AnalysisDr Mavaza Corner

Girl child viewed as prey in most white gown churches

By Dr Masimba Mavaza

Zimbabwe took a step in a good direction when a man who was responsible for the death of a fourteen year old girl who died while giving birth. The story was so shocking and upsetting to say the least.

Many churches are in the business of abusing the name of Christ as a tool to quench their canal emotions. Historically churches have been known to be great abusers of the girls.

It is an abuse of a position of trust for a person over the age of 18 years a).to engage in sexual activity with a person under the age of 16.

‘Position of trust’ is a legal term that refers to certain roles and settings where an adult has regular and direct contact with children. Examples of positions of trust include: pastors, teachers. care workers and those spiritual leaders.
Commonly, pastors are understood to be spiritual overseers.  Most pastors derive their positions from depending on the image, faith, or charisma of your own pastor.

There are some narcissistic men who lead a church or ministry and use the flock for their own gratification. Often, this will manifest in sexual relations with church attenders.  This behavior by some destroys many decent images of healthy pastors and other church/ministry leaders.

Pastors can be roughly grouped in three categories:

  • 1. Divinely called and faithful servants of God.
  • 2. Divinely called servants, presently tempted, and struggling with personal sin. They deal with their own weaknesses but do not use others for their gratification.
  • 3. Intentional usurpers of the pulpit and the congregation for the purposes of their own enjoyment and control.

This third category of pastor are those who most represent pastoral misconduct. In recent days, with the advent of the social media brave victims share their stories of pastors who practice abuse and mayhem.  It will be impossible to ignore this third category of pastor with the growing body of reports of pastoral misconduct on the news and social media.  To clearly understand the problem of sexual abuse by pastors, we must accept that some men seek the pulpit with the intention to serve themselves and not to serve God.

The church has always been a gathering of people seeking knowledge, community, promotion of faith and comfort in this difficult world. To these “wolves in sheep’s clothing” the church represents an easy source of power, attention, adulation, financial gain, and sometimes sexual gratification.

Every New Testament book contains instruction about false prophets, false teachers, and the “one who enters the sheep pen not at the gate”.

We have seen many people from Bishops,Teachers,healthcare professionals and other individuals in a position of trust increasingly being prosecuted for sexual offences. This is a welcome position taken by the government since the story of the fourteen year old girl struck our hearts and floods of pain and revulsion gushed out of our hearts drowning the police into action.

A story which leapt out at me concerns a man of them Apostolic faith church who impregnated a fourteen year old girl who died giving birth. The outrage reaches high in the skies and Commissioner General Matanga pushed his force to action. The man who was about to get another 9 year old as a replacement was arrested and arraigned to court facing offences involving culpable HOMICIDE. It remains to be seen if it is not another catch and release.

But the clear thing which comes out of this case is another diabolical and satanic expression called ‘religious grooming’. This expression, as far as I know, has no place in law but the fact of its use in a quasi-legal setting may be of importance for the future. The pre-sexual religious grooming included calling small girls as young as one day “Madzimai”. This makes girl child to grow up realising that she is a woman and not a child any more.

The church terrifies the congregation into cutting themselves off from any influences that might challenge the power of the religious leader under whose authority they have placed themselves.

This becomes fertile grounds for grooming children. Grooming is when someone builds a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them. Children and young people who are groomed end up taken up by men ten times older than their fathers as wives. Every men in these churches is born a groomer.

Grooming can happen in churches as it is done in the Mapositori areas and spaces. It involves the offender building a relationship with a child, and sometimes with their wider family, gaining their trust and a position of power over the child, in preparation for abuse.

The process of grooming can take place in a matter of minutes, over one conversation, or over long periods of time, in some cases, years. Sexual grooming refers to grooming where the offender aims to sexually abuse the child.
This is the time as humanity to search our souls to see if we are not guilty of any of these behaviours.

People from these churches have come out with painful stories of victims of authoritarian abuse and assault. Their stories are hard to hear because many victims have been abused so badly.

It is painful to listen to every testimony from the vulnerable innocent children. Many waffle between anger, sadness for the victims, disgust, disbelief, and back to anger. And We hear all these types of stories we can just imagine what it is like for a person hearing these testimonies for the first time.

“Grooming” is what someone does if they want to be able to control another person in the future. Grooming is an intentional behavior someone uses to manipulate another person over an extended period. The purpose is to wear away any defenses the victim has against being manipulated which then allows the abuser to control the victim’s behavior moving forward.

Grooming behavior was first identified and characterized when studying sociopathic adults who sexually abused children.  Grooming behavior is now recognized within other abusive relationship settings.

How does grooming work?  Grooming involves creating and/or exploiting an imbalance of power between the abuser and the victim.  In the context of adult abusers molesting children, there is a universal acceptance that adults are in a position of authority over children. Abusers, using grooming tactics, will misuse their position of authority in various ways to ensure that the victim’s defenses are lowered, and that the victim tolerates the initial manipulation. After establishing control of the victim, the abuser then repeats the cycles of abuse with greater intensity.

Wherever there is a defined imbalance of power or a drive to create an imbalance of power in a relationship, there is potential for this type of abuse to occur.

These wolves in sheep’s clothing, who abuse others within the vulnerable church environment, more likely than not have one of these diagnosable personality disorders:  Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Anti-Social Personality Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder.

The idea of pulpits being occupied by narcissists or other dark personalities may seem completely unbelievable. 
Within the Apostolic white gowned clergy… there appears to be much higher levels of the most destructive expressions of narcissism than in the general population.  The problem is real, and it seems that ministry attracts narcissists for the same reasons that elementary schools and playgrounds attract pedophiles:  these institutions provide access to victims. And the victims are so gullible as to believe the words of God delivered by these self proclaimed prophets.

However, even if a person does not have one of the dark disorders, their grooming behavior is evil. Churches must not tolerate it. The government must look into the runnings of these churches.

Sexual abuse seems to differ from other forms of abuse in that it is never an inadequacy or excess of what could be considered normal behaviour. It is very clearly deviant, deliberate and often pre-meditated behaviour. As with most forms of abuse, sexual abuse is usually by an adult or older child known to the child. There is often a period of ‘grooming’ in which the abuser draws close to the child, subsequently involving her/him in progressively more direct sexual behaviour. Such involvement is always kept secret, often through threats that leave the child trapped and confused.

In these apostolic churches congregants are taught not to dispute the word of the prophets. So the prophets yield a lot of power and respect.

The church worship programs are arranged in a manner which gives the old men in the church a vantage position.
The old men who have senior positions in churches take the front roles. They sit as per their spiritual ranks with the small boys right at the back.

The old men I front will be facing women whose sitting positions give the small girls front row Then the unmarried but a bit older are given the back Tawa. In this way the prophets scan through the girls and select those they want to marry. They will then convince the parents of the small girls that God has spoken to them and has shown them which girls to take for wives.

The congregants are taught that God’s word can not be challenged. With great fear of the unspecified spiritual reprisals the parents will give their children to the prophets as wives. Most children will be as young as ten years old.
Most children are married off before they reach puberty.

One researcher on abuse of children by churches commented: “I have been involved in dealing with a number of cases involving sexual predation and exploitation by church leaders – in all kinds of churches (including “organic” or “simple” churches which naively think they are immune from this kind of abuse. “

If you learn of such behavior, don’t be naive just because it involves someone who is charming, gifted and personable (in fact, sexual predators in leadership are almost always the most charming, gifted and personable people you will ever know – which is how they get away with it).

Most of all, don’t hesitate to confront and expose such predators (of course, while protecting the victims and their identity).

You may be saving those who otherwise would be their next victims. Never forget, silence is deadly – they thrive on it. The churches have become predators and they have let God down.

God in his heavens will not smile at the abuse of the little children. In the Apostolic white gowned churches, women appear to be the majority of members in the Church. This is so, despite the fact that it accommodates and promotes polygamy. Johanne Marange as the founder of this religious movement, had thirteen wives. The church has been promoting polygamy, and polygamous marriage, in line with traditional African as well as ancient Jewish cultural traditions.

For support and legitimation of polygamous marriage, the church draws on Biblical examples of the Israelite progenitors of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and Solomon, who are regarded as exemplary forebears of faith in God. Polygamy among the White gowned apostolic groups, simply fills the gap of the numerical difference of the women to men ratio, and that this is why it is encouraged.

Furthermore, while marriage within the apostolic group is encouraged, marriages with non-members is discouraged. This, though, primarily applies to women. Men are allowed to marry women who do not belong to the Johann Marange group, provided the women are prepared to become a member of the group.

This practice obviously disadvantages women more than men. Preventing women to marry outside the church, can be seen as a social impediment that exposes women to polygamy, especially since it appears that the number of women to men ratio exceeds that of men to women.

The most painful thing of it all is the forceable marriage with a ten year old. This grooming must be stopped. Calling small girls Madzimai is one of the grooming tactics and it must be banned. Children must be allowed to enjoy their childhood. They must not be made to believe that they are born to be married.
We all have a duty to protect our children.

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