River of Love leader Gordon Manché has warned a Times of Malta journalist and a leading gay rights activist that they will be "terrorised for eternity" for spreading "lies" about him and his community. 

Speaking during a prayer meeting held on Wednesday and uploaded on Facebook, Manché thanked them for the publicity, but said they were attacking him because they had not yet experienced the love of God.

The controversial Evangelist movement has made headlines recently as police questioned members to better understand Sliema murder suspect Abner Aquilina's links to the group.

Aquilina, who told police he was spoken to by the devil when Paulina Dembska was strangled, raped and murdered on Sunday, spent the previous  evening with River of Love members.  

Manché has distanced himself from Aquilina after a widely shared video showed him with a member of the River of Love movement, who described Aquilina as a “brother”, two days before the murder.

Gordon Manche denounces individuals from his pulpit in a sermon and again on his TV show. Video edited by Karl Andrew Micallef

In the hour-long sermon, Manché singled out Jason Micallef, head of Labour's ONE media; Gabi Calleja, head of the LGBTIQ Unit within the Human Rights Directorate; and Ivan Martin, journalist with Times of Malta. 

“I hope Jason Micallef is watching this message, he’s written lies about me," he said. Micallef has called for Manché's programme on Smash TV to be pulled off air.

"I hope Gabi Calleja is watching, she comes from a family that loves God; I hope all the MGRM are watching; I hope that Ivan Martin is watching…obviously, most probably, they will use it to try to mock me.

But I understand why they do this because if they do not see God, they will do like their father,” he told his audience, going on to explain that there are two fathers: God or the devil. 

“Like father like son," he added.

He went on to warn them that they would end up in the "abyss of hell" and that that they would be "terrorised for eternity".

Manche also repeated his claims on his TV show, showing pictures of Martin, describing him as a liar and telling viewers the journalist does not have God in his heart.

Times of Malta's editor-in-chief Herman Grech said: "Pastor Manche has every right to continue with his self-anointed 'mission', but he has no right to attack and vilify journalists who will continue to ask uncomfortable questions and report the facts. I urge Manche to heed the old adage: 'if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging'".

Equality minister Owen Bonnici also expressed his "full solidarity" with the individuals named.  

Gay conversion therapy

In 2015, Times of Malta exposed how Manché’s psychologist wife, Mariella Blackman, had started treating a gay man for his homosexuality. Ms Blackman had denied the allegations that she had conducted such therapy after her husband organised a faith conversion event entitled ‘Gay No More’ in 2011.

Gay conversion therapy was outlawed in 2016 when parliament enacted a law that criminalised any practice which seeks to change or repress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Malta was the first country in the EU to introduce such a ban.

During Wednesday’s sermon, Manché again called out Martin by name, saying that his writings and “lies” about him and gay conversion therapy was hurting the LGBTIQ community and their relatives.

Later during Wednesday's sermon, Manché invited six people on stage who he said came “from an LGBTIQ background” and asked them, one by one, why they had moved on. They all replied that it was due to the love of God that they had experienced.

He also asked them individually, whether he or his wife, psychologist Mariella Blackman, or any of the River of Love leaders had done any gay conversion therapy with them or whether he had ever prayed over them “to cast their gayness out of them”. They all replied in the negative.

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