Thursday, 5 December 2013

Witchcraft Wednesdays: Politicians Who Sacrifice Children, Leo Igwe on Ghana Plan to Eliminate Witch Camps & More!

Although witchcraft is a serious problem across the world and most acutely in places like Africa and India, I still try to include at least one kooky story to lighten the mood a little. Well, this week I waited until after Wednesday, but there just isn't anything kooky and funny at all.  But there are a few signs of hope.

Papua New Guinea has been in the news lately for absolutely horrendous crimes against women and children who are accused of witchcraft. I've reported about imprisoned women, cargo cults and fathers eating their kids(!) all somehow excused by witchcraft belief. Well, now it seems like the government is doing something about it.

Conference in PNG to tackle sorcery killings
The belief in sorcery or witchcraft is widespread in PNG. Even well-educated Papua New Guineans believe supernatural powers can be used to harm or kill. 
The conference in Goroka aims to present the government with a comprehensive plan to address the problem.
I think it comes down to more (secular) education against superstition, like the program George Thindwa and the Malawi Association of Secular Humanism is working on in Malawi.

Another country that's trying to fix problems associated with witchcraft belief is Ghana. Recently, the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery visited Ghana and has declared that child slavery is common in the country's cocoa and mining sectors. (Which is why I try to buy only fair trade chocolate.)

Well, school goblin infestations aside, Ghana actually has established witch camps in its northern regions which shelter mostly women who are grievously abused after being accused of being witches. Now the government is promising to eradicate these camps.

Witch camps in the Northern Region to be eradicated
As a Ministry, we have identified the need to support the inmates to access the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) cash dispersion to enable them to flee their minds from the act and also ensure that they are all registered under the National Health Insurance Scheme.
If they're planning on just tearing down the camps and dispersing the women, then obviously this is no good.
And the term "flee their minds from the act" is very suspect to me. My hope here is waning.

I asked Leo Igwe, who has written extensively about the witch camps in Ghana what he thought and he was nice enough to let me post his response:
The statement from Ghana's  government minister which implied that victims of witchcraft accusation living in make shift camps in the country's northern region is disappointing. It is an indication that Ghana still has a long way to go before it can eradicate the savage act of witch hunting ravaging the country. The government official in her statement pledged to put in place programs that would get these victims to flee from the "the act" of witchcraft amount to double indictment and victimization of innocent persons, and a clear case of state witch hunt.
As you can see, he also found this flee from the act to be dodgy. It's as if the government sees them as under the influence of witchcraft. It suggests to me that we have here a government that may believe in witchcraft, that further propagates that label onto them, and is offering to deliver them somehow (with a LEAP of faith?) from its clutches. They are missing the real problem here. This is sad! The government should really be working to eradicate silly witchcraft superstitions in Ghana society as a whole!

Leo tells me he has written a piece about this which is under consideration for publication. I will update this post when I learn more.

Things seem desperate in Zimbabwe - even politicians are being charged with (attempted) human sacrifice because of belief in witchcraft. They actually believe that magical rituals can cement their chances of political success. The thirst for power is really unquenchable.

Zimbabwe: Zanu-PF MP Implicated in Ritual Kidnapping
The ZANU PF legislator for Kadoma Central, Fani Phanuel Phiri, has been implicated in a case in which two children were kidnapped for ritual purposes, reports suggest. 
...
The five told the presiding magistrate that they had received instructions from Phiri to kidnap the two girls who were then taken to a traditional healer so that they could be sacrificed to boost Phiri's chances of winning the July 31st elections. 
And I thought the campaign finance and money in government is an issue. Surely someone must have stopped this insanity.
However the children were spared after the 'traditional healer', identified as Christopher Mudhuchwa, refused to sacrifice them arguing that the accused had stolen the children when the instruction had been that they should bring their own.
Right. Stealing a child to be sacrificed is clearly wrong, because stealing is bad, mmmkay? But, I guess children are nothing more than property? So sacrificing your own kids is just fine. Although, I guess this Mudhuchwa guy could have also used this excuse to get out of murdering a couple of kids because he knew that although the politician would murder for power, they wouldn't kill their own offspring... maybe.

Luckily, another government official -- the opposition Movement for Democratic Change -- was quick to attack.
MDC-99 president Job Sikhala said the case was just one example showing that the country is being run by a regime of killers and cultists. 
...
He urged all Zimbabweans to speak out against "such primitive acts of Satanism" that he said were contributing to the daily abuse of children. 
Satanism? *sigh* Oh well.

Let's end on a somewhat encouraging note.

Columnist Sosthenes Mwita is on to the right track when he points out that religious healers can delay critical medical treatment until it's too late.

Tanzania: Religious Healers Delay Medication
MEDICAL doctors have lamented that some religious sects interfere 'quite seriously' with their medical work by praying for the terminally sick as a healing process. 
The doctors are bitter that these spiritual healers only end up delaying or frustrating medical treatment. The doctors are right. Prayers cannot replace conventional medicine.
Indeed, prayers cannot replace conventional medicine. The article is a good one and it's refreshing to see something like this coming out. If only it could be sustained throughout the piece.
Fortunately, the same frightening healers have tackled illnesses that have confounded medical scientists. A number of their medicinal herbs seem to be effective where modern medical science has failed to find a cure. Some defeat tough medical conditions such as epilepsy.
Say what? Things were going so well up to then.

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