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The president of South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa has warned church leaders against using religion to profit from vulnerable, unsuspecting people after a Johannesburg-based pastor made headlines claiming to have raised a man from the dead on Sunday.
A video clip of prominent Pastor Alph Lukau of Alleluia Ministries praying over a man dressed in a white suit in a coffin, has been making the rounds on social media.
Following the incident, President Ramaphosa believes the government needs to talk to churches and religious leaders to stop them from taking advantage of South Africans.
“We are now given an opportunity to engage faith-based organisations on how can we work together to ensure we rid our country of bogus religious leaders who are taking our people for a ride, who are doing things that are so shocking and hoodwink people into believing they raised someone from the dead,” President Ramaphosa said.
He said the controversial behaviour of some pastors was bringing the name of the God and of churches into disrepute.
Last year, a controversial Johannesburg ‘prophet’ claimed on Facebook that he had visited heaven and took pictures on his Samsung Galaxy smartphone. The pastor then tried to sell the heavenly pictures for $360 (R5,000) each.
The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities proposed to regulate religious practices following the investigation into the errant behaviour of some churches.
The commission was concerned about “rogue priests” who masquerade as prophets, coaxing congregants to eat grass or snakes, or exposing them to harmful substances such as the insecticide Doom, as part of “spiritual healing”.
However, President Ramaphosa was wary of attempting to regulate churches as he believes that would infringe on the people’s freedom of religion.
“If we just go overboard and start regulating churches and religions, we will have a backlash because faith-based organisations will say government is beginning to regulate in such a way that is not constitutional,” he said.
Pastor Lukau’s Alleluia Ministries Church has released a statement denying that the pastor ever claimed to have raised the dead.