By AT News Team, April 22, 2015: Last Thursday police arrived to serve a warrant on the leader of an Adventist splinter group in Huambo Province and members of the sect began shooting. When the gunfire was over and Julio Kalupeteca was under arrest, nine police officers and 13 civilians were dead, reports the ANGOP news service.
Shock spread through Luanda, the capital of the African nation, on Monday when the murder of the police officials, including two commanding officers, was announced. “The Angolan Head of State Jose Eduardo dos Santos is profoundly shocked,” stated the official Angola Press Agency. He expressed his “profound consternation” and condolences to the relatives of the victims, stated Eugenio Laborinho, the nation’s chief of police and fire services.
The Seventh Day Adventist Church Light of the World group began in the early 2000s. Kalupeteca has taught that Christ will return in 2015 and in recent years urged followers to sell their homes and possessions and move to rural areas, according to a bulletin from the international Prensa Latina New Agency. In 2012 the sect tried to stop a vaccination campaign against polio and last year urged people to refuse to cooperate with the national census.
The “dissident branch of the Seventh Day Adventist Church … has 3,700 followers in Angola,” reported the All Africa news service. It is unclear how many there may be in other countries.
The majority of the 24 million residents of Angola are Catholics, a legacy from the time when it was a colony of Portugal. In recent years Evangelical Protestant denominations are gaining many converts. A total of 83 denominations are officially recognized in the country, including the Seventh-day Adventist Church which had nearly 255,000 members at the end of last year in 3,000 congregations.
There are also “1,200 other religious organizations, including many cults,” according to the government’s Ministry of Culture. Some of these groups are very aggressive and often engaged in conflict and competition, which sometimes leads to violence.
In some ways this is similar to another disastrous event that occurred in Waco, Texas, in 1993. United States Federal officers attempted to arrest the leader of the Branch Davidian cult for hoarding automatic weapons and were met with gunfire. Police officers were killed and after a standoff that lasted for weeks, a final assault on the cult’s compound started a fire that killed many civilians, including children.
“Religion is a powerful thing in people’s lives,” a scholar of religious movements told Adventist Today. “When extreme fundamentalism gets out of control it can lead to violence, not matter the theological roots of the belief; as we know so painfully from more recent events involving Muslim fundamentalists. Adventists are not immune to this kind of thing.”