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Show Swahili

Behind the doors of John Pesa's church where the sick walk in iron chains

25th January, 2023

A  patient in chains at a camp in the Coptic church in Mamboleo, Kisumu. Inset, Father John Pesa. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Father John Pesa was a little-known spiritual figure until 2021 when he quoted a biblical verse about King Solomon killing Goliath with a stone.

But the verse does not exist. And the Bible does not speak about Solomon battling Goliath, rather it was his father David who did.

His church, the Coptic Holiness, sits on prime land in Kisumu. It is an iconic building painted white and yellow. Flags of East African countries flutter gently in the wind.

Behind the church is a big white cross in the ground. To the left is a lonely grave. No staff here wants to reveal who is buried there.

Church members literally worship Father John Pesa. After leaving their shoes at the door, his followers crawl to seek audience with the high priest.

A visitor to the shrine in Mamboleo would have no inkling about the torture going on behind closed doors.

John Pesa has employed a number of youth to mete out atrocities on hapless detainees who he describes as ‘patients’. All this is done in the name of spiritual healing.

As you enter, a keen ear will pick out the jingle of chains. These sounds are made by ‘patients’ moving around while shackled on the ankles or sometimes even the wrists.

We posed as new converts seeking a church where we could worship. We wanted to be around for a while and mingle with members.