Heard the story about the West African minister who drowned while trying to recreate Jesus’ miracle of walking on water before his congregation? If you haven’t, you may be the only one.

Since the story of the alleged physics-defying attempt was posted Dec. 28 by MJ Celebrity Magazine it has gone viral, eliciting more than 100,000 shares, likes and comments across the social media spectrum. For example, according to Topsy.com, a social media analytics tool, the subject was tweeted over 600 times in the past seven days.

Still, repetition cannot transform a lie into a truth, as President Roosevelt realized, and this “news story” has been uncovered as a tenacious Internet hoax, according to The Christian Post.

The details of the much reported “story” remains virtually unchanged: Pastor Franck Kabele, 35, leader of a church on the West Coast of Africa, told his congregation he could literally follow in Jesus’ footsteps by walking on water, the Glasgow Daily Record, a Scottish publication, first reported on its website in 2006.

“A priest drowns in West Africa after trying to demonstrate how Jesus walked on water! Could have been even more tragic, I suppose. At least 5,000 of his mates didn’t starve to death,” a columnist for the paper, now called the Daily Record, noted in his 2006 roundup of humorous stories.

Independent conservative news site World Net Daily was one of several media outlets that reported on the story at the time, even including eyewitness accounts of Kabele’s attempt to reenact the miracle found in Matthew 14:22-33 at a beach in Libreville, Gabon:

“He told churchgoers he’d had a revelation that if he had enough faith, he could walk on water like Jesus,” an eyewitness told the Glasgow Daily Record.

“He took his congregation to the beach saying he would walk across the Komo estuary, which takes 20 minutes by boat. He walked into the water, which soon passed over his head and he never came back.”

An AFRO search for more information on Kabele in cyberspace, including the name and location of his church, revealed nothing more than the stories of his supposed demise—a telling sign that the account could be fake.

But, as it was back in 2006, several media outlets and readers took the story at face value, offering strong opinions.

“He had a lot of faith, but not enough,” said one person.

“Did he really think he was going to get such miraculous powers to just perform such a thing in front of people for fame? Because I know he was expecting fame to come out of doing that… HA! His ass deserved that!” said another commenter.

“This is sad because first off people should not be trying to do what Jesus did literally,” said another. “Christ walking on water was to demonstrate his deity not for others to walk on water as well.”

This is not the first false report of a supposed miracle to come out of Africa. Another popular tale involves a self-proclaimed prophet who claimed he could walk unharmed among lions, just like the biblical prophet Daniel.

According to NG Newspapers, the prophet went to Ibadan zoo in southwest Nigeria, and though warned by zookeepers, proceeded to don a long red robe and enter a cage full of lions, while a crowd looked on. Needless to say, he was immediately ripped to shreds.

Some took the stories as fodder to buttress their skepticism about the veracity of the Bible. “Another example as to how religious zealotry (or religion in and of itself) can reduce the IQ to that of a crayfish,” said one commenter on YouTube. “Can’t say I feel bad for anybody that disregards common sense. Make dumb choices get dumb results.?”


Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO