Religion of Wednesday, 10 April 2013
Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur, has said even though everybody has a right to practice any religion of their choice, this freedom must not violate the rights of children especially.
She said to the extent that the children were being denied the right to attend school, and instead be made to farm, or denied key nutrition needs, then it was a big problem.
Oye Lithur was speaking on the Super Morning Show on Wednesday after ace investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas' latest expose dubbed “Messiah of Mentukwa”, which gave accounts on activities of a religious sect at Mentukwa, a village on the Kumasi-Sunyani road.
The Minister disclosed some of the elders have been placed before court charged with defilement, and the Department of Social Welfare has taken charge of some of the children for rehabilitation. Also, the Human Trafficking Secretariat of her Ministry is taking the matter serious.
Narrating the story to Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, Anas said the sect started in Aflao after breaking away from the Seventh Day Adventist Church, settled in Bibiani in the Brong Ahafo region for a year or two and then set camp in Mentukwa, where they have been for the past years.
The ace investigative journalist recounted, the faithful are made to believe that the end is near. They are constantly reminded that the Armageddon will soon come, and all those who are not in the camp will not go to heaven when the rapture comes.
“What is key in the camp is that we are very prayerful people and we dressed very well. Everyone had Jesus Christ attached to their names”, narrated Anas. Anas was called "Joseph Jesus Christ".
According to him, nobody was allowed to seek medical care from the hospital. Instead, only traditional health techniques were used even when women were in labour.
He said the children are severely indoctrinated, malnourished and denied formal education. They are told because of the imminence of Christ’s coming, there is no need for education.
Anas said everybody had a wife, and the faithful is made to believe whoever is chosen for them by the prophetess, who was the leader, was chosen for them by God. “It didn’t matter whether you were 25, you could be given a wife who is 10 years,” Anas explained.
“This group is a whittle down group so they are very obedient. They were about a hundred, but now they’ve reduced to only a core of 21 who believe everything. But the 21 are also multiplying because of inter-marriages within the sect” said Anas.
The story of a 13-year old girl who was married off to an elderly man in the sect and now has a two-year old child, was difficult to believe.
According to Anas, the 13-year old girl ran to her mother about pains during her defilement but her mother did nothing because she believed it was a direction from God. The mother, has left the cult and now regrets not reacting at the time.
Even though the cult is voluntary, Anas explained: "once you joined, the indoctrination is so deep that it becomes difficult for anyone to leave. But spies are also used to ensure cult members who go out and work on people’s farms cannot run away".
“I think this is a group of people who are misquoting the Bible”, concluded Anas.
Anas, in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection led the police to raid the camp after gathering enough evidence.
Communications Director for the Seventh-Day Adventist, Solace Hlordzi, who called into the Super Morning Show to clarify Anas’ earlier point that the cult broke away from the SDA, said there was nothing in the SDA teachings that asked people to seclude themselves and deny themselves the basic necessities of life.
But Solace said the SDA will respond to the humanitarian call to rehabilitate and support the children.