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?”
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…
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.
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.
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.