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Archive for the tag “witchhunts”

The witch hunts of Papua New Guinea

Last night I watched a BBC TV programme on The witch hunts of Papua New Guinea – BBC News, and was struck by the similarity with witch hunts that have taken place in South Africa in the last 25 years or so.

The programme had interviews with people who had been accused of witchcraft, and with some of the accusers, and there were many similarities. You can also read more about the Papua New Guinea witch hunts here: Malum Nalu: Papua New Guinea has a witch hunt problem.

I don’t know if there were any attempts by Christian groups to deal with the problem in Papua New Guinea, but in South Africa there was a reluctance to discuss it in missiological circles. The only Christian groups that seemed to have come up with a way of dealing with it were some Zionists, and most Zionists don’t have an academic bent, so not much has been written about it.I did write one journal article, which you can read here: Christian responses to witchcraft and sorcery, but there has not been much response to it.

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Witchcraft Suppression Bill put on hold

Well that’s a relief.

It was a horribly badly-drafted piece of legislation, which failed to define terms and would have created endless confusion had it become law.

clipped from www.sowetan.co.za

Mpumalanga healers and pagans have been given a new lease of life after the Witchcraft Suppression Bill was put on hold.

The proposed bill by the department of local government, which came under fire last year from various stakeholders, was put on hold yesterday. The department of local government said it had put the drafting of the bill of 2007 on hold “until further notice”.

The department was mandated by the provincial executive council to prepare a bill which seeks to address high levels of violence in Mpumalanga linked to allegations of witchcraft.

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While witchcraft allegations have certainly led to a lot of violence, hasty legislation and imprecise definitions will not help to solve the problem.

Kenya mob burns 15 women to death over witchcraft

In South Africa it’s foreigners, in Kenya it’s suspected witches, though of course there have been witch hunts in South Africa too.

Kenya mob burns 15 women to death over witchcraft: “to death, a local official and villagers told AFP Wednesday.

‘This is unacceptable. People must not take the law into their own hands simply because they suspected someone,’ said Mwangi Ngunyi, the head of Nyamaiya district. ‘We will hunt the suspects down,’ he added.

The gang of about 100 people moved from house to house late Tuesday, tied up their victims and set them ablaze, the official said.

Ngunyi added that the mob also torched 50 houses in Nyakeo village, located some 300 kilometres (180 miles) northwest of the capital Nairobi.”

Neopentecostals and witch hunts

Attitudes to witch hunting seem to be changing in African independent churches.

The old Zionists generally had a more humane attitude to people suspected of witchcraft and sorcery (see my article on Christian responses to witchcraft and sorcery) but the Neopentecostals seem to be displaying similar behaviour to that seen during the Great Witch Hunt in early modern Europe.

Children are targets of Nigerian witch hunt | World news | The Observer

Pastor Joe Ita is the preacher at Liberty Gospel Church in nearby Eket. ‘We base our faith on the Bible, we are led by the holy spirit and we have a programme of exposing false religion and sorcery.’ Soft of voice and in his smart suit and tie, his church is being painted and he apologises for having to sit outside near his shiny new Audi to talk. There are nearly 60 branches of Liberty Gospel across the Niger Delta. It was started by a local woman, mother-of-two Helen Ukpabio, whose luxurious house and expensive white Humvee are much admired in the city of Calabar where she now lives. Many people in this area credit the popular evangelical DVDs she produces and stars in with helping to spread the child witch belief.

I’ve blogged about this before, but my initial impression is being confirmed by reports like these. Zionists are basically premodern. They worship wearing robes, and in their worship they beat cowhide drums. The Neopentecostals come with expensive sound systems, wearing suits and ties (the males, anyway). In Africa they seem to represent modernity, and so tend to reinforce (in my mind) the link between witch hunts and modernity.

A couple of days ago I was talking to Greg Cuthbertson, a South African historian, and Inus Daneel (a missiologist and AIC researcher) and they confirmed this impression from their own research and observations. I’ve been asked to take part in a couple of TV programmes recently, and in both of them concern was been expressed that people are leaving the traditional AICs and moving to the Neopentecostals. I’m not sure that that is correct, as I believe the Neopentecostals and Zionists (in South Africa) appeal to different constituencies, though as modernity takes root in Africa I believe the constituency of the Neopentecostals will grow, while that of the Zionists will shrink.

Greg Cuthbertson referred to a report from the Centre for Development and Enterprise, Under the radar: Pentecostalism in South Africa and its potential social and economic role, which referred to the role of the Pentecostal churches in promoting modernity.

This project has revealed a world of activity, energy, and entrepreneurship previously unknown to this otherwise well-informed South African think-tank. Flying under the radar screens of politicians, intellectuals, academics, and journalists are a large number of institutions and individuals that are actively concerned about and working on questions of values and personal behaviour. These concerns include family life, personal responsibility, unemployment, skills creation, and a range of other national concerns.

The last sentence could apply to many non-Pentecostal Christian groups as well. Greg Cuthbertson was somewhat sceptical about the report, saying that they tended to lump all kinds of things together under the general label of “Pentecostalism”, and did not understand hoe Christian denominations worked. But I believe the general link between Neopentecostalism and modernity is there.

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If you are interested, you can see my other blog posts on this and related topics here and here.

Witchcraft accusations and exorcisms in DRC

BBC News | AFRICA | Congo witch-hunt’s child victims:

Congolese children are being accused of witchcraft and made scapegoats for the country’s many ills. Jeremy Vine reports from Kinshasa on the gruesome business of exorcism.

The sect – run by a free-thinking Congolese Bible teacher called Prophet Onokoko – has 230 children on its books. All are accused of witchcraft. Many have been thrown out of their family homes. All will have to undergo some kind of ritual exorcism to expunge the evil spirits.

I have a database of African Independent Churches (AICs) and would be interested in more information on this one, and on Prophet Onokoko. Does anyone have any more information on the history of this church, and its theology?

Catching up on the blogroll and tying threads together

December has been a somewhat broken blogging month.

A couple of weeks ago there was a storm that knocked out our phone lines for a couple of days — a cable struck by lightning or something. No sooner had that come back than we lost web access — run out of bandwidth again, halfway through the month! No I don’t do YouTube and podcasts, so it must be someone else in the family — perhaps my son downloading updates to his graphics program, which he’s using to draw fleas.

Then it comes back, and then it’s off again. Telkom has a thing that lets you buy extra bandwidth now, but it doesn’t seem to work. There’s a problem, they apparently didn’t like my credit card, so I report the problem but there’s no feedback. They simply don’t reply. Later my wife tries with her credit card, and that works, so we are back on the web, but for how long I don’t know.

So I try to catch up with blogs I read — starting first by checking on visitors to my blogs who have either left comments, or who have left a record of having visited through MyBlogLog. Then I go on to my blogroll, and so eventually discover several others who have been blogging on similar topics to me, so here is some of the catchup, and linking similar threads together. Some of them have been on my other blog, Khanya, which I use for afternoon and evening blogging, since Blogger works only in the morning. If it were afternoon now, I’d be blogging this on Khanya too, but since it’s before noon, I’ll use Blogger while it’s working.

Christian responses to witchcraft and sorcery

This is a topic that has long been of interest to me, and I recently blogged about it on my Khanya blog, noting an apparent difference between Christian responses in Southern and Eastern Africa, and those in Western and Central Africa, notably in Nigeria and the DRC. And this seems to be spreading to the Western world as well, through the African disapora.

In my catchup, first through MyBlogLog and then through my blogroll, I discovered that some of my blogging friends have also been blogging on this topic:

If you’re interested in the topic, those are well worth a read.

We’ve also been discussing it in the AIC mailing list. One things that strikes me about all this is that it seems to point to a significant divergence between Pentecostal and Neopentecostal theology, and between the attitude of Zionist and other “Spirit-type” African independent churches (AICs) on the one hand, and Neopentecostal AICs on the other.

I say “seems to point” because there does not seem to have been enough research on this topic. It’s something that needs urgent attention from African and Pentecostal theology researchersbecause people are dying, and so far the reasons are mostly based on guesswork.

For me there are at least three big questions, probably more:

  1. What is the reason for the apparent differences between Eastern and Southern Africa and Western and Central Africa?
  2. What is the difference between Pentecostal/Zionist theology on the one hand, and Neopentecostal theology on the other?
  3. What is the link between Neopentecostal theology and Neoliberalism? How far have Neopentecostals bought into the Neoliberal ideology, and is Neopentecostalism simply a contextualisation of the gospel in a Neoliberal worldview (thinking of economic liberalism rather than political liberalism here).

The Golden Compass

Before the film The Golden Compass (based on Philip Pullman’s novel Northern Lights) was released, there was an SMS campaign by some people in South Africa urging people to boycott the film. I blogged about this at The Golden compass — to boycott or not to boycott. When the film was released I went to see it, and enjoyed it, but found it rather over-simplified. But once again, I’ve discovered some of my blogging friends had written far better reviews than I could:

The first is from a neopagan, and the second from a Christian perspective, and both are well worth reading. Lots of people have written reviews of the film, but these are two of the best.

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