John of God: Streets once filled with people in white now a ghost town

Nine News, Australia/January 22, 2019

By Mark Saunokonoko

Dressed in all white, they once arrived in their thousands in the small Brazilian town, hoping to find a cure for cancer, blindness or to stand and rise from their wheelchairs.

But since the dramatic arrest of celebrity faith healer John of God, who boasted he was blessed with divine healing powers, Abadiânia has become a ghost town.

João Teixeira de Faria, also known as John of God, handed himself into Brazilian authorities in December, following allegations he had sexually abused hundreds of women who met him seeking spiritual guidance and psychic healing.

It was common for up to 5000 people to travel each week to John of God's compound, Casa de Dom Inacio, 130km south-west of Brasilia. Twenty-five percent of those who made the pilgrimage were estimated to be foreigners. Thousands of Australians are known to have visited John of God, whose promises allowed him to build a lucrative multi-million-dollar empire.

Correio Braziliense has reported Abadiânia's local economy has suffered a mini-collapse, as the steady flow of global visitors rapidly reduced to a trickle.

Hotels and restaurants lie empty. Up to 2000 jobs could be lost, according to the newspaper.

"The street that leads to [John of God's compound] Casa is empty," José Diniz, the mayor of Abadiânia, said.

Mr Diniz said if John of God was found guilty, the town could be devastated by the loss of taxes. He estimated 30 percent of tax revenues in the Abadiânia municipality is linked to De Faria's spiritual centre.

John of God has remained in custody since his arrest. He has denied all allegations of sexual abuse and new claims he operated an international baby-trafficking ring from his compound.

Oprah Winfrey famously visited De Faria in 2012 and featured him in an episode of her popular show. The episode propelled John of God's star to new heights.

Visitors to Abadiânia would be struck by the unusual scenes of people walking around the town in all white clothing. Believers were told white clothes could amplify and assist the spiritual powers that worked through John of God.

Meeting John of God costs nothing, but he built his incredible fortune through other strategies.

An Australian 60 Minutes investigation found visitors to the compound were prescribed sessions on crystal beds, costing $25. The crystal beds are believed to earn Mr Faria $1.8 million a year.

Blessed water is sold for $1 in standard plastic bottles. From a John of God pharmacy, blessed herbal pills were sold for $25 a bottle. It is estimated the pills generated $40,000 a day, more than $14 million in a year.

Court documents show John of God tried to withdraw nearly $12 million from his bank accounts before surrendering to police on December 16 on charges of rape.

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