Starve to death with the promise of heaven

A cult in Kenya defies the limits of religious freedom and other readings to keep up.

Paul Nthenge Mackenzie was a poor taxi driver in Kenya who, thanks to his eloquent sermons, became a successful televangelist. He is now accused of murder, terrorism and other crimes in a case known as “the Shakahola massacre”.

Shakahola is the name of a forest located between two popular tourist destinations — Tsavo National Park and the Indian Ocean coast — and was the place where Mackenzie moved with hundreds of his followers, to whom he preached about the imminent end of the world.

And in the last few weeks it became a chilling scene of mass deaths.

As of the middle of this month, 179 bodies of women, men and children who listened to Mackenzie’s apocalyptic sermons that urged them to starve to meet Jesus had been found. Hundreds of people are missing at the scene and more are barely surviving, wandering and resisting help or giving up their faith.

This report by our colleague Andrew Higgins from Kenya, one of the most modern and stable countries in Africa, shows how Mackenzie has modified his sermons in recent years and radicalized his views. Andrew writes:

The fact that so many people ignored the most basic human instinct for survival and chose to die fasting has raised sensitive questions about the limits of religious freedom, a right enshrined in the Kenyan Constitution.

William Ruto, the president of Kenya, a devout Christian whose wife is an evangelical preacher, avoided arguing on the issue but called on experts to draft regulation proposals for the country’s religious sector.

A human rights activist who visited Shakahola in March, and saw some people on the verge of starvation who refused help, said: “I wanted these hungry people to survive, but they wanted to die and meet Jesus,” he explained. . And he added: “What do we do? Does freedom of worship prevail over the right to life?

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Among our readers there are regulars to paddle tennis, a sport that an Argentine invented in Mexico decades ago: there are recent ones and also pioneering players who had long been fond of this racket game. They are in Spain, Argentina, Uruguay and Mexico, to give some examples. Here are some of his comments, edited for space:

  • “It is a sport that came out of nowhere and has had a very high boom in the last two years, nothing cheap, by the way, since the hour is expensive to pay.” —Alfredo Romero, Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico.

  • “I started playing a year ago because my partner was always going to play and he told me how entertaining it was. So we went with him and my cousins ​​and from there we have played almost every week. —Alice, Santiago, Chile.

  • “I have been playing for 15 years. A friend invited me to play one day and I liked it so much that soon after I started taking classes at a club and playing. I play three to four times a week. And although it is very physical and I am already 53 years old, it helps me to stay in shape”. —Jose Carlos, La Herradura, Spain.

PS: And speaking of sports, in Spain the advances and setbacks in combating racism in La Liga, the first division of soccer in the country, are discussed. You can read our article here.

patricia grandson and Sabrina Duke produce and edit this newsletter.

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