/  07.04.2022

At least 77 people were rescued from the basement of a Nigerian church. Allegedly they were held there by Christian pastors preaching about the second coming of Jesus Christ, The Washington Post reports.

After a woman’s daughter was not allowed to register for her exams at Whole Bible Believer Church, she alerted Ondo authorities that there were signs of a potential kidnapping at the facility.

Among the dozens of people that were rescued from the church were 23 children. Some were as young as 8 years old . Per local residents, members of the Ondo religious facility had been held in the edifice since last year. The church, which is located just 46 miles from the country’s capital, reportedly urged them to “stay behind” to await the rapture.

“Some of them said they have been there since August,” said Famakinwa Lucaskakaki, the president of a local youth group. He also revealed that some church members insisted that they had “walked into the basement themselves” following each Sunday service. There were even some people who resisted the rescue operations and “refused to go” with authorities.

“The assistant pastor said he told them what the Lord told him: they they should obey their parents in the Lord,” said Ondo police spokesperson Funmilayo Odunlami. Although investigators have not located evidence that proves members were “abused and/or forced” to stay in the basement, authorities have two pastors from the organization in their custody.

While other residents had complaints about the church, they revealed that they had no idea what was going on behind closed doors. “They hold services all round the clock and people rarely sleep when they held their vigils,” said Tunde Valentino, a nearby neighbor. “It wasn’t until Tuesday when a woman came saying they did not release her two children.”

Known as a deeply religious country, this incident is not the first time that authorities have reported rescue missions for people held by clerics in Nigeria.

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