Today marks exactly 30 years since “Mombasa Jesus” David Mugo had a few of his friends drive nails into his hands and feet in a mock crucifixion to mimic what happened to Jesus Christ in Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago.
In a spectacle that had the country’s tongues wagging, Mugo was found hanging on the cross in a gesture he said was aimed at thanking Jesus Christ for having saved his life on three separate occasions – during seven days at sea on a makeshift raft in 1976, a bus crash in 1979 and a three-month bout of cholera.
Apparently Mugo, who has since died, had tried to achieve the feat way back in 1984 but the police were not as enthusiastic and prevented him from being “crucified”.
Police and church authorities objected to Mugo’s plan because they were opposed to suicide, which is condemned by church doctrine and is illegal in Kenya.
Mugo stressed that he did not intend to die on the cross, just suffer.
Reporting on the many crucifixions that took place around the world on that day, the respected Los Angeles Times said: In the Philippines, Asia’s only Christian nation, three men and two women were crucified near Manila.
Thousands watched as men dressed as Roman soldiers hammered nails into the hands and feet of the five before their crosses were raised aloft.
MEETING WITH OTUNGA
Hundreds of penitents dragged heavy wooden crosses on the streets while others flogged themselves with bamboo strips to draw blood.
Lucila Reyes, a 28-year-old faith healer, hung for about an hour from a cross at the edge of a rice field in Bulacan. She was crucified for the 11th time in as many years.
Similar mortification rites in memory of the torture and crucifixion of Jesus took place elsewhere in the Philippines.
In Kenya, David Mugo, 30, a street hawker who was prevented from crucifying himself in 1984, was taken to a hospital.
Before his action, Mugo had travelled to the capital to try and arrange a meeting with Maurice Cardinal Otunga, the Bishop of Nairobi, to find out why the church opposed his plan.
“I want to be nailed on the cross by my hands and legs for 15 minutes and then to be taken away by ambulance,” Mugo said, adding that he had all the necessary equipment and would pay the seven people needed about $15 (Sh1,500) each.
He would imitate Jesus who refused to speak to the Roman centurions who arrested Him, by remaining mum and refusing to answer questions from the police who would arrest him after having himself nailed on a cross in the Kibarani area of Mombasa.
For his troubles, he was taken to court where Mombasa Senior Resident Magistrate Injene Indeche ordered a mental examination on the man who vowed to go on hunger strike demanding the place of his crucifixion be preserved as a sacred shrine and a mosque or church built on it.
The crucifixions usually mark the season in mostly Catholic countries but the Philippines is the most notorious.
In other places, zealots flog themselves or have their friends inflict pain, in an attempt to partake the suffering Jesus went through on the day he was crucified.
For the not so extreme, abstaining from some indulgence during Lent, the 40-day period preceding Easter, suffices.
Mostly observed by Catholics and some Anglicans, the faithful deny themselves luxuries and shun some foods.
In Kenya, like in most of Third World countries, the faithful, especially the middle class, normally keep away from meat, alcohol or smoking.
Quoting the creator of the “Twitter Lent Tracker” Stephen Smith, the respected Christianity Today magazine, writing on what Americans were giving up for Lent in 2017, said: “Perennial favourites social networking, alcohol, and chocolate lead the list.”
Other things Americans were giving up for Lent included Twitter, chips, swearing, fast food, soda, sweets, coffee and meat.