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Fear of witches is tearing communities apart

Fear of witches is tearing communities apart

Placido Hilukilwa

INDEPENDENT churches are mushrooming and the number of traditional healers is increasing in the northern regions, and so is the belief in (and fear of) witchcraft becoming more prevalent.

Belief in witchcraft was widespread in the traditional communities more than a century ago but disappeared gradually over the years after the indigenous peoples accepted the teachings and practices of Christianity.

However, an apparently new brand of Christianity is currently fomenting the fear of witches.

The accusing finger is mostly pointing at independent neo-Pentecostal and charismatic preachers who, at their assemblies, pretend to identify witches who allegedly cause illnesses, block job opportunities and promotions, and impede meaningful progress of their victims.

Allegations of that nature are now the cause of conflict in the communities.

Children have turned against parents, learners against teachers, and neighbours are no longer on speaking terms.

Speaking in a recent interview with Informanté at Oshakati, Nampol’s Chief Inspector Christine Da Fonseca confirmed that neo-Pentecostal preachers and witchdoctors are creating disharmony in the communities.

“Learners are made to fear their teachers because they are witches; children are made to hate their parents because they are demon possessed; neighbours and members of the same family are not on talking terms. All that because one or other preacher who pretends to identify witches,” she said.

But has witchcraft really become more widespread now than decades ago?

Pastors of the mainstream churches say “no”.

“What we witnessing now,” they say, “is not an increase in witchcraft practitioners, but rather an increase in false preachers who are trying to attract followers by exploiting people’s lack of spiritual maturity.”

Pastor Lukas Joseph of the Christ Centred Baptist Church says that preachers who pretend to identify witches are, in fact, witch doctors masquerading as Christian clerics, in other words, wolves in sheepskin.

He said that Christianity is about faith, love and hope, but there is now a novel brand of Christianity that, in practice, propagates fear, hatred and despair.

The same sentiment was echoed by Pastor Tarah Shalyefu of the Anglican Church.

“There is a real problem,” he said, adding that many of their own congregants turn up for counselling after attending “those churches where all kinds of allegations are made about witches and demons”.

According to his observation, witchcraft has not become more prevalent now. Rather, there is a mushrooming of fearmongers: preachers who use fear of witches to attract and keep followers.

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