Documentary on Evangelist Joshua Milton Blahyi, “General Butt Naked”

Two documentaries recently broadcast on British television have looked at how someone responsible for crimes against humanity has turned to Christianity for redemption. Back in May, BBC 4 showed Pol Pot’s Executioner, about Comrade Duch (Kaing Guek Eav), and last night More 4 showed The Redemption of General Butt Naked, taking an observational approach to a notorious Liberian militia leader who now goes by the name of of Evangelist Joshua Milton Blahyi.

One difference is that while Duch maintained a false identity and a low profile even after he received baptism from Rev Christopher LaPel, Blahyi has a public ministry which focuses on his penitence, and he has sought out those whose lives he has affected – this includes a young girl, Praise, who was blinded in one eye by Blahyi when she was a baby, and his former bodyguard, David Johnson (nicknamed “Senegalese”): Blahyi shot him in both legs and prevented him from getting treatment, with the result that his legs had to be amputated. Some of those he meets offer tearful forgiveness; others seem traumatised by the very sight of him. Blahyi also tries to look after some former militia members now living rough; he explains that he used to train child soldiers using videos of Hollywood films, to show that when a character is shot dead the actor still reappears in other films and that therefore being shot is not to be feared.

At Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee in 2008 Blahyi was recommended for amnesty, despite claiming responsibility for 20,000 crimes. Human rights activists complain that Blahyi has not been properly called to account, even if his change of heart is genuine, and at one stage, following death threats, he was forced to flee to a refugee camp in Ghana.

The documentary includes an interview with Bishop John Kun Kun, who facilitated Blahyi’s conversion to Christianity fifteen years ago – Kun explains that he took the risk of visiting the Butt Naked Barracks to explain Jesus to him. Blahyi in turn recalls that he was disturbed by the encounter, and demanded an explanation from Johnson as to how Kun had managed to reach his room. Johnson told him that he had not seen any man, despite keeping watch, and this was what prompted Blahyi to shoot him in the legs. The documentary shows Blahyi making his peace with Johnson, shortly before Johnson died from tuberculosis – Blahyi pondering his grave provides the documentary’s end shot.

Blahyi’s ministry is called “The End Time Train Evangelistic Ministries”, and he bills himself on a poster shown in the documentary as “ex-war General and Chief Priest to the late Liberian President Samuel K. Doe” and as one of the “Anointed Men of God” (a status which African Christians are often reluctant to challenge). He has a website, where he gives further details:

…Both of Joshua’s parents are of the Sarpo-Krahn tribe in Kabedeh District, Sinoe County, South-Eastern Liberia  Joshua’s birth was traditionally arranged to replace his father as the priest to his Krahn tribe.

At the tender age of 7 Joshua was forced to forgo his primary education in Monrovia to face his traditional destiny;  he was trained for five years and took over his Priestly role to the great Krahn tribe at age 11. By the virtue of being the chief priest to his tribe, he became the spiritual consultant to the late Liberian president, Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe. His great occultic strength raised him to the rank of “General for the Butt-Naked’ Battalion(completely nude fighters), which made him one of the most brutal, fearless and well known players in Liberia.

…Joshua is the president and founder of the End Time Train Evangelistic Ministries founded in 1999 in Ghana; with the vision and mission to shine the Light of Christ and break the chains of ignorance in the dark and remote parts of Africa. Joshua’s evangelistic  function carries an infallible TRUTH that the kingdom of darkness in Africa cannot resist or deny. Joshua evangelistic journeys has effected Ghana, where it started, Togo, Benin Republic, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chile Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Garbon, Cote’d Ivory, Guinea, Serria Leone, Kenya and Liberia his home land.

The inclusion of Chile is a surprise. His site also includes production notes for the documentary.

Blahyi also claims that he headed “the coastal line division of the Black Witches of West Africa”; I suspect this is a polemical attempt to link his former religious identity with African traditional religion more generally, painted in conspiratorial terms. Elsewhere, he writes that this is where “the continent is controlled from.” Given the damage caused by witchcraft accusations in Africa, this kind of language sets off alarm bells.

It is difficult to know what to make of Blahyi. As Ceri Radford writes in today’s Telegraph:

His supposed conversion was deeply disconcerting and raised more questions than this film – even though it was five years in the making – could possibly answer. Blahyi said that because of his faith he was determined to make up for his evil past, but his attempts at reparation – shouting the gospel to adoring crowds, meeting his victims and badgering them for hugs and forgiveness – seemed underscored by the same megalomania as his killing sprees. It was all about him.

Drew Halfnight, writing in the United Church Observer, notes that

Only once do the filmmakers catch their subject in a moment of crystal-clear repentance. “Lord,” he sobs after retreating alone into a hotel bathroom, “when is this all going to be over?”

(Name variations: Milton Blayee, Milton Blahyee)

3 Responses

  1. John Hagees hatchling!

  2. This is all true repentance, may God forgive and bless u richly. Liberia and Liberians loves you.

  3. The covert skepticism expressed in the article is typical of the western mindset that has no clue about the works of spiritual entities and satanic bondage.

    The devil is alive and well in many western societies; it just takes a different form. In the US, for example, the average statistic is that one in 6 children have been sexually abused…that is a manifestation of satan – not in human sacrifice or destruction but in destruction of the human soul…

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