By Colleen Johnston
We’ve all heard about Jim Jones of the ill-fated Jonestown in Jonestown, Guyana and in recent years David Koresh of the Branch Davidians, and the UFO Cult, Heaven’s Gate led by Marshall Applewhite. As recently as last year, another fatal religious cult, led by Dominic Kataribabo, a defrocked Roman Catholic priest who some locals believe ordered the death of nearly a thousand believers.
Prior to mass suicide/murder of the cult members, little warning was given nationally to the nature of such groups and if anything, their inner workings or belief structure. If anything was heard it might have come in the form of a police report usually steamed by a complaint from a concerned cult member’s family or a disturbance/nuisance report by a neighboring citizen. Is history repeating it’s self once more? I am a firm believer in the constitution, which allows for religious freedom, we should have a right to worship God in a way we understand him. What defines the normal perimeters of how a majority of society worships God verses cultic behaviors? There are factors, which separate the two, even though some groups come close to crossing into each other.
The word cult comes from the Latin cultis, which means in the secular term, worship. Cults will tend to place both conventional as well as non-conventional beliefs into one basket. To someone who is confused about their belief system, some cultic doctrines will make sense to them because of the conventional overtones. Not all cult groups result in death, but from those that do, there are significant factors involved, which could potentially lead members to commit mass suicide.
There is one such group with a membership that’s between 600 and 800 called the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors that resides near Eatonton, Georgia, which bears watching. The movement also goes by other names, including ”Right Knowledge” and ”Ancient Mystic Order of Melchizedek.” but bills itself as a “fraternal organization.” The Nuwaubians blend ancient Egyptian, Christian, Islamic, as well as Judaism, UFO mindsets into an apocalyptic end times belief system which will most likely produce fatal results. According to the groups doctrine headed by Nuwaubian leader “Malachi Z” who’s name is actually Dwight York, that served time in New York in the 1960s for assault, resisting arrest and possession of a dangerous weapon.
The Nuwaubians, primarily consisting of African Americans, first came to Eatonton, GA in Putnam County in 1993 from Brooklyn, N.Y., where the group was known as the Ansaru Allah community, a segregationist religious sect which incorporated Muslim traditions. Nuwaubian leader Malachi York was then known as Isa Muhammad. Nuwaubians initially dressed in cowboy-type garb and claimed York was an extra-terrestrial from the planet “Rizq.”
York, 55 has claimed to be from a galaxy called Illyuwn and has said that in 2003 spaceships are going to descend from the sky and pick up a chosen 144,000 people for a rebirth. Most recently, York has referred to himself as Chief Black Eagle, a reincarnated leader of the Yamassee Indians. They believe, according to reports that the spaceships will come to complete this rescue.
What makes this group so dangerous is it charismatic group leader York. His doctrine indicates an “end” will come but not giving an actual date when the spaceships will come. All groups who have committed suicide had such a doctrine-laced within its belief structures. One of the members, now group spiritual advisor Marshall Chance, a former Baptist minister, was quoted as saying, “We’re all awaiting the coming of the real Messiah. We are a biblical people. If it’s not in the Bible, then we’re not concerned about it.” which contradicts the unusual belief of its founder and some of the members with the UFO ideology. The group has all the earmarks set in place to become the next Jonestown. Although they claim to allow it’s members to come and go as they please, the group encourages communal living on the 19 acre tract where the fraternity gathering hall in the Nuwaubian village of Tama-Re the “new Egypt”, is located.
Jim Jones leader of the 1978 Jonestown sect had over his altar. “Never forget the past, if you forget the past you’re doomed to repeat it.” Are the Nuwaubians next to repeating this type history? If left unchecked, they will become another part of the ranks of cult members who have died senselessly all in the name of God for their beliefs.