NAIROBI, Kenya (CISA) – Witchcraft is real, and it is destroying the church in Africa, Catholic experts warned earlier this week.
Scholars from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) expressed concern that the church continued to dismiss the dark arts as mere superstition, thereby unwittingly helping the devil advance his reign.
For that reason, Christians who suffer because of witchcraft are often dismissed by priests as being superstitious, the scholars said. Because they do not get adequate help from pastoral agents, they seek the assistance of witchdoctors or join the mushrooming evangelical denominations that offer healing, exorcism and deliverance, they said.
Many African priests fear witchcraft or are ignorant of their own power to confront the devil, the scholars said, adding that Christians visit diviners and magicians to seek practical solutions which the church and science apparently do not offer.
The experts spoke here during a three-day symposium on the pastoral challenge of witchcraft organized by the Institute of Spirituality and Religious Formation at Tangaza College.
Michael Katola, a lecturer in pastoral theology at CUEA, said from the African perspective Christianity does not seem to have answers to all questions. And while the church demonized traditional experts such as medicine-men and diviners, it has offered no equivalent alternatives, he added.
"We have many Christians who go to consult fortune-tellers when they want to start a project or when faced with problems," he said.
Africans are not any more superstitious than other peoples, he said. The problem is that the church has not come to terms with the African worldview which accepts the existence of evil powers, he said. "It is important for the church to understand the fears of the people and not to attribute them to superstition."
"Witchcraft is a reality; it is not superstition," Katola said, adding that "many communities in Kenya know those powers exist in their midst."
Dissatisfied Catholics are swelling the ranks of the new evangelical movements, he said.. "Many of our Christians seek deliverance, healing and exorcism from other denominations because priests do not realize they have redemptive powers," Katola said.
He said the responsibility of fighting witchcraft lies with the clergy, who should start by accepting the reality of the phenomenon. "If we don't believe in the existence of witchcraft as Satanism then we can not deal with it."
Sister Bibiana Munini said Christians still consult diviners and magicians for practical solutions because the church has not paid much attention to integral healing.
Moreover, she added, the much-valued ministry of the traditional healer has no equivalent in the church today.
Malawian academic, Father Clement Majawa, said the problem of witchcraft is real and needs a serious effort as it had contributed to "superficiality of faith and morals" in Africa.
He listed 14 categories of witchcraft practiced across the continent, stressing that the church's denial of the existence of the evil arts "only escalates the problem."
He attributed the persistence of witchcraft to ignorance within the church of the African worldview and lack of deep knowledge of the faith among Christians.
Father Majawa called for an urgent and coordinated pastoral response to the problem in every diocese.
"Since Christ in the gospels encountered the devil, it is proper for Christians to accept the reality of witchcraft."
Republished by Catholic Online with permission of the Catholic Information Service for Africa (CISA), based in Nairobi, Kenya (www.cisanewsafrica.org).