Thursday, June 4, 2015

Top 10 Misconceptions and Lies People Say About Legio Maria

1.       Gaudencia Aoko Founded Legio Maria: This is a misconception. Aoko joined Legio Maria in 1963; one year after Legion had been founded. Officially, Simeo Melkio and Mama Maria met in John Baru’s home in 1962 and Legion Maria was founded a few weeks later on 9th March 1962. Nevertheless, Gaudencia Aoko’s efforts in the development of the new movement must be recognized because she played a huge role in converting many people and spreading the movement.

2.      Gaudencia Aoko is Mama Maria: This is a lie. Gaudencia Aoko was in her early 20s when she joined Legion Maria in 1963. She was born in Kano and married to Simeo Owiti. She was introduced to Simeo Ondeto and Mama Maria by her brother-in-law, John Muga, when she had seen visions of Mary and Jesus inviting her to join a Marian movement. On the other hand, Mama Maria was an old woman of around 90 years of age by 1963 when Aoko joined Legio Maria. Nobody knew where Maria was born.  Mama Maria died in December 1966 and was buried in Ephesus Nzoia, while Aoko lived on and by 1968 took Simeo Ondeto to court claiming that she was the real founder and true leader of Legion Maria. Aoko then left the movement and founded her own church.

3.      Legio Maria members do not shave their hair: This is a misconception. Yes, there are certain orders of prophets in Legion Maria who live like the traditional Nazarenes, Samson, and biblical prophets who never shaved their hair. For such prophets, it is their responsibility to keep their hair clean and neat. But for the rest of Legion Maria members, shaving is a matter of individual choice.  There is no doctrine controlling how and when people should shave their hair.

4.      All Legion Maria Leaders have long hair and dirty dreads: This is a lie. In fact, almost all Legion Maria leaders do not have dreads and have shaved/trimmed their hair well. Dreads in Legion Maria are only common among prophets, but these prophets are not ordained leaders of the church and are not, therefore, supposed to be considered official leaders.

5.       Legion Maria members do not dance: This is a misconception. From the very start of the church, when the Holy Spirit filled the faithful, Legio members danced to specific songs. For instance, there is a common dance to the song “Agnus Dei, Kyrie Gloria”.  The Kyrie Gloria dance was so common that it was used and practiced by prophets who laid hands on faithful members to receive the gift of prophecy. Apart from Kyrie Gloria dance, Legios may dance during fundraisings and happy occasions where they are in jovial mood and are simply enjoying themselves. As a common practice, however, Legion Maria members do not dance to secular music and do not attend dance parties and discos. They also do not dance routinely during church services and prayers.

6.      Legion Maria members do not read the Bible: This is a lie. Legios use the bible as often as Christians do.  However, because the services are conducted by priests who perform the Holy Mass and other rites according to pre-set guidelines, and who read the Bible to the faithful as they conduct the services, there is no general call to reading and studying the Bible. Every individual member of the religious movement chooses when to read the Bible and there is no direction or guide book the members use.

7.       Legio Maria members do not go to hospital: This is a misconception. Simeo Ondeto himself was medically treated when he had been poisoned. Pope Timothy Atila went to hospital often and even died in hospital.  Pope Chiaji Lawrence went to hospital when sick and even died in hospital. There is no rule or doctrine or teaching of Simeo Ondeto that warns against going to hospital when sick. In fact, Simeo specifically taught people who are suffering from HIV/AIDs and syphilis that they had to go to hospital for medical attention.

8.      Legion Maria members must remove their Six Lower Teeth: This is a misconception. Today, 55% of all Legion Maria members have not removed their six lower teeth. The removal of six lower teeth is a luo tradition that was imported to the new movement by the majority Luo traditionalists who joined Legion. Slowly, it was accepted by members as it was a way of seeking uniformity with older members. But it was not a doctrine. The First Legion Maria pope Timothy Atila did not remove his six lower teeth and later with age removed his teeth in a dentist clinic. Simeo Ondeto also did not remove his six lower teeth and he only lost his teeth during an accident at Mawego Kobuya. Therefore, it is a matter of choice as to whether someone removes his teeth or not as there is no tangible spiritual basis for it. Besides, the promoters of teeth removal do not have substantial reasons for promoting it, except that they are seeking people to be Luos in the flesh like them.

9.      Legion Maria members are poor and unschooled: This is a lie. Well, like Christianity whose founding members were majorly fishermen, tax collectors and ordinary people, Legion Maria founding members were people of little formal education and were generally poor. But soon, the movement attracted different classes of society as it spread. By the late 1960s, it had attracted teachers, policemen, business people, graduates and politicians. Today, at least 45% of members of the church have Grade 8 education, 23% are high school graduates while 12% are college and university graduates.

10.     Legion Maria movement is only for Luos:  This is a lie. Legion Maria was predominantly a luo movement at its foundation in 1962. But by 1965, it had attracted the members of the Kisii, Luhya, Kamba, Kalenjin, Turkana and Mijikenda ethnic groups of Kenya, and spread to the neighboring countries of Tanzania and Uganda. By 1980, the movement had spread to Ethiopia, Zaire, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi. Today, an estimated 27% of all Legion Maria members are not Luos.