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The Prophecy Industry: As seen in the US and Congo

The prophet and ambassador, Dominique Khonde, preaching in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Prophecies have been a part of humanity for a long time. From the Ancient Greek oracles to the Christian foundational texts, prophecies have been constantly uttered and often fulfilled. Nowadays, the world is witnessing a serious upsurge in the phenomenon. Countries like the US and several African countries feature at the top of the list of those places where the majority of modern prophets originate.

While some of them are independent prophets acting through social media channels, others are well-recognized pastors leading churches and specific religious movements with a high degree of popularity acquired throughout the years. There are two interesting facts about modern prophets. Firstly, their very existence is justified by a longstanding Christian tradition (the Bible contains several prophecies); secondly, they are actively engaged with current topics concerning issues within the political and geopolitical sphere; thirdly, modern prophets are all well-aware of the powerful potential offered by social media. Additionally, it would not be an exaggeration to define these people as fine psychologists as well. Modern prophets are cognizant of the great psychological support that their prophecies can offer people in a world characterized by a deep sense of uncertainty. The so-called end-times prophecies foreseeing the apocalypse are linked to this widespread idea of a decadent world about to end. Therefore, the prophet's soothing and supporting stance becomes a lifeline for many.

During Donald Trump's second run for the US presidency, several prophets vehemently spread a united message that he would be reelected. As explained in an eye-opening piece published by Politico, it all started with the activities of Johnny Enlow, a 61-year-old, California-based Pentecostal pastor. The man stated that Donald Trump would become president again in 2021 and not in 2024. His statement triggered a series of follow-up prophetic messages. Greg Locke, another pastor with a large group of social media followers based in Nashville, presented Trump's reelection as surefire, while Kat Kerr, a preacher from Jacksonville, Florida, said that none other than God himself told her that Trump would crush his opponent. All of them ultimately failed with strong repercussions on their activities and their adherents’ loyalty.

These are just three of the most prominent prophetic messages. The picture is more complex, as currently in the US there is a plethora of new and old religious movements led by a staggering number of old and new self-defined prophets. The key point is nevertheless the same for many of them, namely the idea promoted by several Pentecostals that Donald Trump is the one chosen by God to save the world and, more specifically, the US's decaying Christian values. 

Africa is another place where prophetic discourse is flourishing at an astounding rate. Since the missionaries' times, Christianity has been acquiring a significant role in African societies. This was facilitated by the work of these religious-based missions that promoted educational institutions, alleviated poverty, and improved societal conditions in the African continent. Like in the US, there is a myriad of different Christian movements led by several charismatic figures. This gave Christianity the leading role in many African countries, as the benefits linked to it led people to show their unconditional support. It is unquestioned that these more or less genuine religious figures provide relief. Gathering in a church every Sunday, socializing, exchanging ideas and life experiences, and singing the gospels together, are all activities that have undeniable positive effects on the minds of people who are struggling in their daily lives. This becomes a serious issue, however, when these so-called self-defined prophets benefit from people's faith and dire circumstances.

As rightly pointed out by the Lausanne Movement, the genuity of old Christian values is gradually and dramatically fading away, giving space to dubious religious figures self-proclaiming themselves messengers of God. The need for visibility offered by social media and the exploitation of the appeal that the message of God exerts on the masses to acquire earthly possessions are now the leading values. Prophets have now turned into Instagram influencers: where more exposure leads to more profit. 

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a telling example of the tendency of how prophecies can generate profit by un-relentlessly exploiting people's faith and devotion.

The DCR, a war-ravaged, poor, and weak democracy constantly at odds with its neighbors, is witnessing the rise of several millionaires active in numerous sectors. As documented by Deutsche Welle in a documentary that aired in 2021, the division between the poor and the rich is abysmal. The documentary focuses on several figures in the country's society who are reaching unthinkable levels of fame and wealth, often exploiting the several loopholes in legislation and bureaucracy. People like the singer Fally Ipupa and the entrepreneurs' Eric Monga and Robert Seninga are leading extremely rich lives while often promoting the image of benefactors concerned about the faith of the poor. While these dynamics leading to inequality are a problem in itself, the issue becomes even more serious when some people exploit religion to enrich themselves at the expense of other people. 

One of the merits of the DW documentary is that it exposed the dubious, if not criminal, activities of the self-defined prophet Dominique Khonde. This self-proclaimed prophet, who also calls himself an ambassador, is making millions by selling a miraculous juice that is not only supposed to heal every kind of illness, like AIDS, cancer, and epilepsy but is also able to resuscitate children. By preaching the gospels of healing and prosperity and promising his devotees unconditional support in all kinds of spiritual issues, he is attracting millions of followers, including the former President and his wife. Selling juice with the pretence that it is miraculous is a serious matter. Despite this, as the DW shows clearly, many people are thankful to Khonde for giving them back their health and life. Whenever his visit is planned somewhere in the capital city of Kinshasa, thousands of people wait in long queues to spend the little money they have on this miraculous juice. The influence he has over these people is evident. As obvious as the fact that he is now one of the few millionaires in a country that is in a state of perpetual starvation. 

The prophet is aware of his not-so-pious actions. There is, however, limited information on this famed prophet. Even his exact age is a unknown. A recent article reports, that it can be anywhere between 55 and 60. There is little that is known about his personal life or family in general. The only resource is his Facebook page, which undisputably celebrates his greatness: The Prophet Dominique Khonde is the Universal Ambassador, Grand Knight of Peace, Doctor, and Spiritual Leader of the Greater Liloba na Nzambe Community. He is followed to date by 11.110 people, and the profile teems with pictures acclaiming his noble mission among the common people of the community as well as in the Congolese parliament. And if this is not enough to explain his moral stature, the prophet and ambassador also visited the European Parliament, celebrating the big event in a YouTube video.

One relevant fact to consider is that African societies have always been inextricably attached to religion. The African understanding of religion is essentially ontological and, as such, it permeates all aspects of society. This understanding, which was already well-ingrained in traditional religious practices, has been strengthened by Christianity and Islam. Consequently, the separation between the body, the soul, and religious practice in everyday life is not contemplated. Moreover, religion determines the rules to be applied by the members of each social group, stressing the importance of acting on a collective and not an individual level.

This group cohesion can help tackle the most pressing issues in society because religion permeates the socio-economic fabric of the country as well. Given problems like starvation, lack of basic resources, and, most importantly, the persistence of illnesses like HIV, it does not come as a surprise that a miraculous deadly liquid can be accepted by so many. According to the African understanding of religion elucidated earlier, healing the body is tantamount to healing the soul, which will ultimately reflect on all aspects of the healed person as an active member of the community.

Religious hoaxes have been in place since ancient times, and Dominique Khonde is just one more of these cases. However, the fact remains that, currently, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a person is endangering the lives of thousands of people, exploiting their hopes for a better life. And even more seriously, while the government is aware of his activities, no action is taken to prevent him from further damaging the population. 

Edited by: Maria Gro

Image credit: Facebook




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