Nigerian police rescued at least 77 people, including 23 children, from a church basement, where pastors told them to stay and to wait for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
According to The Christian Post, pastors at Whole Bible Believer Church in the Valenino area of Ondo allegedly told church members "to stay behind" to wait for the rapture, Ondo State Police said.
The youngest child in the basement was 8, according to reports.
"Preliminary investigation revealed that one Pastor Josiah Peter Asumosa, an assistant pastor in the church, was the one who told the members that Rapture will take place in April, but later said it has been changed to September 2022 and told the young members to obey only their parents in the Lord," BBC quoted police press officer Funmilayo Odunlami as saying.
Some church members had been in the basement since last year, the Washington Post reports.
Police learned about the incident after some parents filed nuisance complaints. In one instance, a woman said the church possibly kidnapped her daughters and did not allow her to register for exams.
"They hold services all round the clock, and people rarely sleep when they held their vigils," Tunde Valentino, who lives nearby, said. "It was until Tuesday when a woman came saying they did not release her two children."
The church's pastor, David Anifowoshe, and his deputy have been arrested. Some church members reportedly resisted rescuers and "refused to go." Many said, "they walked into the basement themselves."
The pastors have denied the allegations of kidnapping.
"The pastors still claim that they were having a seven-day program," Odunlami said. "The one who claimed that Jesus was to come by September said it was what God told him. But, we want to ask more questions from the parents that are around. We want to, first of all, get this information clear from the parents."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Sean824
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.