Weekly Observer: Cult Activity in Uganda?

From XFamily - Children of God

Cult Activity in Uganda?

Press » The Weekly Observer » 2008-02-14

By Carolyne Nakazibwe

Celeste Jones, Kristina Jones and Juliana Buhring are three sisters behind the 2007 international hot seller Not Without My Sister. Contrary to its title, the book is more about three sisters forced to grow up separate most of the time, thanks to a religious cult their father Christopher Jones (renamed Simon Peter by the cult) joined as a young man.

The cult, Children of God or The Family started by David Berg in the late 1960s (also called grandpa Mo by his followers), whose location and identity remained a secret to most of his devout followers until he died in 1995. His doctrines and cult live on under his wife Karen Zerby (now Queen Maria).

In their true story, Celeste, Kristina and Juliana tell of a life dictated by Mo from the time they wake up, to how much tissue they use in the toilet (not more than 3 sheets).

"Mo always boasted how frugal he was - his childhood in the Great Depression of the 1930s had left a mark on him. He could take a shower in a bowl of water; he saved stamps, and always made the most of a napkin, by first using it to wipe his mouth then clean his glasses, then blow his nose, then finally to wipe his bottom."

The girls who left the cult at different times (leaving 11 siblings behind) do an expose of the 'missionary' group that has virtually lived everywhere in the world, running from suspicious authorities.

Currently, according to the book, their father Jones (Simon Peter) lives in a Uganda commune. He is an actor in a Kampala group that has mainly expatriates acting on volunteer basis.

The book talks of the cult's glorification of rape, masturbation, paedophilia, incest and sexual blasphemy, as an interpretation of 'sharing God's love'.

In one chapter, a pre-teen Celeste describes her typical day as going to minister at an orphanage in the morning, then retreating to the group's van for sex with adults, before continuing to the next 'missionary' appointment after the siesta.

In the cult it was considered a privilege to be invited to Grandpa Mo's bed - even as a 13-year-old. Mo's argument: "in India 7-yr-olds are allowed to marry and [have sex] (he actually uses the F word here) until they are 12 without worrying about pregnancy. What about 13-year-olds? If she gets pregnant? Oh, so what!" the girls quote one of the Mo Letters, which are jointly quoted with Bible verses in the cult.

The girls alternately describe videos of strip teases they had to record for Mo, from which he usually chose a child bride. In the same spirit children are without question taken from their parents for adoption by childless couples in the cult. Analysing or doubting Mo's 'revelations' and 'prophecies' leads to punishment in form of detention, hard labour and violent abuse, until the 'rebellious spirit' is broken.

Interaction with the outside world (referred to as the System) is not allowed and Celeste describes how one day in Manila Philipines, she heard her first waft of secular music from a radio on the other side of the high perimeter wall of the commune.

Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time was the song and the lyrics struck an unknown cord inside her as tears silently rolled down her cheeks. She would stealthily go to that spot at the wall every evening to listen to the music, unknown to her leaders.

It is a book that stirs up rage and sympathy as you read about cult members 'speaking in tongues' and screaming 'Jesus' as they climax during sex with child-partners.

The leader's obsession with sex, coupled with his physical appearance (he reportedly wore a long grey beard and a real wooden yoke around his neck), cement the effect a cult can have on one's mind.

It is a story of brainwashed hippies, who would gladly set themselves ablaze and die if Mo advised thus; after all according to David Berg, death - as experienced by him in a dream - feels better than even an orgasm. A must read!

Book: Not Without My Sister

Author: Celeste Jones, Kristina Jones and Juliana Buhring

Volume: 416 pages

Price: $18

Publisher: HarperCollins

Coming to Aristoc this month, but available online