Sierra Leone’s over 50 years of religious harmony is under threat thanks to the bizarre revelations of a young woman.
Sister Linda Ngaoja’s ‘heavenly journey’ a few weeks ago has turned her into the equivalent of a movie star, but at the risk of destabilising a country renowned for its religious tolerance.
The 28-year-old (some say 26) college student claims to have “died” and gone to hell before being taken to heaven.
While in hell, former Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi told her he wanted the mosque he built in Sierra Leone destroyed and replaced with a church.
She also has a message from the late president of neighbouring Guinea, Lansana Conte, who wants all the mosques in his country brought down and replaced with churches.
Sister Linda “died” after a brief illness. She said because of her worldly crimes in her previous life, she suffered a harrowing experience in hell, where she met her parents and a host of other renowned people including a renowned Sierra Leonean lawmaker, and the late US star Whitney Houston, “who are all suffering in Hell.”
All of these people had messages for their relatives and friends who are alive.
Sister Linda said if a “rapture” had occurred at that moment only five people in Sierra Leone could have survived it (meaning going to heaven), and these included three of her pastors and two other people.
While her audio tape comes across as a rich blessing for cassette sellers, religious leaders are left with the unenviable task of cleaning the mess Linda`s revelations left in their wake.
“We take and consider this our responsibility to judge every such revelation by the standard of the written words of God,” said Bishop Archibald Cole, president of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Sierra Leone (PFSL).
He told a press conference on Tuesday that since the young girl was purportedly speaking from a Pentecostal platform, Catholics might think her revelations were the views shared by all Pentecostals “and so we consider her statements…..will create confusion and breed division among the Christian community in Sierra Leone.”
According to Linda’s revelations, all Catholics and Muslims are going to hell.
She also had a message for President Ernest Bai Koroma (a Christian), to replace all mosques in Sierra Leone, which is a Muslim-dominated country, with churches.
“We consider such statements to be inflammatory among the Christian and Muslim communities,” said Bishop Cole.
“The revelation has the capacity to undermine the peace and security of this nation. We want to maintain the peace and security that God has given us, as Christ is an author of peace and not confusion.”
But already Linda’s “revelations” are causing confusion as there are reports of bitter arguments over them.
Two people stabbed each other over an argument as to whether the revelations were true or not, reported the Awareness Times of Freetown, a daily.
But it is not just Muslims and Catholics who have reasons to be offended.
Linda is critical of the “born again” pastors in Sierra Leone who she said are more into money than spreading the message of God.
Her story broke on a popular religious radio called Believers Broadcasting Network (BBN), with the aid of her pastor.
Custodians of Truth
A member of the Faith Healing Bible Church, one of three churches that were endorsed in the revelations, told Africa Cradle that there is concern about her security because of her testimonies.
The Church has cancelled a special open prayer at the national stadium on this ground. The intention was to pray for Sierra Leone in light of the revelations.
They will be holding instead a 7-day fasting and indoor prayer session. This, according to sources, is backed by President Ernest Bai Koroma, who is said to have met with the young woman to receive his message.
A majority of pastors in the country see Linda as “of the devil” and they say she needs deliverance.
A few others express fear that her testimonies could spark forth a new sect, with reports of calls for a ban on the circulation of her tapes.
“The real reason is that Sister Linda had threatened to go over the radio and expose some of these pastors who refuse to change in line with the message she brought,” said Bernard Wilson, a member of the Faith Healing Bible Church, obviously a staunch supporter.
“It could be why the pastors are against her,” Mr Wilson said.
But others read into the whole thing infighting among Sierra Leone’s small but powerful Nigerian-inspired ‘born again’ churches.
“We as Ministers of the gospel are called to be watchmen and to be custodians of truth, and to be sure that the integrity and accuracy of the gospel is maintained… we are charged to address this issue that has the potential to bring distraction and obstruct the peace of the nation,” said Apostle Akintayo Sam Jolly, Secretary of PFSL.