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Police to intensify probe into Qahal Yahweh Church in St. James

Naydia Small, whose sister and niece are members of the Qahal Yahweh in St. James and Clifford Preston, who is a former member of the church
 
The police are set to intensify their probe into allegations made against some members of the Qahal Yahweh Church in Norwood, St. James.
 
A police source on Friday afternoon told RJR News that investigators will be conducting a case conference next week to collect statements from persons who were part of the religious group.
 
The source said following the case conference, a decision will be made on how the probe will proceed.
 
Six children were removed from the Qahal Yahweh Church compound following concerns about their welfare.
 
Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison confirmed that allegations of human trafficking are being investigated.
 
A relative of one of the members of the religious group on Thursday called for deeper investigation of the organisation which she says isolates and controls its members and denies children their education.
 
Naydia Small, whose sister and niece are members of the religious group, said she fears her teenage niece might already be married and pregnant. 
 
Ms Small said she has made several attempts to get her family members to leave the group. However, she said her sister appears to be afraid to leave.
 
She is not convinced the authorities have done enough to address the concerns about possible abuses at Qahal Yahweh. 
 
Stripped and shaved 
 
Meanwhile, a former member of a St. James religious group has described how he was stripped and shaved after he refused to hand over his property to the organisation.
 
Clifford Preston told RJR's Beyond the Headlines on Thursday the demand from the Qahal Yahweh led to him leaving in February after seven years with the religious group.
 
Members of Qahal Yahweh started living together in a compound last year.
 
As part of this commitment to communal living, members are required to give their property to the organisation.
 
While Mr. Preston said he never lived at the compound, he recalled that he had to resist the demands for his two houses, shop and land.
 
The 72 year old said he was branded as stubborn and seven young men stripped him and shaved all the hair from his body. They then took him to his house and burnt many of his belongings. 
 
Mr. Preston said he refused to hand over his properties because he had children and grandchildren he wanted to inherit them.
 
He also shed light on some of the practices of Qahal Yahweh, including the marrying of members, some of them teenaged girls. He said the leaders would make a decision on the marriage and whether the girl wanted to or not, she would have to go along with the union because she was afraid to speak. 
 
Mr. Preston said members who lived at the compound often had very little food to eat because they had no jobs and no income. 
 
It is understood that 70 followers reside at the compound, having reportedly abandoned their homes and jobs.
 
 


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