Deal with ‘predator’ pastors

Deal with ‘predator’ pastors

It is indisputable that horrific acts of injustice and abuse were committed during that fateful period of colonization.
It is increasingly acknowledged that biblical and theological discourses were a vivifying component in propelling and justifying them. The men behind this — pastors and priests — were in the forefront of such injustices.

However, with independence, religion became a standing feature of African societies and Lesotho was not an exception. In fact, there are street names named after prominent religious figures in the country. Churches used to be safe spaces that exemplified goodness. We used to send our children for important socialisation as we wished for good and decent citizens.
However, what we have seen in recent times is that churches and religion are under intense microscope as a result of constant, persisting and prevalent scandals sweeping various countries.
These have been mainly in the exposure of pastors who are involved in infidelity, rape and sexual abuse.

But there have also been many revelations of cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, nuns and members of the religious orders all over the world. Unfortunately, these were followed up by major cover-ups.

Women have been disproportionately affected by this phenomenon that I will call, for lack of better label, predator pastors.
These are pastors who victimise “wives belonging to other men”, other people’s daughters and are a disgrace to the church and religion. In fact, they despise God.
These predator pastors have made the church and religion the most unsafe space for women. Unfortunately, worldwide, including in Lesotho, these institutions are predominantly female.
The disconcerting part is that these are the very people who are highly vulnerable in society. It is this vulnerability that predisposes them to all sorts of abuse.
Predator pastors use emotional abuse, manipulation, humiliation, intimidation, isolation and fear to diminish their victim’s sense of value and worth. They then present themselves as the only ones capable of providing salvation.

Some of these pastors put themselves forward as providers of God’s “holy penetration”. A desperate woman does not see the obscenity of all this. Other women are desperate to have children and the predator pastor presents himself as the one to “open the door’’ by sleeping with the unsuspecting women.

Typical profile of abusers
They know that many women are so desperate to have children and others are desperate to get married and ready to sacrifice towards this goal. Both these forms of desperation are placed on such women by unforgiving societal expectations.

In Lesotho, there are many cases of women who are abused daily by predator pastors. Many confessed as they saw the unfolding ungodly saga of the Nigerian Pastor Timothy Omotoso who is accused of trafficking women, especially young poor girls.
These women believed in him and he betrayed them in a mean way. The sadness of this is that other women enabled him to engage in such activities.
Lesotho is a very poor country with serious governance challenges. As such, with the economy in such dire straits women are placed in compromising situations as they try to eke out a living and deal with many other societal pressures.

Basotho women are vulnerable and desperate. Herein lies the danger because predator pastors are all over the country.
As Basotho we need to take steps to make sure that churches are safe spaces and religion is not used to manipulate, intimidate, and scare the vulnerable, especially women and young girls.
The church should be a space where the sick, vulnerable and desperate, who are mostly women and young girls find solace, comfort, grace, healing and peace of mind.

We need an instinctive and visceral revulsion of such abuses and pretenders to those who think they are nearer to God whereas they are nearer to Satan.
We need to reverse this sickening practice which is being perpetuated by those who pretend to be men of God whereas they use His name masterfully grooming young girls for sexual exploitation. As Basotho, we can no longer afford a ‘mind your own business’ culture and attitude.

We cannot ignore these activities simply because they happen in a church and by people who are supposed to be godly.
Pastors are human beings and can also be trapped by the Devil. They need to be straightened up whenever they transgressed — and this can also be through a prison term.
For goodness sake, we need to empower women to know when a predator pastor is serving himself and not serving God the Almighty. Knowledge of religious Scriptures can go a long way as an empowering tool.
But empowering women in other areas such as economically can even be better as this will reduce the level of desperation and vulnerability.
Let us return the church to be a space that exemplified goodness. A place where we once sent our women and young girls to be good citizens because it was an important institution of socialisation.

By: Makamohelo Kefuoe Bereng-Nkongoane

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