Thursday, May 22, 2008

Leaders condemn killing of ‘witches’

By Philip Mbaji and Elizabeth Awuor

Religious leaders from Coast Province on Sunday condemned the killing of suspected witches and called on residents to desist from the act.

As the religious leaders called on the Mijikenda to discard outdated cultural practices, tension in the area remained high.

Panic gripped people, especially the elderly, who feared being fingered by witchdoctors — who are calling themselves ‘ghost busters’ — as being witches.

The Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK), the Catholic Church and the Council of Imam and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) have raised concerns over the increasing cases of lynching of suspected witches in the province.

Mombasa Diocese’s Bishop Julius Kalu condemned the practice, saying it was against the biblical teaching and even the Mijikenda traditions to ‘kill someone over witchcraft suspicion’.

"It is against the principle of peaceful co-existence to lynch someone for suspecting them of witchcraft," Kalu said.

Kalu of ACK made the remarks at Mombasa’s Memorial Cathedral Church as CIPK’s national secretary general, Sheikh Mohammed Dor, urged residents to refer suspects to religious leaders and council of elders.

Said Dor: "This is an unfortunate trend that has its remedy on the residents referring suspected witches to religious leaders or council of elders for arbitration instead of killing them."

They spoke barely two days after police officers, a DC, DOs and chiefs narrowly escaped lynching by irate villagers in Malindi while on a mission to rescue suspected witches from a ghost buster.

Kalu, expressed fear that tension would build up in the area should the so-called ghost busters be allowed to continue operating in the area.

Bishop Boniface Lele of the Mombasa Catholic Diocese condemned the attacks and advised the villagers to face their problems and accept suffering as part of life.

Speaking to The Standard, Lele asked villagers to report suspects to the police and later have them questioned in court instead of lynching them.

"Nobody should lynch another because the whole thing is suspicion and the best way to handle the issue is to report such matters to the police," he said.

He advised villagers to look for solutions to their problems instead of blaming others on grounds of witchcraft.

"People should accept that suffering is part of life and not necessarily caused by witches," he added.

A ghost buster popularly known as Beba Beba was holding 25 elderly men and women in Malindi suspected to be witches when the DC attempted to rescue them.


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