The shocking discovery made in a police/military raid just three days ago (Tuesday, November 5) that Paradise, St. James, was home to the growing religious radicalized group – the Qahal Yawheh, appears to be just the tip of the iceberg, as allegations continue to swirl forward of the sexual exploitation of children and extortion of its members, among other crimes, further shedding light on the dark roots of the cult-like movement – which is now the focus of a national probe by the Office of the Children’s Advocate, the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) and the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
Despite the unwanted attention, leaders of the group have not shied away from blasting media reports, claiming that they are being scandalized.
In a brief interview with the Western Mirror, moments before cursing our news team, Omar Thompson – one of the leaders of Qahal Yahweh, spoke amidst the chaos of children being whisked away by members of the security forces and the CPFSA, on suspicion that they had been abused.
“We are Qahal Yahweh,” Thompson began, “we are the nation of Yahweh Elohim. We’re here as a people – as citizens of Jamaica, deciding to make a stand once and for all. We truly believe that we have been treated unfairly by the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the CDA (referring to the CFPSA), and as a result… we have decided to take a stand.”
As testament to Thompson’s words, members of his congregation stood clenched fisted, ready to fight, with some even engaging armed security forces personnel – who were forced to breach the property after not being allowed in, by throwing sticks and stones at them. Others stood and chanted against the security forces, while there were those who resisted the armed personnel’s attempts to remove children from the property, all while Thompson observed.
Thompson declared that the reports of child abuse and other criminal activities, which he says prompted the security forces to act, are unsubstantiated, and are tantamount to religious persecution. “The CDA has no business here. No one is being abused. What they should be doing is shutting down these public schools, all of them. Sending your children to these public schools is where the abuse is – that’s what the CDA should be doing,” Thompson added.
When our news team pressed for answers regarding Thompson’s apparent vitriol for public schools, the interview was abruptly ended. Further attempts to get answers to other allegations saw Thompson cursing the news team, citing that we were agents of the devil.
AUNT AND NIECE TELL ALL
But an aunt and niece, who have been engaged in an intense back-and-forth with the group since last September, were willing to tell all to the Western Mirror. The two, in an interview after news of the raid went public, shared that their 16-year-old female relative, who had been pulled from a prominent high school in St. James by her mother – who is also a member of Qahal Yahweh – was suffering, and they needed to rescue her.
“My sister pulled her,” shared the aunt, who will be referred to as Small, “because the group believed that children of their members should not be affiliated with the outside world.”
Upon learning of her niece’s untimely withdrawal from school, Small made the matter known to the CPFSA in October last year, but nothing had been done. “The information I gave was taken, and they said they would get back to me. But I hadn’t heard anything for a while so I then took the matter to Montego Bay. Again, my information was taken. I expressed to them that I was concerned about my niece’s sexuality, as at the time she was living on the compound [in Paradise], her mother had not been living with her there.”
Not being satisfied with the pace of the investigations that had purportedly gotten underway following her reports, Small then went to a police station, and again made the matter known. Despite the shock of the officers to whom she relayed the details of her niece’s withdrawal from school, and promises that they would look into it, things remained stagnant.
After double-checking with the CFPSA regarding the investigation, Small’s urgency to get her niece from the facility skyrocketed after she learned that the girl’s mother had been exiled from the group and that the 16-year-old was now living among the group all by herself.
“They kicked her out and told her that she had a few weeks to live. They cursed her, and she really believed she was cursed. As a result, she wrote a letter, which she had stamped by a Justice of the Peace, stating that my niece should be turned over to the care of Omar Thompson [leader of Qahal Yahweh], in case she died,” Small explained. It was also revealed that the woman – fearing she would soon be dead, also took out a life insurance policy.
She was allegedly expelled from the congregation because she expressed dissatisfaction at the husband she was assigned – a common practice in the group.
As the situation worsened, Small pressed to have a different officer assigned to her case, as the current officer – for various reasons, had been slow to mount a case against the religious group.
Despite those efforts, and despite the group being raided, and some six children taken away on suspicion of abuse, the Qahal Yahweh remains active on their base in Paradise. As for Small’s niece, she is still on the compound, with no clear idea as to whether they will be able to rescue her, among the reports of other 16-year-old girls becoming pregnant and ‘wedded’ off to older men in the congregation.
The JCF, as well as the CPFSA, declined to comment on the matter, as they said investigations are ongoing.
-Michael Nattoo – Staff Reporter