The search is on for a dissapeared South African pastor who authorities accuse of "abusing" the faith of his congregants by having them eat live snakes and rats as a way of showing their trust in the Lord.
According to ECNA, self-styled prophet Penuel Mnguni of the End Times Disciples Ministries in Soshanguve is now wanted by South Africa's Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities after photos emerged online showing him feeding members of his congregation live snakes as a test of their faith.
The commission is probing abusive and exploitive religious practices and has been searching for Mnguni. The CLR, however, has had no luck in its search for him since the pastor does not have a home address and the tent that his ministry used to hold its services was burned down in August by a group that was angered by his unconventional worship style.
"The person we're looking for is pastor Mnguni, whose address cannot be verified," CLR Commission chairman Thoko Mkhwanazi Xaluva was quoted as saying. "We appeal to people out there, if they know where he is, because we need to summon him. As soon as we can verify his address, he'll also be here. We really mean business."
The commission has also summoned pastor Lesego Daniel of the Rabboni Centre Ministries, who is known for convincing his congregants to eat grass and drink gasoline. Mnguni is believed to be Daniel's understudy.
Mnguni has also reportedly convinced his congregation that he had the ability to turn rocks into bread and convert snakes into chocolate.
In photos posted on Facebook, Mnguni is seen dropping snakes into a congregant's mouth. IN the post he cites Romans 14 to argue that those with strong trust in the Lord are capable of eating everything.
"#Demonstration of God's Power, Romans 14. Those with small faith eats (sic) only vegetables but the ones with a great faith eats (sic) everything," Mnguni wrote in his Facebook post. "During service Man of God commanded a snake to change into a chocolate and it obeyed. People ate it and enjoyed it. To God Be The Glory!"
After the photos emerged online in July, Mnguni was arrested a few days later because the South African animal rights group, SPCA, charged him with animal cruelty. He was later released on bail but no conditions were set for his release.
"A snake can't be fed to a human being, especially if it's alive, that's cruel," SPCA's Andrew Kekana said.
The National Interfaith Council of South Africa has also condemned Mnguni's practice of feeding snakes and rodents to his congregation. The council's Rev. Thamin Mvambo told Eyewitness News that such practices are harmful to society and commercialize religion.
"Any kind of religion that propagates ideas that are unacceptable; we cannot support that," he said. "Their claims are not even founded in any scripture; [these are] things that they are actually propagating out of their own minds."
Even though Mvambo contends that Mnguni's claims are not founded in the Scripture, Romans 14 begs to differ, just as Mnguni pointed out on Facebook.
"One person's faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them," the verse states. "Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand."
Although there has been much opposition to the the pastors' unconventional style of worship, hundreds of congregants are demanding that CLR end their investigation and let their pastors exercise their freedom of religion.