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Accusations of Witchcraft in Nigeria and Britain July 23, 2018

Posted by P, J, or J in Uncategorized.
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A harrowing news story recently told of the plight of children in Nigeria accused of witchcraft. Similar stories exist in Britain.

When did you last hear a helpful sermon about witchcraft?

In Britain (most) people don’t really believe in witches. They consider them the things of fairy stories or teenage TV and fiction. But it is part of our history.

“During the 16th century, many people believed that witchcraft, rather than the workings of God’s will, offered a more convincing explanation of sudden and unexpected ill-fortune, such as the death of a child, bad harvests, or the death of cattle. Witch-hunting became an obsession in some parts of the country.  ”

Under the 1542 Witchcraft Act  witchcraft was a crime punishable by death and over the years at least 500 people were executed. (read more at https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/private-lives/religion/overview/witchcraft/ )

In the 18th century it was reduced to a finable offence. That law was replaced in 1951 by the Fraudulent Mediums Act which in turn was repealed in 2008. The assumption being that anyone trying to make a living from communicating with the dead was defrauding people. The same assumption is often made of anyone performing an exorcism.

Belief in witchcraft is still prevalent today around the world.

An article in 2015 stated ‘Witchcraft’ abuse cases on the rise , a 2018 newspaper article spoke of “Warning over abuse linked to witchcraft and possession beliefs in UK
and stated “Experts call for Government funding to tackle abuse being ‘hidden in plain sight'”

I didn’t know until I read and googled further that there was a Witchcraft & Human Rights Information Network or a 2017 report for the UN:

Witchcraft Accusations and Persecution; Muti Murders and Human Sacrifice:Harmful Beliefs and Practices Behind a Global Crisis in Human Rights

http://www.whrin.org/whrin-releases-latest-un-report/

It does not make for comfortable reading, and there are accompanying photos.

Another paper available from the site is an article on Witches by Steven D H Rasmussen from the African Study Bible which illustrates well the need for more resources on such issues from within the continent.

Well meaning western theologians and writers often work hard to make their resources available in other countries and other languages but can too easily tackle subjects from their own cultural viewpoint.

Belief in witchcraft is ingrained in many societies. Before dismissing such beliefs as superstition we would do well to take a step back and explore why they have such a hold and what hope the church and the Bible might have to offer.

From what I have read so far it is clear that belief in witchcraft offers people someone to blame for disaster and misfortune. “Diviners” advertise themselves as people who can identify the witches (usually for a fee).  But as Rasamussen points out

“People fear more, but fear/trust God less. The community gains confidence in the diviner, but greater fear and suspicion of the witch. They break relationship with the suspect. Gossip is spread. People may find more problems to blame on this suspect. Eventually this person may be neglected, ostracized, beaten, fined, or even killed. People murder suspected witches every day in some countries. Those who suffer abuse as suspected witches are most often the vulnerable with few defenders: the poor, the outsider, the elderly, women, widows – increasingly step-children and orphans. Family, neighbors, and pastors who should defend and care often lead the accusations and abuse. But these are the very people the Bible repeatedly says God defends and cares for and commands that we do the same”  Read more

 

 

The photo accompanying this article is from pixabay. No accusations are made against the cat.

 

 

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