Ukraine Attacks 'Charlatan' And His Booty-Shaking Babes

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Orthodox Church in Ukraine is not quite sure which part of Sunday Adelaja's weekly services it likes the least.

Sunday Adelaja

The dubious Russian pop and the pom-pom-waving Cossack dancers are certainly contenders. The hot babes in choir dress swaying to the music might win the vote of its many older and weaker-hearted clergymen.

Or it could be the thousands of Ukrainian teenagers squealing as the diminutive Nigerian pastor preaches the word of God.

In the 1,000 years that it has been in existence, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has faced down many threats ranging from Reformation-era heretics to Soviet iconoclasts and modern day schismatics.

But never before has it had to see off an intruder who encourages his congregants to "shake their booty and praise the Lord". Mr Adelaja is a serious threat, even if it took the Church a while to realise it.

Twelve years ago, his Embassy of God church consisted of seven fellow Africans who used to gather in his Kiev flat.

Today he heads one of the fastest-growing Christian congregations in Europe, with 250,000 members in Ukraine alone. Among them is the first Protestant mayor of Kiev, elected to the post in March.

Quite something for a man who, thanks to a Soviet scholarship won in 1986, fled his impoverished Nigerian village at the age of 19 to escape the "witchcraft" that killed many of his family.

Alarmed at his burgeoning congregation, the Church has launched a counter attack, seeking to portray Mr Adelaja as a charlatan.

"Our main problem is that Sunday Adeleja has created a personality cult around himself," said Fr Evstratiy, a spokesman for the Kiev Patriarchate.

"Experts say he uses conscience manipulation techniques. He starts his sermons in a low, ingratiating voice, and gradually gets heated up to the point where he is running round the stage screaming." At a recent service at a Kiev ice hockey stadium 14,000 people crammed in to experience the effect.

As "Pastor Sunday" prepared to make a grand entrance, the choirgirls shook their pompoms, the disco lights started to flash and a fanfare sounded. The lights cut out, and Mr Adelaja emerged from a shroud of dry ice. Children holding flags of the world wafted round him and the choir bellowed "Sanctus!"

The congregation responded enthusiastically. Many danced in the aisles. With his eyes closed and brows furrowed in concentration, he raised his arms aloft. A hush fell over the audience.

"A man who is having problems functioning in his manly area, God is healing you," he intoned. "Those who are having skin problems, God is healing you."

On and on he droned, curing everything from buttock problems to bankruptcy. Some in the congregation wept, others bellowed hallelujahs. Ushers discreetly passed around collection boxes.

African preachers heading largely white European congregations are no longer such a rarity. Still, the 38-year-old stands out. Not only has he achieved a phenomenal conversion rate in the birth place of Russian Orthodoxy, he has also done it in one of Europe's most racist countries - one where skinhead attacks on ethnic minorities are reported on an almost daily basis.

"People would spit at me in the street, or call me 'monkey' and 'chocolate'," he recalled. "They thought it was an insult for a black man to preach."

He attributes his success to the fact that he reached out to the rejects of society: the drug addicts, criminals, prostitutes and the homeless; those considered by the Church to be beyond redemption.

But Mr Adelaja also owes something of his success to his appeal among the young. It was the young who were at the forefront of protests in Kiev's main square during the 2004 Orange Revolution that brought the pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko to power.

Orthodox luminaries supported his Kremlin-backed opponent. Mr Adelaja made no such mistake. Every day he joined the crowds and led them in prayer. Now he is reaping the rewards.

Source: Telegraph