KINSHASA: A priest is on the run after 64 members of his congregation were poisoned to death by a potion he said would grant them salvation.
“Sixty-four of the approximately hundred people who drank the potion have died. We have sent two doctors and a Red Cross team to the site,” the Democratic Republic of Congo’s health minister Yagi Sitolo told Reuters in the capital Kinshasa today.
The incident happened about a week ago in the remote town of Bosobe, some 500km northeast of Kinshasa. It was not clear whether the victims died immediately.
After years of war that has left millions dead and most of the country’s infrastructure destroyed, large parts of the population have had little education and vast swathes of the former Zaire are cut off from the rest of the world.
Churches have mushroomed since the start of the war, collecting sizeable donations from poverty stricken congregations in exchange for cheap fixes to life’s problems.
Many of the churches are known to advocate belief in child witchcraft, offering commercial exorcisms for a handful of dollars and more chairs for the congregation.
Congo’s health minister said the Bosobe authorities were looking for the priest who had fled for fear of recrimination.
“There is an investigation in process, we will find out what has happened,” Sitolo said.