Is anyone surprised?

There is a related article in the Huffington Post by Ana Kasparian:

There is an epidemic in Africa that has not been covered much by the mainstream media. Thousands of Nigerian children are accused of being witches by religious pastors. As a result, they are the victims of horrendous torture through exorcisms. In most cases, the children are murdered by their own family members.

The kids who become victims of the bloody exorcisms are usually poor, orphaned, or disabled. Often times, the families that these children come from are so financially disadvantaged that they feel relieved to have one less mouth to feed.

The witch accusations come as a result of a recent religious boom in the country. There has been a rapid growth of Evangelical Christianity in Nigeria, and because of this, churches outnumber schools, clinics, and banks put together.  According to the Huffington Post, it’s hard for churches to carve out a congregation with so much competition. So some pastors establish their credentials by accusing children of witchcraft.

Unfortunately, the lack of education leads people in Africa to believe in the superstitions.

Education is not really what is missing, after all, in Uganda even the highly educated among us believe in the efficacy of witchcraft, in devils, demons, and all manner of superstitions. What is missing in Africa is critical thinking.

I have literally spent hours arguing with my university educated friends (who are believers) about whether it was true that a witchdoctor made a bible disappear before their eyes, as they were claiming. They really believe this nonsense.

We have already seen how holding certain specific religious beliefs makes it possible for even city-dwelling, masters degree-holding corporate executives to believe in the efficacy of witchcraft. Among this class of Ugandans, Evangelical Christianity is extremely popular, and it reinforces those beliefs.

We must do what we can to ensure what is happening in Nigeria does not happen here in Uganda as well.

We need to encourage critical thinking, and make it known to people in our communities that there is nothing to fear from witchcraft – because witchcraft simply does not work.

At Freethought Kampala we consider this to be one of our top priorities.

(This and other related issues will be discussed during the up-coming Freethinkers’ Night on Thursday 25th March 2010)