Angola: The Light of the World (Sétimo Dia a Luz do Mundo) Evangelical Church since its director, José Julino Kalupeteka, was sentenced in 2016, including treatment of members and leaders by authorities and society (2016-January 2019) [AGO106244.FE]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Overview

According to Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (Action des chrétiens pour l’abolition de la torture, ACAT), a French human rights NGO that advocates internationally (ACAT n.d.), the Light of the World Evangelical Church was identified as a “sect” and banned by the Angolan authorities in April 2015 (ACAT 25 Apr. 2017). According to the same source, the church had existed for approximately 15 years (ACAT 25 Apr. 2017). Sources note that Angola’s former president, José Eduardo dos Santos, had described the church as “a threat to peace and national unity” (ACAT 25 Apr. 2017; Freedom House 25 Jan. 2017). According to the US Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2016, the Angolan government continued to state that the “practices [of the Light of the World Church] were destabilizing to social order, such as prohibiting schooling and vaccination of its children” (US 15 Aug. 2017, 3).

According to an October 2018 article from the website of the Angolan station Radio Despertar by the BBC’s media monitoring for Africa, the Light of the World Church, which was led by José Julino Kalupeteka, “no longer exists” (Radio Despertar 22 Oct. 2018).

For further information on the Light of the World Church, including its history, beliefs and activities prior to 2016, see the report on this subject prepared by the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides, OFPRA), attached to this Response.

2. Sentencing of José Julino Kalupeteka and Other Members of the Light of the World Church

According to sources, in April 2016, José Julino Kalupeteka, the head of the Light of the World Church, was sentenced to 28 years in prison (US 15 Aug. 2017, 3; ACAT 25 Apr. 2017; Freedom House 25 Jan. 2017). According to ACAT, seven other members of the church were sentenced to 24 years in prison, and two other members were sentenced to 16 years in prison (ACAT 25 Apr. 2017). Sources explain that they were convicted for the death of nine police officers, who were killed in a clash between police and members of the church in April 2015 (ACAT 25 Apr. 2017; US 15 Aug. 2017, 3), during an attempt to arrest José Julino Kalupeteka (ACAT 25 Apr. 2017). According to sources, the events of April 2015 occurred in Huambo province (Freedom House 25 Jan. 2017; Human Rights Watch 12 Jan. 2017). ACAT specifies that the events took place in São Pedro Sumé, called Monté Sumé (ACAT 25 Apr. 2017).

3. Treatment of the Members and Leaders of the Light of the World Church

According to sources, several members of the church were also killed during the violence that led to Julino Kalupeteka’s arrest (ACAT 25 Apr. 2017; Human Rights Watch 12 Jan. 2017). ACAT describes this violence as a [translation] “massacre” of church members (ACAT 25 Apr. 2017). Sources indicate that the official death toll was 22 people, including police officers, but the number of deaths among church members was reportedly much higher, according to observers (ACAT 25 Apr. 2017; US 15 Aug. 2017, 3; Freedom House 25 Jan. 2017). According to ACAT, human rights advocates estimate that there were approximately 700 deaths (ACAT 25 Apr. 2017). Human Rights Watch reports that, according to opposition groups and activists, church members were killed in retaliation by security force members who wanted to take revenge for the death of the police officers (Human Rights Watch 26 Sept. 2018).

According to Human Rights Watch, no security force members were arrested or prosecuted for the killing of the church members (Human Rights Watch 26 Sept. 2018). According to sources, the Angolan authorities refused to have an independent investigation of the April 2015 events (Freedom House 25 Jan. 2017; Human Rights Watch 12 Jan. 2017), despite a request for an investigation by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (Human Rights Watch 12 Jan. 2017).

In April 2017, ACAT stated that [translation] “it seems that the ‘Light of the World’ Church and its followers continue to be repressed,” adding that “to this day, survivors [of the alleged massacre in] São Pedro Sumé are in hiding for fear of retaliation. Several of them managed to flee to other countries and seek asylum, particularly in France” (ACAT 25 Apr. 2017). According to ACAT, [translation] “there is no doubt that more than two years after the massacre in Monté Sumé, the international community’s impunity and silence encourage repeated violence against members of the ‘Light of the World’ Church” (ACAT 25 Apr. 2017).

According to sources, new violent clashes between members of the church and the police occurred in August 2016, resulting in the deaths of several people (US 15 Aug. 2017, 3; ACAT 25 Apr. 2017; Freedom House 25 Jan. 2017). According to the US International Religious Freedom Report for 2016, five members of the church and three police officers were killed during some of these clashes in the province of Kwanza Sul (US 15 Aug. 2017, 3). For its part, Freedom House reports that 30 members of the church were allegedly killed during the confrontations (Freedom House 25 Jan. 2017).

According to the October 2018 Radio Despertar article, José Julino Kalupeteka’s health condition was deteriorating in prison, and his family tried unsuccessfully to have him transferred to another prison in a region with a milder climate (Radio Despertar 22 Oct. 2018). According to the same source, the son of José Julino Kalupeteka stated that the latter had been seen by a physician only once since he was sentenced (Radio Despertar 22 Oct. 2018).

Further information on the treatment of the Light of the World Church members and leaders could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Action des chrétiens pour l’abolition de la torture (ACAT). 25 April 2017. “Monté Sumé : violence d’État et impunité.” [Accessed 28 Jan. 2019]

Action des chrétiens pour l'abolition de la torture (ACAT). N.d. “Qui sommes-nous?” [Accessed 28 Jan. 2019]

Freedom House. 25 January 2017. “Angola.” Freedom in the World 2017. [Accessed 28 Jan. 2019]

Human Rights Watch. 26 September 2018. “Angola: Investigate Past Rights Abuses.” [Accessed 28 Jan. 2019]

Human Rights Watch. 12 January 2017. “Angola.” World Report 2017: Events of 2016. [Accessed 28 Jan. 2019]

Radio Despertar. 22 October 2018. “Health of Jailed Angolan Sect Leader ‘Worsening’.” (Factiva/BBC Monitoring Africa) [Accessed 28 Jan. 2019]

United States (US). 15 August 2017. Department of State. “Angola.” International Religious Freedom Report for 2016. [Accessed 28 Jan. 2019]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Associação Justiça, Paz e Democracia; Associação Maos Livres; Associação OMUNGA; Maka Angola; Mosaiko – Institute for Citizenship; Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa; postdoctoral researcher who studies religious groups in Angola; lecturer and researcher who studies politics in Angola.

Internet sources, including: ABYZ News Links; African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; Afrikarabia; Agência Angola Press; AllAfrica; Amnesty International; BBC; ecoi.net; Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l'homme; France 24; Le Monde; Radio France internationale; UN – Refworld, ReliefWeb.

Attachment

France. 10 November 2016. Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides (OFPRA). L’église évangélique Sétimo Dia a Luz do Mundo (Lumière du Monde) et son leader José Julino Kalupeteka. [Accessed 28 Jan. 2019]