Pope Speaks on Witchcraft

Religion In Africa

Religions and Beliefs in Africa

The Pope recently visited Benin. He has been there before, due to the fact that a trusted, African Cardinal, the late Bernardin Gantin, was from this West African country.

During his visit the Pope commented on his view of the strength of the church in Africa.  He seemed to be making the same evaluation that some evangelical missionaries have been speaking and writing about.  He believes that too often African Christians view the common life challenges in Africa such deaths, hunger, accidents, diseases, conflicts, poverty, among others, as the result of witchcraft.   He said, “The African is helpless under the great force of witches.”
The Pope went on to say, that African Christians “must fight against some very dangerous beliefs and superstitions.”  He sees witchcraft beliefs simultaneously undermine Africa’s civilization and make the African uncivilized and self-destructive.
The troubling African witchcraft problem is the focal point of African human stories, as Pope Benedict XVI said in Benin. Witchcraft has become a “social drama.”

The Pope’s solution: “Being a regional problem, a joint effort of the ecclesial community would be important to counter this calamity, trying to determine the deep meanings of these practices, to identify the risks for pastoral and social development, and to find a method leading to its definitive eradication, with the cooperation of governments and civil society.”

It is fitting to note that the Pope made these statements in Benin, which is the seat of worldwide voodoo and a country that observes a federal holiday for Voodoo Day.

The Pope made some good points about syncretism – the mixing of Christian and traditional beliefs and practices – in Africa.  However, it would be a mistake to think that most African Christians are mixing the two.  For sure, most Africans would grant that witchcraft and spiritism exist, but that is far from believing that their faith in Jehovah God is impotent before such forces.

African Christians, like Western Christians, wrestle with their human existence and their desire to live godly lives.  Yet, African Christians, many of them, die for their faith each year.  Many more have been shunned or ridiculed for their faith.

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