In the Shakahola Forest in eastern Kenya, authorities have discovered the bodies of at least 90 individuals believed to be followers of a religious sect who chose to fast to death in order to meet Christ.
Terrifying Sermons and Preaching
The leader of the sect, Pastor Paul Nthingi Mackenzie, has been arrested and is facing charges of murder. According to eyewitnesses and former church members, Pastor Mackenzie delivered terrifying sermons and preaching to his followers, urging them to sacrifice everything for Jesus.
He claimed that education, medicine, and politics were tools of the devil, and that the end times were approaching. He used social media platforms to spread his messages, especially targeting children whom he referred to as “end-time children.”
To Meet Christ
According to preliminary investigations, the victims lived in tents on the farm owned by Pastor Mackenzie. They refused to consume any food or drink, and some of them were buried in mass graves while others were left on the ground. The condition of some bodies had deteriorated significantly due to the heat and insects.
Kenyan police reported the discovery of more shallow graves on a property belonging to the group called “Good News International Church.”
The search operations will continue to uncover any other buried bodies in the area.
Mackenzie was arrested on April 14 after a raid on his properties in Malindi, where 15 emaciated and weak individuals, including four who later died, were found.
The followers claimed they were dying of hunger based on the pastor’s instructions to meet Jesus.
Shock and Outrage in Kenya
This incident has caused shock and anger in Kenya, a predominantly Christian country with a proliferation of religious sects. In a related context, Hassan Musa, an official at the Kenyan Red Cross, reported that 311 people, including 150 minors, have been reported missing in Malindi.
He stated that most of these individuals are Kenyan, but there are also citizens from Tanzania and Nigeria among them, some of whom have been missing for years.
Restricted from Communicating with Their Families
Local Kenyan reports indicate that Mackenzie exploited poverty, ignorance, and economic and health crises to attract people to his group.
He claimed to possess healing powers and to communicate with God. He prevented his followers from communicating with their families or leaving the religious compound.
Some human rights organizations have called for an international investigation into this case, warning that thousands of individuals have been affected by such sects in Kenya and other countries. They have called for stricter regulation of religious activities and education to combat extremism and superstitions.
Death by Hunger
According to witnesses and survivors as reported in local newspapers, the “Hunger unto Death” sect practiced extreme fasting, prohibiting any food, drink, or even water intake.
Members were also forbidden from contacting the outside world, using phones, or accessing the internet.
They were compelled to read the Bible and pray continuously, with threats of punishment if they violated Mackenzie’s teachings.
Mackenzie claimed to receive messages from God and asserted his ability to heal the sick and resurrect the dead.
He demanded his followers donate their money and belongings to the church and arranged marriages for their daughters to individuals of his choosing.
The History of Mackenzie and His Church
Mackenzie, in his sixties, was born in Kilifi County and previously worked as a teacher and lawyer.
According to the Kenyan newspaper “The Nation,” Mackenzie began his evangelical activities in 2003 when he and his wife, Joyce Mwikamba, established the “Good News International Church” as a small evangelical center in Malindi.
And quickly gained popularity among the local population, especially the poor and the sick, whom he claimed he could heal through the power of prayer.
His church spread to various regions in Kenya, and his followers were called the “Malindi Group.” He used social media and the internet to broadcast his sermons and showcase his miracles.
However, Nthingi also sparked controversy and criticism from some religious leaders and government officials, accusing him of deception, extortion, and deviation from Christian teachings.
Nthingi faced several legal issues, including encouraging children to abandon education and being involved in the deaths of two children whose parents had joined his church.