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Courting Butt Naked: Israel United in Christ attempts to recruit former cannibal and leader of a Liberian child army

Israel United in Christ (IUIC), a black Hebrew Israelite group based in the Bronx, New York, thinks white people are “the devil,” Jews are “fake Jews” and members of the LGBT community are “sinners” but has no qualms about recruiting a cannibal who led a child army and regularly performed human sacrifices.

This was made clear when the group took a recent trip to Liberia where they proselytized to a man known as General Butt Naked in an attempt to make him a member.

IUIC traveled to Liberia to convert its citizens into black Hebrew Israelites, preaching at a Liberian church and on the street, and appearing on local radio to share their bigoted version of the gospel. IUIC’s leader, Bishop Nathanyel Ben Israel, spearheaded the meeting between the group and the General, conducting a Bible study with him during their visit.

Naked, whose most violent acts and his later renunciation of them were all couched in religion, lent them a very willing ear. The General, whose real name is Joshua Milton Blahyi, became a tribal priest at the age of 11. Naked claims that he was taught by his tribe, the Krahn, that ritualistic killing of children and cannibalism were necessary practices that pleased their God. Naked has said that his tribe believed their God originally discovered the tribe and keeps them protected. This was Naked’s understanding when civil war came to Liberia in 1989, and led to his position as one of the country’s most dangerous warlords.

Fighting to keep then-leader Samuel Doe in power, Naked led an army of children, most of them aged nine to 15, against those attempting to oust him. Naked would tell his young troops that killing was a game and have them participate in mutilation in an effort to desensitize them. He sacrificed a human, often a child, before each battle, then fed them to his adolescent army under the belief that it would purify them. He also admits to giving them cocaine, which he procured, along with weapons by trading in blood diamonds.  

The moniker “General Butt Naked” came from his wartime strategy of leading his young troops into conflict naked, except for shoes, occasional wigs, women’s dresses and handbags. At the time, Naked thought being nude made them invincible. As Vice recounted in 2003, Naked has said “We were nude, fearless, drunk, and homicidal.” 

Naked told a 2008 Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that he took part in at least 20,000 killings. 

He has said that his lust for blood and human flesh abruptly ended when a vision came to him, post-sacrifice, of a person swathed in light who warned him in his native tongue that he must stop being a slave and repent if he wanted to live. He claims that was his last day on the battlefield and resulted in his conversion to Christianity. 

Now known as “Blahyi the Evangelist,” Naked preaches the gospel to interested Liberians and attempts to evangelize to the child soldiers he left behind. Some Liberians believe his conversion is sincere, while others do not trust a man who boasts of killing so many of their people. 

Israel United in Christ sees Naked as an opportunity to push their outreach farther into Africa using a man with a very public persona, past deeds be damned. As one member told him “you can reach a lot of people, you know what I’m saying, but you gotta take them the true gospel.” 

 

 

Photo credit: REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

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