Monday, May 30, 2016

Witchcraft, Murder, and Hunted People

WARNING: Disturbing Content. Please preview before letting children read.

Have you heard of the plight of the northern white rhino? 

Photo source:
Above is a picture of Sudan, the last male of the species. Four armed guards protect Sudan 24 hours a day inside a game park in Kenya. Protect him from what? Poachers. There are several countries (not in Africa) where some people believe that rhino horn powder has magical powers that will heal disease, cure a hangover, or help a person perform better. Because of this, some species of rhino have been illegally hunted to near extinction, and according to the conservationist organization Save the Rhino, over 5,940 rhinos have been illegally killed for their horns since 2008. Conservationist groups and African countries with rhinos are doing all they can to protect these animals and catch and prosecute poachers. But they are often no match for contract poachers who can get as much as $300,000 for the largest rhino horns, which are then smuggled to other continents. The manner in which poachers have been butchering rhinos for their horns (which I will not describe here) is gruesome and horrible and would be condemned by any normal hunter.

There is something even worse happening in some parts of Africa which gets much less attention.

In Tanzania and neighboring countries there are actual human beings who are hunted and murdered for witchcraft because they have albinism. While seeing pictures of what’s happened to poached rhinos makes me feel sick and angry, reading the accounts of what has happened to fellow human beings with albinism leaves me sobbing and feeling completely crazy. There are countless stories of unimaginable butchering of infants ripped from their mothers arms, children and parents murdered in front of the their loved ones, and much worse. This has been going on since 2008, in the same time period and general region where there has been a huge surge in rhino poaching. But how many of you have heard about the rhino crisis and how many of you have heard about atrocities being committed against African people with albinism?

Albinism is a condition where a person is born with little or no pigment in the skin, hair and eyes. In places where a lot of people have blond hair and white skin, people with albinism don’t stand out as dramatically as they do in the rest of the world. Because they have such a different appearance from everyone around them, it is impossible for African people with albinism to disguise their condition. They usually have severe skin problems that result in skin cancer, caused by sunburn that can’t be avoided. There is no way to escape sun exposure in a place where people do most things outdoors, and there is no way for the average person to obtain sunscreen. People with albinism also suffer from serious eye and vision problems because eye development requires melanin, which people with albinism don’t have. If these health issues were not enough of a struggle, people with albinism now have to live in terror and hiding as they are actually being hunted for their body parts.

In Tanzania some people believe that people with albinism have magical powers, and witchdoctors have done witchcraft with their hair, fingernail clippings, and urine for as long as people can remember. But over the past decade witchdoctors have begun telling people the lie that the limbs and organs of people with albinism have powerful magic. Certain influential and wealthy people go to a witchdoctor for a spell that they falsely believe will increase their wealth and power. The witchdoctor charges them huge amounts of money and then pays killers to bring them the body parts of people with albinism for the potions they give these “clients.” A BBC article sites the Red Cross, saying a witchdoctor will pay $75,000 for the body of a person with albinism. Families even have to secretly burry their loved ones with albinism in cement coffins to prevent them from being dug up for more witchcraft. 

We first heard about these atrocities being committed against people with albinism in Tanzania several years ago. But in the last two years there have now been reports of people with albinism being attacked and murdered in at least 20 other countries in Africa, including Mozambique. And this year we received children in the orphanage whose mother was killed in this way because she had albinism. (We are not saying who they are to protect their identities.) Our new children do not have albinism so they are not in danger, but we really cannot even fathom the trauma that they have suffered. Many of the children in our care have survived heart-wrenching loss and experiences that resulted in their coming to us, but this is the most horrific thing we have seen.

People with albinism who survive attacks can end up with missing limbs or fingers that their attackers chopped off and sold to witchdoctors. Children are the most vulnerable.Photo source:
What is being done? 

Most people in the countries where these things are happening are sickened and outraged by it, and police and governments have caught and prosecuted some of the killers and witchdoctors involved. In Tanzania there are some places where children with albinism are living together and receiving an education while being protected by armed guards. There is a Christian non-profit organization called Under the Same Sun that that is fighting against the persecution of people with albinism in Tanzania as well as raising global awareness of this crisis. The wikipedia page, “Persecution of People with Albinism” is very informative. Most major African, American, and British news agencies have written stories on this issue recently, and it has been discussed and condemned in the US congress. The Under the Same Sun website lists 25 cases where people with albinism were granted asylum in other nations in Africa and overseas. But the murders have not stopped, and most people with albinism live in fear and hiding. A lot more needs to be done.

Africa in Context

Sometimes when people hear about bad things that happen in Mozambique or other parts of Africa, they feel scared to visit or think it is a place where there is more evil than in the United States. The media gets the most viewers when they have more outrageous or tragic stories. Africa is often disproportionately represented as a place consumed by poverty, despair, atrocities, and godlessness instead of a place filled with hospitality, beauty, hope, hard-working families, ingenuity, and where God is greatly at work. There are many Christians and non-Christians in these countries who are fighting to protect people with albinism and bring their killers to justice with the resources they have, just as there are many Americans fighting against serial killers, child predators, and other evils that have caused death and trauma in the U.S. We hope we are not perpetuating an unbalanced view of Africa with this story as we tell you about what one group of people has been facing, which has lead to our receiving the children of a murdered mother into our orphanage.

News stories about this issue in Nampula

1 comment:

Linda said...

Thank you for sharing this and for raising awareness.