Alice Lenshina, leader of the Lumpa Church being escorted from a Northern Rhodesian Air Force plane in which she was flown to Mumbwa, about 75 miles (120 km) north-west of Lusaka on 15th August, 1964.

She surrendered after two weeks of violence in which 557 people died (official figures).

The Lumpa church was a home grown syncretic religious movement established in 1953 by Alice Lenshina (Regina) Mulenga Lubusha in Kasomo village of Chinsali district in Northern Rhodesia.

The church which between 1955 and 1956 commanded some 60,000 followers, held her as a prophetess and promoted a blend of Christian and traditional religious values and practices, including a belief in the role of women as spiritual mediums.

All this was not so controversial until the movement in 1958 adopted the rejection of ALL earthly authority. It began having its own courts and refused to pay taxes or be registered with the state. Lenshina was bent on setting up a theocratic parallel government to an extent that she forbade her followers to send their children to school.

This led to a confrontation with Northern Rhodesian African nationalist political parties especially the United National Independence Party (UNIP) with whom it shared a space and constituency in Chinsali in particular.

The movement also came foul of the traditional authorities for not accepting their authority and demoting their cultural and traditional practices to ‘satanism and witchcraft’.

The violent confrontations and defence of her cult by her members against equally determined supporters of the nationalist movement, the intervention of Northern Rhodesia security forces, led to the deaths of approximately 700 members (not inclusive of killings of partisan, non-partisan and security personnel) and the arrest of Lenshina.

She was released in 1975, but imprisoned two years later for trying to revive the movement. The Catholic Lay movement Legion of Mary adopted some of their hymns and thus converted some of the former members.

The Lumpa Church split into various churches – Jerusalem Church, Uluse Kamutola Church, New Jerusalem Church, Sloam Church in which form it survives today.

Credit : Eugene Makai

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