Thu | Feb 25, 2021

‘Hell & back!’ - Excommunicated Yahweh leader’s wife says claims of child marriage are true

Published:Friday | November 8, 2019 | 12:47 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer
Omar Thompson, the radicalised leader of the Qahal Yahweh congregation in St James.
Omar Thompson, the radicalised leader of the Qahal Yahweh congregation in St James.


The estranged wife of Omar Thompson, leader of the Assembly of Qahal Yahweh in Montego Bay, has corroborated allegations that the controversial religious sect has conducted child marriages as a probe by the police and welfare agencies deepens.

Thompson’s wife, whose name is being withheld because she has expressed fears about her security, said that she is still trying to overcome the emotional torture of years of indoctrination by the religious group, which has since banished her for rebelling against the instructions of Yahweh.

“I have been going through a lot. I don’t know how I hold strong. I don’t know how I am not in the streets. I am now trying to keep my sanity,” she told The Gleaner in an exclusive interview yesterday. “Over the years, I was never a part of anything like what is happening now.

“Yes, I will admit there were some little things that would have taken place on the compound, but when it comes on to me specifically, I was shut out as the wife because I was being told to give up my job, and I refused.

“I know what it is to be a single parent all my life, so if I walked away from my job and walked away being the breadwinner, how do I care for my family? I can’t do that,” she said. “I am the breadwinner with the two pickney them before, yeah. I am not going to walk away when I am the sole provider even with Omar as a husband.”

The mother of four said that she was “punished” because she refused to obey the instruction to leave her two older children alone. “They wanted me, as a mother, not to have anything to do with them,” she said.

The Qahal Yahweh church’s leaders, brothers Omar and Javaughn Thompson, and teacher Vera Woollery were brought before the St James Family Court last Thursday to answer charges of neglect after a mother who lived at the compound broke ranks with the group.

In the face of defiance from boisterous adherents, police and soldiers stormed the sect’s premises three days ago to take into custody three children who were said to be victims of neglect. Six children have been taken from the compound since last Thursday.

The estranged wife is convinced that her husband was radicalised by the founder, Neville Woollery, who died three years ago. Omar Thompson succeeded him as religious leader and also wedded his widow, Vera.

The religious sect has been accused of engaging in systemic brainwashing of members, but the police are also probing allegations of human trafficking, child abuse, sexual offences, and wife swapping.

Thompson’s wife admitted that marriage ceremonies are conducted in contravention of Jamaican law.

“I don’t know about no abduction and no trafficking. Nothing like that is taking place there, at least not that I know of, but children are forced into marriage for sure,” she said. “These children are afraid. Everybody there is afraid. Everybody has lost their will, or the fear has gripped them. I was there.”

Children are also taken out of the public-school system and tutored privately on the compound, Thompson’s wife told The Gleaner.

“I don’t think you know what is happening there,” she charged. “Omar has influence, and if you decide that you are not removing your child from the public-school system, they see you as rebellious.

“I have been having battles for all these years because I would not listen to these things. So I am now told that I was stubborn, I am rebellious,” she told The Gleaner, confirming as well that cell phones and SIM cards were seized and destroyed to prevent contact with family and friends.

However, the Yahweh leader’s wife said she was not sexually abused for her disobedience, but she was beaten.

“I have been through hell and back. I don’t know how I am not living on the streets. My children don’t know what is going on,” she said.

“My eyes were so blind. I am telling you, it doesn’t matter how intelligent you are, I am going to say that the veil that was in my eyes has now been removed,” she added. “I think I have now gotten to the place that I can say [I’m] seeing for the first time.”

Jamaica’s police commissioner, Major General Antony Anderson, said yesterday that charges have been laid against several persons following the operation at the Qahal Yahweh compound on Tuesday.

“The persons who had actually done some physical assault on the police have been arrested subsequently and will be placed before the court, charged for assault,” said Anderson at a press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister.