On a beach at Seme, on the outskirts of Cotonou the Capital of Dahomey, members of a religious sect known as "Celestial Christians" held their own version of Christmas Day celebrations.
SV People on beach
SV Members of sect praying
SV People bathing, PAN other on beach
SV Boy in trance
SV Women with baby lying on sand
SV Boy kneeling to receive blessing
SV Two children asleep on beach
SV People listening to service
SV Founder of sect Pastor Oshoffa (2 shots)
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Background: On a beach at Seme, on the outskirts of Cotonou the Capital of Dahomey, members of a religious sect known as "Celestial Christians" held their own version of Christmas Day celebrations. The religious service was conducted by Pastor Samuel Oshoffa, founder of the sect.
The sect was created in 1947 by Pastor Oshoffa who is said to have received grace as he was working in the fields 20 years ago. As he tells it, he heard a voice speak the word "Luli" - which means Grace - and, looking up, he saw a winged monkey, a peacock with yellow beak and legs, and a huge serpent. The monkey spoke again, repeating the word "Luli", and then disappeared into the forest followed by the peacock and the serpent. From that day on, Samuel Oshoffa became an evangelist, preacher, healer and pastor, building up a following of an estimated 20,000 "Celestial Christians" in Dahomey, Togo and Nigeria.
Christmas is the occasion for Pastor Oshoffa's followers to hold their annual mass meeting - at which they combine the traditional seasonal services with more personal events such as baptisms and conversions.