The white-robed clerics, who arrived in the district a month ago, reportedly confined the children and girls to a forest camp site inside Mchinji Hill, Kaitano Lubrino, Police publicist for Mchinji, said in a statement.
“Immediately a week after their arrival, two girls aged 12 and 18 who were sent by their parents to fetch firewood were approached by the church leaders to be prayed on and initiated to join the religious grouping,” Lubrino said.
The girls never returned home and dropped out of school until one of the mothers, Juliet Kapalamula, 38, started looking for them and was told they had joined the church.
“She approached the church leader to release her children but they refused saying the children had made a personal commitment to stay closer to God and leave every earthly thing and start anew,” the police publicist said.
Kapalamula reported the issue to Police after the clerics refused to release the children and the girls.
Despite Police and district Social Welfare officials engaging the church leaders in dialogue to secure the release of the victims, the clerics did not relent, leading to the round-up of congregants and the arrest of the top five leaders.
According to Lubrino the five will answer abduction related charges soon in court once investigations are over.