Update on anti-superstition

June 22, 2009

On May 28, 2009, the Center for Inquiry/Transnational and the Society for Women and AIDS in Africa (SWAA) jointly sponsored a conference on witchcraft in Accra, Ghana. The gathering featured educators from various backgrounds discussing the importance of defending rationality and combating superstition throughout Africa.

Leo Igwe, the chairman of the Center for Inquiry/Nigeria,   spoke on BBC Radio . Recently, he met in Nigeria with a delegation from Norway about the validity of the claims of Nigerian asylum seekers. According to Igwe, some Nigerians claim that they are fleeing Nigeria to escape death threats from members of secret cults. Others make asylum claims based on ritual killing and human sacrifice.

Witches have been persecuted, and in some cases killed, in Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia, and other countries. Not long ago, a Senegalese crew tossed Ghanaian passengers into the sea after accusing them of using witchcraft to stall the boat.

Many Nigerian women travel to Europe to work as prositutes. Igwe says that some of them obtain "special charms" from juju priests and other purveyors of the paranormal in the hope that they will attract many customers.

Mark Harris is a documentary filmmaker and a member of the Center for Inquiry/Harlem Discussion Group. He is making a documentary about immigration. (The documentary will not focus mainly on the paranormal, and it is not a part of the Center for Inquiry/Transnational’s campaign.)

The film will show that some Africans take part in superstitious rituals to obtain documents to work in Spain. Some believe that sea gods will determine whether a group of ships will sail safely across the Mediterranean Sea. The documentary will also have a story about a man that was pressured by his family to return to Africa. They threatened to call upon paranormal forces to abort the fetus of his sister if he refused to do so.

In Kenya, a group of men has accused alleged witches of making them impotent or marrying women not to their liking. Others have accused them of driving them insane or breaking up their marriages. George Ongere, the chairman of the Center for Inquiry/Kenya, will lead a group of humanists to investigate claims against alleged witches in Kenya. He has attracted great interest from a woman from the Associated Press.

In Tanzania and Burundi, the killing of albinos is an especially disturbing phenomenon. There are about 17,000 albinos in Tanzania, and many people believe their body parts have magical powers that can bring riches and abundance. In recent months, people have been on trials in Burundi and Tanzania for killing albinos and selling their body parts.

These are just some the challenges that Africans face. However, the Center for Inquiry is not afraid to jump into the fray. On the contrary, Igwe, Ongere, and other leaders of organized humanism in Africa are leading the way. They will continue to hold seminars, lead protest marches, meet with politiicans, etc.

An anti-superstition campaign is an idea whose time has come, and the Center for Inquiry/Transnational is proud and more than happy to lead the way.