Preferred Language:  English | Espanol | Deutsch | Francois | Po Polsku | Easy English

Cult Chief In Custody

FORMER Hunter man Roland Gianstefani, a high-ranking member of a controversial worldwide religious cult, is in a Nairobi prison accused of abducting a Kenyan woman and her young son.

But as Mr Gianstefani, 42, who is now described as the African head of the Jesus Christians cult, spent his 11th day in custody yesterday, a video emerged showing the "missing" 27-year-old university graduate Betty Njoroge and her son Joshua, 7.

In the 90-second grab placed on the Jesus Christians website, Ms Njoroge insisted Mr Gianstefani and his cult had been caught up in a custody battle between herself and her wealthy father over the right to raise Joshua.

The former journalist and her son went to live with members of the Jesus Christians on June 10 for what the organisation dubbed on its website a "trial week".

But when her family discovered what Ms Njoroge had joined, they contacted police believing she had been drugged by her captors.

Mr Gianstefani was then arrested while handing out religious literature, after police said they tracked him with mobile phones, and thrown into a Nairobi prison.

"My father has convinced the police to keep Roland Gianstefani as a hostage until I give up my son," Ms Njoroge says on the video as she hugs her son.

"I have text messages and emails from my father demanding I give up my son to him upon which Roland will be released.

"I have the right to choose my own religion and way of life and just because my father and the police disagree with me, doesn't mean that they can keep my friends hostage."

Mr Gianstefani used the Glendale [Newcastle, Australia] base of cult leader Dave McKay as his Australian base while spreading the word about the controversial organisation.

Mr McKay and some of his followers, including Mr Gianstefani, were at the centre of an in-depth Herald report last November, when questions were raised about the cult's ideal that its members should become live kidney donors.

[Jesus Christians SUPPORT live organ donations, but do not teach that members "should" become live kidney donors.]

Formed in Melbourne in the early 1980s, the Jesus Christians now claim to have bases in the United States, United Kingdom and Africa as well as its international headquarters in Sydney.

Mr McKay and his wife, Cherry, had based the cult in Newcastle for 10 years before moving to Sydney a week ago.

The Jesus Christians use the internet and comic books to spread their teachings and were this year at the centre of a Victorian Government investigation into kidney donations.

Mr McKay said Ms Njoroge was no longer in "the presence" of the Jesus Christians in an effort to show she was independent.

He said Mr Gianstefani could face seven years jail if he was convicted of abduction charges.

Mr McKay said Mr Gianstefani's wife, Susan, remained in hiding in Kenya yesterday.

Pin It
Mail us at:,    OR write to:    Jesus Christians,  P.O.Box A678, Sydney South, Australia 1235