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Accusations of Witchcraft

Accusations of Witchcraft in Africa

Apr. 29, 2013

by Joel Elowsky

On our recent trip to Nigeria in January to lecture at the Baptist Seminary in Ogbomoso, I was struck by the television programs on the air there. The stations to which we had access were somewhat limited, but on those that were available I was suprised to see such a marked emphasis on witchcraft and sorcery. Many of the TV programs either had a story line of Christianity battling and engaging the local witch doctor, or there were scenes of demonic possession being overcome.

Here in the West, when we think of witchcraft, we think of the Salem witch trials of the late 17th century in New England.  We think of this as something of a by-gone era that his little relevance or presence in the 21st century. Perhaps we don't talk about this subject as much in the West (although I do know it is an issue also here) treating it as mainly a superstitious hold-over. However subdued our discussion here is on the topic, elsewhere in the world, especially in places like Africa, the subject is still open to lively debate and public discussion.

A recent article in Christianity Today, in fact, highlights a conference sponsored by Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) on just this topic. The issue the conference discussed was not whether witchcraft was real or not, but rather how accusations of witchcraft - similar to the Salem witch trials - was being used to exploit the poor and those who are disadvantaged in African society. As the article notes:

"Elderly women and orphans are often blamed for death, infertility, and financial problems. Although some secular nonprofits have tried to stem the recent increase in accusations, the Nairobi conference examined causes (one contributing factor: Nollywood Christian movies) as well as theological and biblical responses to witchcraft."

To read more about the article and the conference please follow the link contained here. We need to keep those who are being falsely accused in our prayers and pray that the light of Christ might overcome the darkness that is exploiting this issue. In a future post, we will include what Origen of Alexandria had to say about this very issue in the 3rd century in his On First Principles.