K.A. Paul, whom The New Republic dubbed "the world's most popular evangelist," endorsed Barack Obama for president yesterday.The Indian-born US resident, who worked as spirital advisor to Saddam Hussein, Charles Taylor, and Slobodan Milosevic, among others, explained his endorsement:

Speaking from an evangelical perspective, the current administration, I believe, has delayed the second coming of Jesus. Since the Iraq war, missionaries have been forced out of many countries, their work unfinished. As it says in Matthew 24:14, 'the gospel will be preached in the whole world.' The Bush administration's Iraq war policy has been in direct contradiction to Matthew.

TNR Senior Editor Michelle Cottle's 2004 profile of Paul explains how a man with such incredible influence--Paul recounts his experience convincing the notoriously brutal Haitian revolutionary Guy Philippe to lay down his arms--can be so unknown in the United States. Paul's Houston-based Global Peace Initiative has gained him stature among evangelical leaders, who speak in awe of his popularity abroad:

By all accounts, Dr. Paul's overseas peace rallies are sights to behold. Most take place in Africa or India, where villagers stream in from around the countryside to see, as one Indian paper put it, "the mesmerizing evangelist," who has become a minor celebrity across much of both continents. A "small" rally is defined as an audience of 10,000 or 20,000. Large rallies stretch upward of a million. (GPI claims its largest was three million attendees at a 2001 event in Lagos, Nigeria.) Surrounding the speakers' podium, on which Paul is joined by local politicos and traveling dignitaries, bodies crowd together in a sea of humanity. "I hesitate to tell people how big these crowds are, because they can't comprehend it," says Texas oil billionaire Nelson Bunker Hunt, who served as co-chair of GPI until recently. Until you see the crowds yourself, you assume the numbers are inflated, agrees Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who traveled to India with Paul in January 2002. "But there were maybe seventy-five thousand, a hundred thousand," Huckabee says of the rally he attended. "I'm not sure I ever saw that many people except at a major football game."

Read more on what makes KA Paul such a fascinating--and controversial--global religious leader, and why he is so unknown in the US, here.

--Max Fisher