Churches denounce children as ‘witches'; 1000s of kids maimed and killed

Image: Accused child witches in Nigeria

“Accused child witches Jane, left, and Mary, right […] Jane’s mother tried to saw off the top of her skull after a pastor denounced her and Mary.” Source : AP, MSNBC

With Halloween just around the corner, many kids in the US will soon be joyfully donning witch costumes and visiting haunted houses at their local churches. In many parts of Africa, however, the subject of witches is no laughing matter at church.

MSNBC reports that, according to an investigation by the Associated Press, an increasing number of children are being maimed or killed because churches are accusing them of witchcraft. According to MSNBC,

“Pastors were involved in half of 200 cases of “witch children” reviewed by the AP, and 13 churches were named in the case files.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t limited to a couple hundred cases. Over the last ten years, in just two states in Nigeria,

“around 15,000 children have been accused [of witchcraft] and around 1,000 have been murdered. In the past month alone, three Nigerian children accused of witchcraft were killed and another three were set on fire.”

In many cases, the churches involved are affiliated with churches in the US, who defend themselves by saying that they are unaware of what’s going on. And more local churches are reportedly turning to the practicing of finding witches because it is profitable to them. According to a member of the Children’s Rights and Rehabilitation Network,

“Even churches who didn’t use to ‘find’ child witches are being forced into it by the competition. They are seen as spiritually powerful because they can detect witchcraft and the parents may even pay them money for an exorcism.”

So if anything, the situation seems to have worsened since I last posted about a couple of months ago. It’s good that this crisis is starting to get into the public light a little more, but that isn’t enough since at least some of these people believe they are doing what God wants them to. Churches in the US, whether directly linked to the congregations that are conducting these literal witch hunts, or just sending missionaries over to Africa, need to spread the message that witch burning and mutilation is not okay.

My hunch is that some church leaders may be shying away from a public campaign against these horrible attacks on children because the Bible actually does say that witches shouldn’t be allowed to live. (Unfortunately for these children, it doesn’t say how to tell when someone is or isn’t a witch.) I would think it’s hard for Christians to tell people to disregard something that is right there in the Bible, without worrying about throwing the whole thing into question. But with thousands of children suffering and dying, I don’t know how they can remain silent.

Obama throws us a bone

Saturday, January 31, 2009

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Obama throws us a bone

I really wish I had more time!! I wanted to post about Obama’s inauguration when it happened, but life got in the way. Anyway, here are some of my thoughts.

I was frankly shocked when Obama said "non-believers" during the inaugural address. Here is the passage in context, from the Associate Press (via Yahoo News )

We know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

When Obama started "we are a nation of Christians and Muslims…", I thought, oh great, he we go again with the religion bit. When he said "non-believers", my initial reaction was one of shock, then disbelief (no pun intended), then I got this huge smile on my face. I was watching the inauguration with a colleague at work, and I don’t know if he saw my reaction or not. I’m still not "out" in real life, but I couldn’t help my facial expression at such a surprising event. A president of the United States not only mentioning non-believers, but not immediately saying something nasty about them à la George H. W. Bush.

There was a lot of God during the inaugural events, not to mention the word "God" showing up 5 times during the speech itself. I won’t rehash the whole debate over whether or not there should be benedictions or inuagural prayers, and Obama’s disappointing picks for these (in particular Rick Warren , who hilariously thinks being open-minded means being able to say Jesus in several languages). There was too much God for a secular occasion.

But Obama did not have to mention non-believers. In fact, he has many reasons not to in the current climate of hyper-religiosity in the country. But he reportedly wrote the speech himself, and decided to include it. Not only include it, but put it in a section of the speech that says "our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness." This would seem to be a reference to his own mixed heritage. So I don’t think he would have chosen the words in the next sentence lightly.

There have been rumors that, like his dad, Obama may have agnostic or even atheistic leanings. We’ll probably never know, but what this speech proves I think is that he accepts it as a valid viewpoint. For Obama to include nonbelievers in a paragraph about our diversity being our strength puts nonbelievers in a positive light. We’re a long way from being seen as equals by most Americans, but with Obama’s address I feel that we are one step closer.