When Demons Are Real

Feb 19, 2014


Discussion by: Kwaku Asante

Witchcraft superstition has become a major problem in many African countries especially Ghana where witchcraft superstition and persecution is so high. The availability of witch camps in the country  reflects the seriousness of the problem and how deeply rooted the belief in witchcraft is in the country.

Last time I came across an article written by T.M Luhrmann titled ‘When Demons are real’. The article depicts how churches are fuelling the current problem of witchcraft superstition in Ghana. According to the writer, he once visited a Christian service in Accra where thousands of people where shouting: “The witches will die! They will die! Die! Die!”

In the African society, witches are not non human entities but human beings. So it’s very appalling, when in a country whereby the issue of witch hunting and persecution is currently a major social problem, people continue to believe and fuel the superstition of witchcraft through religion.

Their growing business of divination and exorcism has made it difficult to combat this mistaken belief and the suffering and death it is causing in the region. African governments, Nonprofit Organizations  and Religious organizations must rise to the occasion and help define a new era in the history of the continent. Both must join hands and bring an end to the wave of witch hunting ravaging the region.

A grandmother was allegedly tortured and burned to death by a five-strong group – one of whom is believed to be an evangelical pastor – who accused her of being a witch.

Ama Hemmah, 72, suffered the horrific injuries when she was set upon by the mob, who claimed that she admitted to being a witch before drenching her in kerosene and setting her alight.

Mrs Hemmah, who was from the port city of Tema, near the Ghanaian capital, Accra, was burned alive in nearby Tema Site 15.

She was rushed to Tema General Hospital but died within 24 hours and five people have been arrested in connection with her death.

Newspaper pictures showing the woman's injuries caused revulsion in Ghana, and the incident was condemned by human rights and women's activists.

 

The so- called penis snatching reports are not common in West Africa, where purported victims often blame penis shrinkage on handshakes with sorcerers or witches.

 

The seven alleged sorcerers who were accused of grapping penises and beaten to death by angry mobs in the Ghana capital of Accra also attracted a lot of criticism from the international community. Victims claim the sorcerers simply touch them to make their genitals shrink or disappear, in order to extort cash in the promise of a cure.

 

Around 700 women and 800 children live in Gambaga camp, and in five other witch camps across northern Ghana, where they are virtually cut off from the outside world. Housed in flimsy mud huts, without enough food, they have few basic health or education facilities. Their children and, often, grandchildren grow up inside the camps' boundaries.

 

Women and children are also targeted in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, and the Central African Republic.

 

It is about time that churches and other religions review their practices and dogmas to curb the high level of witchcraft superstition and persecutions in African societies.

 

By Kwaku Asante

Social Commentator

University of Ghana.

20 comments on “When Demons Are Real

  • 1
    David R Allen says:

    Only education can help. I despair for these practices. I don’t have an answer for you. A long slow slog to educated the population in the rational understanding of the natural world and science. A slow modification of the political system to limit the effects of religion. A knowledge by the population that they should never elect a person with strong religious convictions.

    I also blame the importing of western fundamentalist christian views into third world countries. Where ever they go, christian fundamentalist (Who call themselves missionaries) cause harm. They breach Rule 1. First, do no harm.

    I’m sorry for your people. It is going to be a long slow process.



    Report abuse

  • 2
    bluebird says:

    In reply to #1 by David R Allen:

    importing [ ] christian views into third world countries

    “What goes around, comes around”, to wit.


    witch camps – women and children

    Cringe. Yet another example of females of a group being heavily suppressed, and the children by proxy. If only there was a way to just airlift them out, and land softly in free, wild open spaces.



    Report abuse

  • 4
    Light Wave says:

    Yeah a similar craze was once virulent in UK, Europe and USA…the accused was usually thrown into a deep pool….If they floated they were witches and if they sunk they were innocent and dead….It was a quick way to loose half the village…



    Report abuse

  • This situation never ceases to engage me as an ongoing topic of archaic thinking and indoctrination manifested by the western Christian Extremists of the day back in the 19th Century. That infiltration of mainly Catholic Based Bigotry has caused more loss of life in the African continent than possibly anywhere in the world. Now we have a situation where the the indigenous peoples are still relying on a none existent supernatural myth to drag them out of poverty, provide food for their oversized families and quash the demons and Witches.
    There is no doubt in my mind that re-education is the answer, however the task to reverse the damage that has been done and to lessen the supernatural beliefs that are now embedded in many of the tribal cultures, is vast. I can’t help thinking that despite the genocidal malishas that seem to rule many areas, western societies have an obligation to try and undo the mess we originally caused. By this I mean we should ensure that none-religious teachings and aid are used as well as the use of a massive peace-keeping force to ensure that the bullies are tethered and then the people have a fighting chance to install the technology to ensure crops and eliminate the famine. Whilst this is ongoing a massive role-out of contraception to reduce future populations until a reasonable level of stability in all societies has been reached. Common sense really…….crack on!!



    Report abuse

  • This situation never ceases to engage me as an ongoing topic of archaic thinking and indoctrination manifested by the western Christian Extremists of the day back in the 19th Century. That infiltration of mainly Catholic Based Bigotry has caused more loss of life in the African continent than possibly anywhere in the world. Now we have a situation where the the indigenous peoples are still relying on a none existent supernatural myth to drag them out of poverty, provide food for their oversized families and quash the demons and Witches.
    There is no doubt in my mind that re-education is the answer, however the task to reverse the damage that has been done and to lessen the supernatural beliefs that are now embedded in many of the tribal cultures, is vast. I can’t help thinking that despite the genocidal malishas that seem to rule many areas, western societies have an obligation to try and undo the mess we originally caused. By this I mean we should ensure that none-religious teachings and aid are used as well as the use of a massive peace-keeping force to ensure that the bullies are tethered and then the people have a fighting chance to install the technology to ensure crops and eliminate the famine. Whilst this is ongoing a massive role-out of contraception to reduce future populations until a reasonable level of stability in all societies has been reached. Common sense really…….crack on!!



    Report abuse

  • 7
    David R Allen says:

    In reply to #5 by Kwwebbo:

    This situation never ceases to engage me as an ongoing topic of archaic thinking and indoctrination manifested by the western Christian Extremists of the day back in the 19th Century. That infiltration of mainly Catholic Based Bigotry has caused more loss of life in the African continent than possib…

    Sadly, we can’t ban fanatical religious zealots in our own countries, let alone restrict the damage they do to emerging third world countries. If we can’t sideline them on home ground, then sadly, we can do little to help inoculate your population against the lies they spread. It will take a long time. As one poster said above, what you are describing applied to Europe in the middle ages. My only hope is that now, the rational world can fast track the progress in your country, and around the world. I do my bit.



    Report abuse

  • 8
    achromat666 says:

    Ignorance, prejudice and fear. The 3 are always in tandem in horrible situations like this.

    While many societies before this have suffered through such periods it is on multiple levels devastating and profoundly depressing to find any society taking something as asinine as claims of witchcraft to such insane extremes. Sadly not unlike the crusade that marches through African countries with many of the same issues with homosexuality, also with absolutely no legitimate ground for any claims regarding it.

    Sad does not begin to cover it. I am ashamed that people have allowed this level of superstition to not only become the norm but to thrive unchecked. Change cannot come soon enough.



    Report abuse

  • 9
    Markovich says:

    I do not see how belief in witchcraft is any more or less wrong that belief in Jesus. Nor do I concede that its widespread adherance has welfare effects any worse than widespread adherance to Christianity. So I fail to understand why we would want Christianity to replace belief in witchcraft. The war against superstition is a general war, and should extend as much to stamping out Christian belief as stamping out witchcraft.



    Report abuse

  • 10
    CumbriaSmithy says:

    Christian missionaries affected Africa in numerous ways, some good, some bad. I would suggest that where the missionaries stayed close to the teachings of Christ, their beliefs succeeded in removing the superstitious witchcraft and replacing it with Christian care and love, not only amongst tribal groups but also between them, thereby creating a more stable society. However, where missionaries abandoned Christ’s teachings and resorted to selfish ambition and gain they failed and left a legacy of confusion between unfounded dogma and native witchcraft.



    Report abuse

  • 11
    Bob Springsteen says:

    In reply to NUMBER 9 by CumbriaSmithy. Missionaries and the teachings of Christ : The Bible is clear that God orders Christians to kill witches. “Do not allow a witch to live” (Exodus 22:18). There is no place in the New Testament where Jesus objects to the practice of killing witches. In fact, at several points in the New Testament, Jesus can be read to endorse the entirety of Old Testament law (Matthew 5:18-19). Even the most venerated biblical scholars such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Wesley advocated the killing of witches.



    Report abuse

  • 12
    Markovich says:

    In reply to #10 by Bob Springsteen:

    In reply to NUMBER 9 by CumbriaSmithy. Missionaries and the teachings of Christ : The Bible is clear that God orders Christians to kill witches. “Do not allow a witch to live” (Exodus 22:18). There is no place in the New Testament where Jesus objects to the practice of killing witches. In fact, at…

    The Book of Hell is also very clear on this subject. “Blessed are the witches, for they shall lie with and corrupt the missionaries” (Beelzebub 2:17). “Verily I say unto you witches, dine upon the flesh of missionaries, and ye shall be beloved of Baal” (Fornicatus 12:16). And there is more, so much more.



    Report abuse

  • In reply to #10

    “Christian missionaries affected Africa in numerous ways, some good, some bad. I would suggest that where the missionaries stayed close to the teachings of Christ, their beliefs succeeded in removing the superstitious witchcraft and replacing it with Christian care and love, not only amongst tribal groups but also between them, thereby creating a more stable society. However, where missionaries abandoned Christ’s teachings and resorted to selfish ambition and gain they failed and left a legacy of confusion between unfounded dogma and native witchcraft.”

    Seriously? How do you propose to convince these superstitious savages to cherry-pick in a manner consistent with your preferences? The whole wretched christian philosophy needs to be expunged. Try reading John Espinoza’s “The Biblical God Doesn’t Exist” and then say with a striaght face that cherry-picking is the answer.



    Report abuse

  • In reply to #10 by Bob Springsteen:

    . “Do not allow a witch to live” (Exodus 22:18).

    This is actually a bad translation. The original word that is represented by “witch” had the meaning “poisoner” in the sense of a murderer or assassin. In medieval Germany the closest thing they had to a poisoner were the herbalist mystics that resemble our modern image of pagan witches. And the earliest English translations were translated from German. And it wouldn’t surprise me if most modern translations are translated from English. Anyway, this whole “You shall not suffer a witch to live” is the word of man not the word of God, even if you believe in a “word of God.”



    Report abuse

  • 15
    AllusiveAtheist says:

    In reply to #10 by Bob Springsteen:

    . “Do not allow a witch to live” (Exodus 22:18).

    This is actually a bad translation. The original word that is represented by “witch” had the meaning “poisoner” in the sense of a murderer or assassin. In medieval Germany the closest thing they had to a poisoner were the herbalist mystics that resemble our modern image of pagan witches. And the earliest English translations were translated from German. And it wouldn’t surprise me if most modern translations are translated from English. Anyway, this whole “You shall not suffer a witch to live” is the word of man not the word of God, even if you believe in a “word of God.”



    Report abuse

  • Who was it that said, to paraphrase, “Madness in the individual is rare, but in crowds it is the norm.”? Someone else said something like, “When you teach someone to believe in absurdities, you can make them commit atrocities.” I’m not sure if either of these statements are justifiable, but I can say, based on anecdotes, that there may be something to them.

    I remember seeing a man chased, caught and clubbed to death. Incredibly sad though the whole event was, what is interesting is the fact that many of his assailants (they joined in the chase long after it had started) had no idea why the man was being chased down. Was he a thief? A murder? An adulterer? A case of mistaken identity? It didn’t matter.

    As far as the chasing crowd was concerned, what mattered was that he was being chased, and if that was the case, well, surely, he must have done something seriously wrong. If he’d done something that wrong, he must face ultimate justice. What was this justice? Death. Who will meet this out? Well, in the absence of any greater authority (the police, for example) we, the crowd, will. And so they descended on the man and clubbed him to death.

    Now, this poor chap may have had a dispute with just one individual, and they may have settled it peacefully or violently, but once the chase was on and the crowd gathered, failing an intervention by the cops or a respected member of the community, his fate was reduced to one outcome: death. Again, madness in crowds….and all that. I can give several other examples of this.

    If you accept that crowds are liable to extreme behavior, and if you add irrational beliefs (such as witches and gods and ghosts and magic) to the equation, then we seem to have a perfect storm for violence: an accusation of witchcraft can, and does, quickly lead to a death, unless some overarching authority intervenes.

    Also, you may think this kind of behavior only exists in failed states in Africa, or that the motivations have to be religious. That’s wrong. Many of the states that burned witches in medieval Europe where relatively stable and law abiding, if religious. When Natzi mobs rounded up, roughed up and killed Jews in Germany in the 1930s, the country was going from strength to strength, and the mob’s primary motivation may not have been religious; nationalism was a serious motivator. When football hooligans, often in developed countries, chase and stab rivals fans or random immigrants to death, there is more to it than the country’s economic state or the people’s religiosity; this is often a case of in/out group mentality.

    So, there does seem to be something there that makes crowds and irrational beliefs (religious, nationalistic, in/out group mentality) lead to violent outcomes. But I could be wrong.



    Report abuse

  • 17
    Ospreywing says:

    In reply to #9 by CumbriaSmithy:

    Christian missionaries affected Africa in numerous ways, some good, some bad. I would suggest that where the missionaries stayed close to the teachings of Christ, their beliefs succeeded in removing the superstitious witchcraft and replacing it with Christian care and love, not only amongst tribal g…

    No!! Christianity and all religious belief systems based on dogma, appeal to authority, and human documents reified as god’s word — with no empirical evidence whatsoever — are superstitions. Even traditional (classical) teachings are filled with bizarre beliefs (see original sin, virgin birth, transubstantiation, ascension and assumption, heaven and hell) that no rational, thinking human being can accept. Hence it is easy for those traditions to slide into heinous beliefs and practices such as witchcraft, sexual mutilation, human sacrifice, etc. A humane civilization cannot progress until all superstition is eliminated, and reason together with compassion rule the day.



    Report abuse

  • 18
    David R Allen says:

    In reply to #9 by CumbriaSmithy:

    Christian missionaries affected Africa in numerous ways, some good, some bad. I would suggest that where the missionaries stayed close to the teachings of Christ, their beliefs succeeded in removing the superstitious witchcraft and replacing it with Christian care and love, not only amongst tribal g…

    Just test your hypothesis with one and only one aspect of the teachings of Christianity in Africa. There is ample documentation and evidence to apply this to the Catholic Church and the American Fundamentalists who continue to infest Africa. Sex is only permissible between a christian married husband and wife. No contraception is permissible. Condoms are openly condemned by the Catholic Church in Africa. America foreign aid is hostage to the American Taliban who will not permit birth control as part of the funds. A starving continent doomed to breed millions of babies to die of malnutrition.

    Nett result. 30,000,000 Africans dead of HIV and rising rapidly A preventable disease. Cast your mind around and try and think of a genocide or holocaust that even comes close to this. The blood of these 30,000,000 Africans, the greatest genocide in recorded history is down to the missionaries that infect the African continent. It makes child abuse by the clergy look positively saintly. I would be embarrassed to lend any support to this slaughter.



    Report abuse

  • There should be something like the prime directive of startreck banning people from influencing other less informed…

    Missionary work is the continuation of the crusades and conquest. Why can’t they just help the people without having to christianize them ?

    Alchemists were considered witches. A heart surgeon today would be considered a witch for cutting a person open fixing their heart and they still live. It is a matter of perspective and what you know.

    Superstition is faith induced fear. It is an unfortunate situation with no immediate solution besides counter education.

    Could a group of atheist scientists and teachers go do the same kind of work to help people but instead of helping them build a church build a school and provide books?

    What would they be called ? Anti Missionaries ?



    Report abuse

  • 20
    Alan4discussion says:

    In reply to #9 by CumbriaSmithy:

    I would suggest that where the missionaries stayed close to the teachings of Christ, their beliefs succeeded in removing the superstitious witchcraft and replacing it with Christian care and love, not only amongst tribal groups but also between them, thereby creating a more stable society. However, where missionaries abandoned Christ’s teachings and resorted to selfish ambition and gain they failed and left a legacy of confusion between unfounded dogma and native witchcraft.

    Ah! Native African witchcraft! – Not to be confused with the Christian witchcraft of the Spanish Inquisition etc.

    Then there is the South American Inquisition by Spanish missionaries!
    It’s amazing how much of reality faith-blinkers can filter out when cherry-picking moral issues and re-writing history!



    Report abuse

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.