Monday, October 31, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI Declaring "War on Witchcraft" In Africa

I am tempted to compare Pope Benedict XVI's exhortation, on the eve of Halloween (great timing), to his African bishops to fight witchcraft with the historic declaration of the "War on Terror" by George W. Bush september 20 2011:
"Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday urged African bishops to fight the influence of witchcraft, followed by some, but incompatible with the teachings of Christ, a Vatican statement said.
"The heart of the baptised is sometimes shared between Christianity and traditional African religions," the pope said in a meeting with visiting bishops from Angola."
Both "wars" illustrate how a clear foreign policy lense has disappeared in Washington and Europe since the fall of the Berlin wall. Does anyone still remember John Paul II's visit to Poland June 1979 that sparked the formation of the Solidarity movement in 1980? 

Witch hunts are a troubling chapter in European (and Roman Catholic) history and still are regularly reported from Sub Saharan Africa. In March 2009 Amnesty International reported that up to 1,000 people in the Gambia had been abducted by government-sponsored "witch doctors" on charges of witchcraft. September 2008 4 supposed witches were murdered in Burundi. In 2009 the UN watchdog on childrens rights expressed it's concern about Congolese witch hunts and said that:
 "violence against children accused of witchcraft is increasing, and that children are being kept as prisoners in religious buildings where they are exposed to torture and ill-treatment or even killed under the pretext of exorcism."
These are just a few quick examples. Cases that remind us immediately of Aldous Huxley's comments on understanding witchhunts in medieval France and what it tells us today:
"Death was the penalty meted out to these metaphysical Quislings of the past and, in most parts of the contemporary world, death is the penalty which awaits the political and secular devil-worshipers known here as Reds, there as Reactionaries."
 Instead of fighting herd intoxication and putting these witch hunts into a larger perspective (that also adresses these western versions), as does Aldous Huxley in his book "the Devils of Loudun", this pope feeds the frenzy.
It also reminds me, alot of the usual lazy and arrogant rhetoric of western superiority on women and gay rights that is invoked whenever the US, through State Department, justifies it's foreign wars and talks about elections in sub saharan Africa.

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