Simon Kimbangu (12 or 24 September 1887 - 12 October 1951) was a Congolese religious leader noted as the founder of Kimbanguism. His followers consider him to be the special envoy of Jesus Christ as quoted in the fourteenth chapter of the biblical Gospel of John.
Kimbangu was born at Nkamba, near Thysville, in 1887. The son of a traditional religious leader, he became a Baptist in 1915, and worked as a catechist for several years before beginning his own ministry in early 1921. According to his disciples, Kimbangu cured the sick, raised the dead back to life and his ministry developed a large following, causing suspicion amongst the Belgian authorities. His ministry of preaching and miraculous healing lasted from April to September 1921. Within a short time he attracted large crowds. According to Melbourne both the Protestant and the Catholic religious establishments became alarmed and appealed to the colonial authorities who sought his arrest. Van Reybrouck, however, indicated that the Belgian administrator, Léon Morel, became concerned and invited Catholic and Protestant missionaries to a meeting in Thysville. While the Catholics supported a vigorous intervention, the Protestants favored a soft approach as they saw it as a form of Christian devotion. The hardliners prevailed and Kimbangu and followers were arrested on 6 June 1921, but Kimbangu escaped. His ministry continued in hiding, but in September he turned himself in. He was placed before a military court, without the benefit of a legal representative, and found guilty of undermining public security and disturbing the peace. On 3 October 1921 he was sentenced to death. King Albert commuted his sentence to life imprisonment. He was moved to the prison in Elisabethville where he died on 12 October 1951.
During his thirty years of imprisonment, he continued to be regarded as a spiritual leader, despite being denied contact with his followers, and also became a symbol of Congolese nationalism. Van Reybrouck stated that Kimbangu never committed a single act of violence.
The Kimbanguist Church
After Simon Kimbangu's trial the administration tried to suppress the movement. Followers were banished to different parts of the country and their faith was outlawed. In 1940 the highest ranking exiles were placed in guarded work camps and subjected to forced labor; many died. However, as a result of the persecution the Church spread in the underground and reached people in other areas. Eventually, in 1959, the Kimbanguist Church was recognized by the Belgium government and could then conduct prayer freely.
Today, the Kimbanguist Church is well established in many countries. When Kimbangu died, his son Joseph Diangienda took over the Church ministry. Joseph Diangienda (chief spiritual) organized the contemporary Church. Diangienda (born 22 March 1918) died on 8 July 1992 in Switzerland and papa Salomon Dialungana Kiangani son, Simon Kimbangu Kiangani, is the spiritual leader based at the Church's headquarters in Nkamba.
- "Kimbango History". Kimbangodiscoveries.com. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
- David van Reybrouck. Congo: The Epic History of a People. HarperCollins, 2014. p. 142ff. ISBN 978-0-06-220011-2.
- John 14:15-17
- See http://www.dacb.org/stories/demrepcongo/kimbangu_simon.html, article reprinted from Dictionary of African Historical Biography, 2nd edition, copyright © 1986, by Mark R. Lipschutz and R. Kent Rasmussen, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California.
- Dr. Bertram Melbourne, Acts 1:8 and the Gospel in Africa in "2000 Years of Christianity in Africa", edited by Dr. Emory Tolbert, published by The Sabbath in Africa Study Group.
- http://www.kimbanguisme.net/sk/JDK/jdk1.htm (in French)
- Bethel University site
- Encyclopædia Britannica
- Dictionary of African Christian Biography: Simon Kimbangu, article reprinted from An African Biographical Dictionary, copyright © 1994, edited by Norbert C. Brockman, Santa Barbara, California.