Lumpa Church, Zambia
- View SourceExtract from a blog post, a book review:
A Time To Mourn (A personal account of the the 1964 Lumpa Church revolt by
John Hudson). My copy is from Bookworld Publishers, Lusaka, 1999.
The episode in Northern Rhodesian history is well known and there are several
accounts in print.
In 1953 the Lumpa Church was founded as an offshoot sect of the local
Catholic church in Chinsali district. Its founder, Alice "Lenshina" (Regina)
Lubusha , was "a failed catechumen" according to this account.
Something happened to Alice: an illness, a vision, a hallucination perhaps,
in which she believed she had died and risen from the dead four times, and
had seen God. After a period in which she remained in her original church,
during which perhaps all the trouble might have been avoided, she established
a breakaway church with a focus on confession of witchcraft. (Of course,
failure to confess might mean guilt. This may have contributed to the quick
rise in her church membership.) Crucially, also, the church was against
participation in politics or membership of political parties, and this would
ultimately lead to conflict and bloodshed. The time, of course, was leading
up to the independence of Zambia, and UNIP members were militant. In the
final stages, roughly two months before independence in October 1964, the
army moved in on Lumpa Church settlements.
The Lumpa church members were not only suspicious of outsiders and political party members, but openly hostile. There had been skirmishes and a few deaths and reprisals before the real massacres began. Lumpa church members stopped sending their children to school. In addition, the church had defied local law and set up villages without permission of local chiefs. This disregard and i
solation led to suspicion and aggression. Animosity had grown between church members and UNIP supporters.
Kenneth Kaunda certainly tried to avert the crisis, but perhaps at that point things had gone too far. An agreement brokered by KK was drawn up for church settlements to disperse, but this was not honoured or enforced. The church began to develop end-time tendencies, believing that their time on earth was short. They stopped cultivating food and had to resort to raids on neighbouring
The Lumpa church members were mostly armed with sharp sticks, spears and pangas, whilst the Northern Rhodesia Regiment (NRR) were armed with automatic rifles. In spite of there having been a couple of causalities on the army side (mainly during their attempts to negotiate) there was no contest in the end. As many as a thousand Lumpas were killed. With independence approaching, the ki
llings did not perhaps receive the kind of attention that they might have done in less tense circumstances. The government was more concerned with preparation for independence. However, the authorities concerned are left looking pretty bad, in my opinion.
Surprisingly, after such a disastrous event and although Alice was sent to
prison and died a mysterious death in 1978 under house arrest, the Lumpa
(excelling/exceeding) church still survives today.
I came across some quite horrific footage on-line, of an attack on a Lumpa
Church, I believe the main church building, judging by its size. Why this
footage was shot and how it has survived to see the light of day are a
mystery to me. One would imagine it would have been destroyed.... These
pictures can't bring home the full horror of it. I have avoided the worst
images. The violence perpetrated against people who clearly are not
attempting to fight is completely unjustifiable.
Read the whole thing here, with pictures
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