AriArmstrong.com, Religion in Culture and Politics.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Wages of Mysticism

If you thought the days of witch burnings were behind us, here's the latest news from Kenya:

In late May, news outlets in Kenya told the story of 15 people, mostly elderly women, who were murdered in a witch hunt near the town of Kisii. The killings shocked the nation.

Villagers said more than 100 people gathered machetes and knives and stormed the village of Kegogi after midnight.

"They started banging on the doors, they broke into the house and then they killed our grandmother inside," says Justus Bosire. "The mob was screaming and we panicked. We ran away and they came to our house and burned it to the ground."

When Bosire returned to his grandmother's house, he found her dead on the floor in a bed of embers. His father is missing.

"They claim that my grandmother and father were practicing witches," Bosire says.


And you're in deep trouble if you have light skin in Tanzania, reports The New York Times (via Noodle Food):

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania -- Samuel Mluge steps outside his office and scans the sidewalk. His pale blue eyes dart back and forth, back and forth, trying to focus. The sun used to be his main enemy, but now he has others. Mr. Mluge is an albino, and in Tanzania now there is a price for his pinkish skin. "I feel like I am being hunted," he said.

Discrimination against albinos is a serious problem throughout sub-Saharan Africa, but recently in Tanzania it has taken a wicked twist: at least 19 albinos, including children, have been killed and mutilated in the past year, victims of what Tanzanian officials say is a growing criminal trade in albino body parts.

Many people in Tanzania -- and across Africa, for that matter -- believe albinos have magical powers. They stand out, often the lone white face in a black crowd, a result of a genetic condition that impairs normal skin pigmentation and strikes about 1 in 3,000 people here. Tanzanian officials say witch doctors are now marketing albino skin, bones and hair as ingredients in potions that are promised to make people rich.


We in the science-minded West find such stories difficult to fathom. Yet such mystic-based brutality used to be widespread throughout Europe.

The wages of mysticism is death.

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