During 1918 a semi-literate African called Simon Kimbangu had a vision. He had been converted to Christianity through the work of British Baptist missionaries and baptized by immersion in a local river. In his vision, Kimbangu received a call from God to be a prophet and a healer. Like the Old Testament prophet, Jonah, he ran away from his vision, leaving his small home village of Nkamba in the Congo (now Zaire) and trying to find a job in Leopoldville (modem-day Kinshasa).

But in 1921 he returned to the village he had fled from and began preaching and healing the sick. In six months his following grew to over 10,000 and stretchers were piled high wherever he went. One day, he stood on a hill near his village and prophesied that a large church would be built on it. and that leaders from all over the world would come and worship there.

With the sudden growth of his following, Simon Kimbangu posed a threat to both the Belgian colonial government and the Roman Catholic Church. He was thought to be dangerously subversive. Kimbangu fled, but later gave himself up - only to be tried before a military tribunal, which was a travesty of justice. He was allowed no defence; after a flogging he was condemned to death. The Belgian king commuted the sentence to life imprisonment.

Kimbangu spent the whole of the rest of his life in prison. Deported to the other side of the country, he never saw his wife or three sons again. He died in 1951. His followers went underground. The movement he started was proscribed by the colonial administration and largely led by the prophet Kimbangu's wife. When it eventually emerged and was recongnized by the government after the overthrow of the colonial administration, it numbered several million members. ...

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