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House committee rescues 8 patients detained at Coptic Church Kisumu

The Senate Ad hoc Committee on the proliferation of religious organizations on Saturday raided the Holy Ghost Coptic Church of Kenya in Kisumu and rescued eight mentally ill patients detained at the premises.

The victims who were chained and locked up in dingy cells were taken to Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital for counseling and treatment.

Committee Vice Chairperson Senator Shakila Abdalla said more patients are believed to be locked up within the church premises adding that the security team has been tasked to secure the necessary orders and do a door-to-door search to rescue the victims.

Senator Abdalla said it was illegal for the church headed by Father John Pesa 1 to illegally chain and detain patients under the guise of praying for them to heal.

The church, she said, has no permit to hold or treat patients adding that the cells where the victims are detained were unhygienic.

“We have asked Father Pesa to release all the patients. No church is allowed to detain or hold patients in the name of praying for them to heal,” she said.

Security officers and Kenya Red Cross personnel had a difficult time convincing some of the patients to board an ambulance.

“We have seen the patients and they need urgent medical intervention. They were locked up in dingy cells with a bucket to relieve themselves. They also receive one meal per day,” she added.

The committee which visited Kisumu and Vihiga counties to hear testimonies of families whose kin were victims of the Shakahola massacre will push for investigations into the church’s activities.

Nominated Senator Veronica Maina said the committee shall not relent until all the victims are rescued and taken for treatment.

The Ministry of Health, she added, would take care of the medical expenses of the victims who will later be reunited with their families.

He asked Kenyans to be on the lookout for any religious organization involved in similar acts and report to the authorities so that the victims are rescued and assisted.

Bungoma Senator Wafula Wakoli said the committee which is currently going around the country to look into the proliferation of religious organizations will ensure that all activities of the church and other entities are in tandem with the law.

In February this year, the County Government of Kisumu filed a petition in court seeking to demolish the church for illegally detaining 23 mentally ill patients.

However, the matter was thrown out of the case for lack of merit.

Kisumu Acting County Commissioner Hussein Alassow Hussein said the matter has been appealed adding that every effort shall be made to deter illegal activities at the church.

“I want to assure you that this is the last day people are being held captive at this church,” he said.

By Chris Mahandara

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