Laymen in Zambia have led efforts to protect their neighbors who are accused of witchcraft after misfortunes strike local communities.
“We are getting somewhere, but it’s rooted in the way people respond to the problems of suffering,” Archbishop Ignatius Chama of Kasama told Aid to the Church in Need on Oct. 23.
The situation in which someone is accused of using magic typically involves someone being accused of witchcraft after others suffer death or sickness. Once that occurs, a mob assembles and assaults them to obtain a confession.
According to Archbishop Chama, laymen in his archdiocese have begun running social justice projects which assist women accused of being witches.
“It’s the laity who are driving this business of Justice and Peace … the people in the parishes are the ones who are in the forefront, moving all the programs forward.”
While witch hunts are “still a big problem” in most communities, Archbishop Chama said that “we have our Justice and Peace teams, who are trying to ‘conscientize’ the people, raise their awareness concerning this issue.”
While 87 percent of Zambians are Christian, there is much syncretism with traditional religion and its associated superstitions.
“It’s rooted in the way people respond to the problems of suffering,” the archbishop said.
“When a Christian is faced with problems, the way of tackling those problems may be one that goes back to the way that our ancestors tackled those problems,” which usually means resorting to prosecution through the law, he explained.
In June 2011 a 40 year old woman accused of witchcraft was murdered following the death of a toddler, as was a 66 year old man.
Yesterday, Oct. 22, a 70 year old woman was rescued from her home which was burnt to ashes. She had allegedly confessed to witchcraft and showed signs of being beaten, according to The Times of Zambia.
Superstitions around witchcraft are found in several African nations. It has been a problem also in Angola, the DRC, and South Africa. Servant of God Benedict Daswa was martyred in 1990 in South Africa for his refusal to support witchcraft.
Zambia is located in the south of Africa, between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe.