Nigerian police rescued dozens of people, many of them children, held in the basement of a church where they had been told to wait for what they believed to be the coming of Christ.
Police raided the Whole Bible Believers Church in southwestern Ondo state on Friday after being tipped off by a local woman who said her children were being held there against their will.
Seventy-seven people, including 26 children, were rescued and two pastors were arrested, Ondo state police spokesman Funmilayo Odunlami said in a statement.
Police said the Christians were held in the church after being told they had to wait for Jesus' return and therefore the "rapture of the church", to ascend to heaven with him.
One of the pastors "told members the rapture would take place in April, but later said that was changed to September," the statement said.
Another family who were also present during the rescue said their daughter (…) dropped out of school because of the pastor's strange teachings and left home in January.
Deputy Pastor Josiah Peters told ChannelsTV that congregants were holding a seven-day program inside the church when police forced their way inside.
According to police spokesman Odunlami, "a local resident had led the police to the place of worship after reporting that her children had been abducted".
She also told police that the pastor "told the kids there was no reason for them to go back to school until then."
Former church member Michael Olorunyomi told ChannelsTV that he left the church with his parents due to concerns about the pastor's teachings.
“They taught children not to obey their parents and made husbands hate their wives,” he said. “They capitalized on visions, prophecies and dreams to dictate people's lives without following the Bible. »
Ondo state made headlines last month when gunmen attacked a Catholic church with explosives and killed 40 people in a rare attack in the generally calmer southwestern region of the country.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but the government said it suspected jihadists from the Islamic State West Africa province.
Nigerian troops are battling a 13-year-old jihadist insurgency across the country in the northeast, where the conflict has killed more than 40 people and displaced two million others.
The most populous nation in Africa, Nigeria is almost evenly divided between the predominantly Christian south and the predominantly Muslim north.
The Editorial Board (with AFP)
Image credit: Shutterstock.com/Oludarekenny
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