Witchcraft accusation seminars in Mwanza, TZ

President Obama joins us in Tanzania!

The US President arrived yesterday in Dar es Salaam to an exuberant welcome of official bands playing the Star Spangled Banner, followed by traditional drums and dancing. We watched some on the Swahili media, since we are in Mwanza, near Lake Victoria, not on the coast where he spent his 24 hours. Maybe the US will begin to build mutually beneficial partnership opportunities in one of the 10 fastest economies in the world? China has 5 times the trade with Tanzania as the US.   Hopefully Obama’s visit to Tanzania will be as fruitful as ours has been.

Seminar on “How can the church help those victimized through witch accusations?”

 

Seminar participants discuss “What makes a good village?”

 

Ten of us gathered to plan the seminar together for 2 days.  Then about 40 from 6 church denominations (see above) participated in the 4-day seminar with the aim of helping the church help those accused of witchcraft in their churches, villages, and families.  This seminar came out of Steve’s PhD research which revealed that most deaths in this area of Tanzania are blamed on someone causing the death, using witchcraft.  How exciting to bring his ongoing research back home so that Christians here can grapple with local issues and try to come up with solutions.

His student at AIU from this area, Joshua Lusato, also researched on the prevalence of belief in witchcraft and resulting cases of people killed as suspected witches. Great to see how he has been transformed in understanding and passion on this issue! According to his research on police records, at least 67 suspected witches were killed each year in just the Mwanza region [and 500 in Tanzania]. Only 10% of those cases have suspects and only 1% have gotten to court. 80% are women and the great majority older. Joshua’s wife Pendo is a legal advocate and explained the laws against witchcraft and accusing people of being witches. At the beginning of the conference some students were saying that we should be Biblical and kill the witches. By the end most had seen that God loves everyone and He commands that the church love the widows, poor, orphans, and outsider, even those who some label as witches.

 

Eight people at the conference shared their stories of being accused of being witches…

Some of the seminar attendees, including 5 pastors, who have been accused of witchcraft!

One of the widows above had her house burned down and was attacked by her nephew, now no one will sit by her in church. Another widow had to pay a cow as fine for bewitching a grand nephew.

 

Prisca has been a pastor’s wife for nearly 50 years.

We know Prisca’s husband and son well in ministry. She sat next to Steve in the service where he preached on defending those accused as witches. Afterward she shared why she was visiting: One night this April, she found herself surrounded by a crowd of young armed men who intended to kill her.  She managed to get help from the police who kept her in jail to keep her safe until her son came to bring her to the village until things cool down. The root is conflict with her daughter-in-law who accuses her of bewitching her son. The spark was a neighbor accusing her of making her sick.

 

Digging into scripture to see what the Bible says about caring for the widow, orphan, poor, alien, needy as well as about sorcerers, witches, and magicians.

 

Jan leading small group discussion

The seminar laid solid first steps to helping churches see how many helpless people are accused of being witches, because of envy, greed (wanting their land or house), and broken relationships in an extended family or clan.  Afterward at the LVCC board meetings Steve and the leaders made plans to teach interdenominational seminars to encourage churches to defend the victims – usually widows, the poor, outsiders, orphans, and the powerless. Please pray for funding and wisdom for this. Steve also plans to write a book in English and Swahili to help pastors confront these issues. He has asked some of these teachers to contribute to the book.

Thanks for your prayers… and please continue to pray!

It has been fun to be back in Mwanza these two weeks and to see friends, including former students and church leaders.  We will be back in Nairobi in time to grade papers and for Rachel and Isaac to be junior counselors at Camp Blue Sky for a week. Then we go to our missionary retreat on the coast for a week.

African scholars in Minnesota – July 2013

Our couple months in the USA is winding down. We fly to Nairobi Aug. 10.

We asked you to pray for this opportunity…

 

I really enjoyed connecting a dozen of my African colleagues with my missiology colleagues and even my Dad, Janice, Hannah and Justin at the American Society of Missiology (ASM) annual meeting in St. Paul. I also enjoyed presenting and learning with them in both the track on “witches and witch accusations” and on our “Africa Leadership Study.” This was followed by meetings on how to co-author books on each of these subjects. Please pray for our writing.

Scholars with Tite at ASM

(Above) Academic generations together in Minnesota: Tite Tienou and Bob Priest (middle men) taught David Ngaruiya (left) and I. On the right is my PhD student and research assistant, Maggie Gitau. Bob, David, Maggie and I are part of the team researching and writing the Africa Leadership Study. This picture was after the official presentation of a book in Tite’s honor that Bob, David, I, and others wrote chapters for (below):

 

Book cover in honor of Tite Tienou

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day, Prof. Samuel Kunhiyop and I planned how we will write a book together for African pastors about how to respond to those who are suffering and to those accused of causing suffering through witchcraft. I have been seeking for years for an African co-author for this book. He is perfect. He has deep pastoral passion and insight on this subject. He brings his experience as the general secretary of the 6 million member ECWA church of Nigeria and its sister churches around the world. His African Christian Ethics and African Christian Theology books have blessed many. Pray for God’s enabling to accomplish this on top of our many other responsibilities and knowing that the true Enemy  (the Accuser) does not want this to succeed. May God be glorified and widows, orphans, and the poor be protected and encouraged!

 

Working on book for pastors about handling witchcraft accusations

 

My daughter Hannah helped a great deal with her writing advice and will be editing this book with us. She also has other news that we are all excited about… stay posted for her email!