy fleecing their followers and are proposing a raft of new measures to protect unsuspecting church members from corrupt or immoral schemes.

    Take Kenya. Recently, a Nairobi pastor banned women from wearing undergarments and bras to church. The Rev. Njohi argued that the women should be free in body and spirit to receive Jesus.

    Or take Kenyan preacher Victor Kanyari. He admitted to a scheme whereby followers were asked to pay him in return for his cleansing them of their sins. As proof their sins were forgiven, the pastor said the water in a “miracle basin” would turn red after he prayed over it. Later, church leaders admitted adding chemicals to the water.

    Or take South Africa.

    Last year, a pastor in Pretoria made members of his congregation strip naked and rode on their backs as he prayed for them. Another Pretoria pastor, Daniel Lesego, made his congregation drink petrol and eat grass. Pastor Penuel Mnguni, based in northern Pretoria, capped it all when he declared a live snake a chocolate bar and commanded the congregation to eat it.

    Governments are responding with a series of initiatives:

    In January, Kenya unveiled a number of rules designed to regulate religious groups and prevent youth radicalization by Muslim terrorist groups.

    After bitter protests by church leaders, the attorney general withdrew the rules, including one that would have required all clergy to hold theological degrees. But President Uhuru Kenyatta indicated it remains his intention to rein in rogue preachers.

    “Those evil men and women who use the name of God to take advantage of the citizens and fleece them must be uprooted,” Kenyatta told a gathering in Kisumu city days after the withdrawal of the regulations.

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  9. In Ghana the government has asked the Christian Council to draft a proposal to ensure all churches are registered with the government.

    The South African Council of Churches has called for some kind of guidelines to help churches self-regulate.

    “We believe there is a role for the government to play, for example to protect them (followers) from harm,” Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, the council’s general secretary, told a TV station.

    In Cameroon, President Paul Biya recently ordered the closure of 100 churches over alleged criminal activities by Pentecostal church pastors linked to miracles.

    While governments move to regulate religious groups, some clerics suggested self-regulation through associations, national councils and fellowships.

    Tolbert Thomas Jallah Jr., a Liberian cleric who heads the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in West Africa, said this has worked in Gambia, a predominantly Muslim state, where the Christian Council of Gambia regulates all religious groupings in the country, including those of Muslims.

    Jallah said some African preachers have confused doctrines that are without any biblical and theological basis.

    “They are doing strange interpretations of Scriptures to exploit poor people, using prosperity messages, calling for miracle services and purchase of healing,” he said.

    “They are requesting money before praying for the sick, and people will have to pay money to get appointments and register before getting to see the apostle,” he added.

    But churches are also fighting back, rejecting the assumption that all church leaders are frauds.

    In 2014, renowned Nigerian televangelist T.B. Joshua was caught in a war of words with government after his church building collapsed, killing 116 people. Investigators blamed the collapse on shoddy construction, but the televangelist blamed it on a mysterious jet flying above the building.

    Jesse Mugambi, a professor of philosophy and religious studies at the University of Nairobi, said the government intervention is intended to curb illegal activities.

    “I do not think the intention is to muffle the freedom of expression,” said Mugambi. “Rather, the intention is to do what the African elite ought to do without having to be prodded to do it — exercise decency both in private and in public.”

    (Fredrick Nzwili is an RNS correspondent based in Nairobi)