PNG’s Madang National Court on Wednesday found failed Lutheran pastor Steven Tari, known as Black Jesus, guilty of four counts of rape, with sentencing to come later this month.
Tari made international news when captured and arrested in March 2007 after eluding police for more than a year by moving from village to village or hiding in remote mountain camps in the Transgogol area of Madang province, on PNG’s northeast coast.
Tari had thousands of village followers, including a core of armed warriors to protect him, in what is commonly referred to in PNG as a “cargo cult“.
As part of his “culture ministry” Tari preached the young girls were to be “married” to him as it was God’s prophecy.
Judge David Cannings found Tari guilty of four counts of rape from the six charges relating to five women.
Cult leader who styled himself ‘Black Jesus’ convicted of raping young ‘flower girls’
Interviewed in Madang’s Boen Prison a year later after his dramatic capture, Tari defended his practice in the black arts and of sleeping with young girls who joined his cult, admitting that ‘I got plenty – 430 girls’.
But he added: ‘What I did is under and in line with my religion. It was religious and was not wrong.’
Tari had gathered more than six thousand ‘disciples’ as he travelled through villages in jungle-clad mountains,.
He dressed in long white robes and stood on boulders declaring that he was the modern Jesus.
But when word spread that he had sacrificed three young women, drinking their blood and eating part of their flesh as part of his bizarre ceremonies, the devotion of his followers began to turn to fear.
Added to concerns were claims by the relatives of a mother who was said to have fallen under his spell and drank her own daughter’s blood.
A Mail investigation in the remote villages of Papua New Guinea heard claims from relatives of 13-year-old Rita Hemen that she had been stripped naked, tied to a crude bed and raped by Tari before having her throat cut.
Her relatives said her blood had been drained into a coconut shell and drunk by Tari and his evil henchmen – and in a final horrific act they had eaten strips of her flesh.
Tari’s wickedness came to an end when he reached the village of Matepi, where he was overpowered while sleeping in a hut.
A spokesman for the Lutheran church, which is strongly represented in Papua New Guinea, said: ‘We hope that the passage of time will erase memories of what this evil man has done.’
‘Black Jesus’ guilty of rape
In a sworn affidavit tended in court, his school name is Steven Tari Nangimon Garasai but his true name is King Yali.
He is the founder and leader of the Culture Ministry. He followed its laws in everything he did. The No 1 law is that flower girls belong to the Ministry. They work for the Ministry, not for their parents or the Government. The Culture Ministry operates according to the prophecies of God Yali. Before God Yali died he said to all the grandfathers and grandmothers of Madang: ‘If you are married with three daughters, you give two away for marriage and one you give to God Yali to allow him to do his work’. That is God Yali’s prophecy. All that he was doing with the flower girls was fulfilling God Yali’s prophecy. In his face and body he is Steven Tari but his spirit carries another face: God Yali’s.
[Steven Tari] preached to the local people and held himself out to be King Yali, a reincarnation of God Yali, the deceased leader of the Yali Movement.