Passage Five (Killing in the Name of God Ugandan Deaths Spotlight Rise of Cults)
How could faith beget such evil? After hundreds of members of a Ugandan cult, the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, died in what first appeared to be a suicidal fire in the village of Kanungu two weeks age, police found 153 bodies buried in a compound used by the cult in Buhunga, 25 miles away. When investigators searched the house of a cult leader in yet another village, they discovered 155 bodies, many buried under the concrete floor of the house. Then scores more were dug up at a cult member’s home. Some had been poisoned; others, often-young children, strangled. By week’s end, Ugandan police had counted 924 victims – including at least 530 who burned to death inside the sealed church – exceeding the 1978 Jonestown mass suicide and killings by followers of American cult leader Jim Jones that claimed 913 lives.
Authorities believe two of the cult’s leaders, Joseph Kibwetere, a 68-year-old former Roman Catholic catechism teacher who started the cult in 1987, and his “prophetess, ” Credonia Mwerinde, by some accounts a former prostitute who claimed to speak for the Virgin Mary, may still be alive and on the run. The pair had predicted the world would end on Dec. 31, 1999. When that didn’t happen, followers who demanded the return of their possessions, which they had to surrender on joining the cult, may have been systematically killed.
The Ugandan carnage focuses attention on the proliferation of religious cults in East Africa’s impoverished rural areas and city slums. According to the institute for the study of American religion, which researches cults and sects, there are now more than 5,000 indigenous churches in Africa, some with apocalyptic or revolutionary leanings. One such group is the Jerusalem Church of Christ in Nairobi’s Kawangwara slums, led by Mary Snaida-Akatsa, or “mommy” as she is known to her thousands of followers. She prophesies about the end of the world and accuses some members of being witches. One day the brought a “special visitor” to church, an Indian Sikh man she claimed was Jesus, and told her followers to “repent or pay the consequences.”
Most experts say Africa’s hardships push people to seek hope in religious cults. “These groups thrive because of poverty,” says Charles Onyango Obbo, editor of the Monitor, an independent newspaper in Uganda, and a close observer of cults. “People have no support, and they’re susceptible to anyone who is able to tap into their insecurity.” Additionally, they say, AIDS, which has ravaged East Africa, may also breed a fatalism that helps apocalyptic notions take root.
Some Africans turn to cults after rejecting mainstream Christian churches as “Western” or “non-African.” Agnes Masitsa, 30, who used to attend a Catholic church before she joined the Jerusalem Church of Christ, says of Catholicism: “It’s dull.”
Catholic icons. Yet, the Ugandan doomsday cult, like many of the sects, drew on features of Roman Catholicism, a strong force in the region. Catholic icons were prominent in its buildings, and some of its leaders were defrocked priests, such as Dominic Kataribabo, 32, who reportedly studied theology in the Los Angeles area in the mid-1980s. He had told neighbors he was digging a pit in his house to install a refrigerator; police have now recovered 81 bodies from under the floor and 74 from a field nearby. Police are unsure whether Kataribabo died in the church fire.
Still, there is the question: How could so many killings have been carried out without drawing attention? Villagers were aware of Kibwetere’s sect, whose followers communicated mainly through sign language and apparently were apprehensive about violating any of the cult’s commandments. There were suspicions. Ugandan president Yoweri Mseveni told the BBC that intelligence reports about the dangerous nature of the group had been suppressed by some government officials. On Thursday, police arrested an assistant district commissioner, the Rev. Amooti Mutazindwa, for allegedly holding back a report suggesting the cult posed a security threat.
Now, there are calls for African governments to monitor cults more closely. Says Gilbert Ogutu, a professor of religious studies at the University of Nairobi: “When cult leaders lose support, they become dangerous.”
1. Why did so may Ugandans die in faith?
[A] Many of them were killed for asking for the return of their possessions.
[B] They found the cult’s leaders had cheated them.
[C] They lost faith in cults.
[D] They are willing to die.
2. The main reason of people’s joining the cults is
3. What does Mary Snaide Akatsa prophesy?
[A] She prophesies the world will be flooded.
[B] She prophesies the world will be in fire.
[C] She prophesies about the end of the world.
[D] She prophesies he followers should die in faith.
4. Why do some Africans reject Christian Churches?
[A] They feel Christianity is dull.
[B] They reject Christian Churches as Western or non-African.
[C] They are susceptible.
[D] They are dangerous persons.
5. How could so many killing have been carried out without drawing attention?
[A] The cult acted secretly.
[B] The government officials did not see through its dangerous nature.
[C] There were no preventive measures.
[D] People were frightened.
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