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Witchcraft concerns Uganda’s Anglican archbishop

(RNS) Robert Hounon, a voodoo priest from Benin in West Africa, performs a ritual on water. Rituals like this one are common in Africa and are rejected by Christian leaders who see them as witchcraft. Photo by Fredrick Nzwili
(RNS) Robert Hounon, a voodoo priest from Benin in West Africa, performs a ritual on water. Rituals like this one are common in Africa and are rejected by Christian leaders who see them as witchcraft. Photo by Fredrick Nzwili

(RNS) Robert Hounon, a voodoo priest from Benin in West Africa, performs a ritual on water. Rituals like this one are common in Africa and are rejected by Christian leaders who see them as witchcraft. Photo by Fredrick Nzwili

NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) Ugandan Anglican Archbishop Stanley Ntagali is raising concerns over the practice of witchcraft in his country amid reports of Christian politicians and citizens visiting witch doctors and shrines to their ancestors.

The archbishop first expressed worry in May, after the recently re-elected parliamentary speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, visited her ancestral shrine in eastern Uganda to allegedly thank her ancestors for her good luck.

Since then, several politicians have been sighted at shrines, according to news reports.

Ntagali has reacted sharply to what he called unacceptable syncretism in the majority Christian nation, and urged the leaders to be true to their Christian faith.

“Choose this day whom you will serve. This is what I am saying to all Ugandans — political leaders and ordinary citizens,” said the archbishop in an interview.

The Bible revealed a God that is greater than the evil spirits and the kingdom of darkness that controls so many people’s lives, he continued.

“We value our ancestors because we are connected to them by the relationship we have,” the archbishop said in a May 25 statement. “But, we must always trust only in God. We no longer need to go through the spirits of the dead because Jesus is our hope and protector.”

Other clerics and theologians have also called out the reliance on witchcraft.

The Rev. Stephen Mugambi of Kenyatta University in Nairobi said the fear is that visits to dead ancestors and witch doctors will blur the line between Christianity and African traditions.

“I think the line should be clear. Those who are Christians must abide to the Bible, thus no other gods,” said Mugambi.

Witch doctors are popular in Africa, with ordinary people seeking their services to help them get a job, pass an exam or get a raise.

Recently in Tanzania, visits to witch doctors have stirred a demand for the body parts of albino people, which are believed to generate powerful witchcraft potions that could bring wealth or good luck.

That has sparked a slew of attacks and killings of albinos in some countries.

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Fredrick Nzwili

17 Comments

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  • witchcraft and gay people– two non-existent threats, as opposed to real threats, like not enough water, not enough food, too many people, too much pollution.
    Religion!

  • As my old sociology prof, C. west Churchman, used to say,

    If something is perceived as real, it is real in its consequences.

    And when it comes to this kind of religion, it’s consequences are usually directed towards the innocent.

  • What doe the church expect when they come teaching about zombie Jesus, and his magic tricks? The church has always used syncretism to absorb other religions. Now again, as in so many other places, christianity is being absorbed. Religion poisons everything, even other religions and itself! And they never learn!

  • Ngai is not petty like other gods. Ngai permits worship of other gods, but remember, Ngai is chief of them all.

  • Practitioners of Vodun work themselves into a trance-like state as they dance about the campfire, imploring the dead ancestors to intercede on their behalf with Ngai. This is much like christians who raise their arms, and sing to the ceiling, imploring JesusGod to intercede on their behalf. Just observe the glassy eyes of the “true believer”.

  • That prof is a fool who would have done better in the squirrelly world of philosophy, where such generalizations can find some footing..

  • West was certainly no fool. He was describing social reality. And what happens to albinos is a perfect example of it.

  • but you know, you gotta hand it to Stanley: his attitudes about witchcraft are in the same league with his attitudes about gay people; so at least he’s consistently a Bronze Age throwback.

  • well–overall that’s probably true. Unfortunately, here in the Religio-Fascist West, the bible is arguably the most influential Bronze Age artifact we have.

  • Stanley evidently doesn’t believe in the communion of the saints. But then, Pentecostals typically don’t.

  • This kind of rubbish found its way into the Western Hemisphere a few centuries ago. When I was a visiting nurse (I live in New York City) I once had a Dominican patient’s mother call the agency after my first visit to change the dressing on her son’s arm. She didn’t want me touching him because I’m left-handed. Archbishop Stanley is a throwback to the same rubbish. So are his attitudes toward gay people.

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