Friday, November 23, 2012

Angolan Catholic Church Calls for Witchcraft Ban

On the list of things for which I am thankful, one entry that keeps coming up year after year is that I don't live in Africa. In Angola, the Roman Catholic Church is calling for a new law banning "witchcraft" - that is, traditional spiritual practices. Witchcraft laws vary throughout Africa, with some countries banning related practices and others banning the witchcraft accusations that can lead to lynching at the hands of angry mobs. Perhaps the Church is worried about the accused, who usually bear the brunt of this violence. However, it seems to me that if they were genuinely concerned about innocent lives they would be calling for a ban on accusations. Such laws, while not perfect, have helped reduce violence against accused witches in other African nations. Instead, it sounds like the Church's real goal is to preserve what remains of its spiritual authority.

The Roman Catholic Church in Angola on Wednesday demanded new laws to outlaw witchcraft, claiming the practice had reached "chronic" proportions. "It is affecting more and more followers, it destroys family ties and affects relations among people," said Francisco Viti, the archbishop of the central city of Huambo.

Angola does not have laws against witchcraft, leaving communities to deal with the issue as they see fit. Suspected witches have been lynched. "There is a legal vacuum with regards to witchcraft, which does not constitute a crime -- yet the consequences are killings, violence, libel and slander," said Jose Manuel Imbamba a Church spokesman. "This is a chronic problem in Angola, but nobody has the courage to confront it," he added.

I'll say it one more time - policing people's spiritual beliefs is fundamentally wrong. I do understand that there exist traditional African practitioners who commit crimes, such as the murder of albinos for their body parts in countries like Tanzania. The thing is, murder is murder regardless of whether "witchcraft" has anything to do with it and perpetrators should be prosecuted accordingly. The same should go for any other criminal act. Absent such actions, a ban on "witchcraft" is essentially a ban on particular religious practices, and it's no surprise that the Church would like to see anyone who does not acknowledge its authority facing criminal charges.

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J.C. said...

What? You don't think it would be at least a little fun to move to one of said countries for a few years and secretly execute magical operations?

Scott Stenwick said...

No thanks. How about you try it instead? ;-)

True, it might make for an adventure, but I doubt it would be of the fun variety...