Steven Tari (“Black Jesus”)

A self-proclaimed messiah infamous for leading a cannibalistic cult in Papua New Guinea, ending in a violent demise.

Steven Tari, also known as “Black Jesus,” was a notorious figure in Papua New Guinea, infamous for his leadership of a cult that blended Christian elements with criminal activities, including rape, murder, and alleged cannibalism. Born in 1971, Tari rose to prominence in the early 2000s, proclaiming himself the Messiah and exploiting the spiritual and cultural vulnerabilities of local communities in Madang Province.

Early Life and Cult Formation

Tari was a failed Lutheran pastor who turned towards founding his own movement, attracting thousands of followers in Papua New Guinea, a country where traditional beliefs often coexist with Christian teachings. He declared himself “Black Jesus” and led what he called a “Christian-based” sect, which was, in reality, a facade for his criminal activities.

Practices and Beliefs

The cult, which boasted as many as 6,000 members at its peak, became infamous for its use of “flower girls,” young women and girls who were coerced into serving as concubines for Tari. These girls, some as young as 8 years old, were dressed in scant clothing and were indoctrinated to believe that sexual relations with Tari would bring them closer to God. Tari’s teachings starkly contrasted with the predominant Christian values of the region, drawing the ire of established churches, especially the Lutheran Church, which declared him an “enemy of the church.”

Legal Troubles and Downfall

Tari’s reign of terror included accusations of rape, murder, and cannibalism. He was first captured in 2005 but managed to escape custody with the help of converted followers. His freedom was short-lived, as he was recaptured in 2007 after a dramatic confrontation with police in his mountain stronghold. In 2010, Tari was convicted of raping four teenage girls and sentenced to 20 years in prison. However, he escaped again in 2013 during a mass prison breakout.


Tari’s life of crime came to a gruesome end in August 2013 when he was killed by villagers after attacking a young woman. Reports suggest that his death was violent and marked by the same brutality he had inflicted on others; he was hacked, slashed, castrated, and ultimately buried in a shallow pit. This act of vigilante justice was a response not only to his immediate actions but also to the broader terror and suffering he had brought to the communities he preyed upon.

Tari’s death symbolized the collapse of his cult, with local police expressing hope that his demise would put an end to the cult worship he had initiated. The community’s reaction to Tari’s death reflects the deep scars left by his actions and the complex interplay of traditional beliefs and modern Christianity in Papua New Guinea​​​​​​.

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