Madagascar has banned a Brazilian sect and ordered it to cease operations in the vast Indian Ocean island, four months after its members were jailed for burning a Bible and other religious objects, officials said on Thursday.
Interior Minister General Soja last month obtained orders banning the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, halting its operations in Madagascar and closing up all its branches, said Gervais Rakotonirina, an interior ministry official.
“We took this decision [to ban the church] mainly because this movement is a cult, yet it is not licensed to operate as such,” Rakotonirina said.
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Last year, a court in Madagascar jailed four members of the same sect, which claims to have six million members worldwide, for six months for Bible-burning in the central town of Fianarantsoa.
Thirteen other members of the “church”, which is not recognised as such in Madagascar, were given suspended sentences, and a 14th was acquitted.
The “church” was licensed in 1998 as a “foreign society” and not a “cult society”, according to files at the country’s interior ministry.
“Foreigners who are the leaders of this association, mainly Brazilians, should leave the country, because their visas show that they are linked to the activities of this group,” Rakotonirina added.
“We have a list of 36 names [and] they have 48 hours to leave the country,” he added.
The church was founded in 1977 in Brazil by Emir Macedo, a former lottery employee.
Madagascar’s interior ministry could not, however, say how many followers profess to the sect on the island.