On 25th January 1990 during a heavy thunderstorm, several lightning strikes burned a
number of thatched rondavels (round huts) in the area. Traditionally when this happens
it is not seen as a natural phenomenon, but as the work of a supposed witch. The
headman gathered his council and the community to discuss the matter, with the aim of
finding out who was responsible. They agreed that a traditional healer be consulted to
“sniff out” (identify) the person who was responsible for these burnings. A contribution of
R5 per person was agreed on to pay the person.
Benedict arrived late at the meeting after this decision had been taken. His explanation
that lightning was a natural phenomenon was rejected. He argued strongly against
blaming witches for causing lightning strikes. When the decision was upheld, Benedict
refused to pay the contribution, arguing that his Catholic faith prevented him from taking
part in anything connected with witchcraft.
Word of God
“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of man also will
acknowledge before the angels of God; but he who denies me before men will be denied
before the angels of God”. (Luke 12, 8-9)
Deepening of Faith
Witchcraft, which is based on the traditional religions, is currently experiencing a certain
revival. Old fears are re-surfacing and creating paralyzing bonds of subjection. Anxiety
over health, well-being, children, the climate, and protection from evil spirits at times lead
people to have recourse to practices of traditional African religions that are incompatible
with Christian teaching. The problem of “dual affiliation” to Christianity and to the
traditional African religions remains a challenge. Through profound catechesis and
inculturation, the Church in Africa needs to help people to discover the fullness of Gospel
values. It is important to determine the profound meaning of these practices of witchcraft
by identifying the many theological, social and pastoral implications of this scourge. (AM 93)
Am I afraid to stand up for my Christian belief when it is ridiculed or
attacked in the name of ‘traditional culture’?
Do I believe in witchcraft? Have I sometimes practised it?
Incline not my heart to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds
in company with men who work iniquity;
and let me not eat of their dainties!
Let a good man strike or rebuke me in kindness,
but let the oil of the wicked never anoint my head;
For my prayer is continually against their wicked deeds. (Psalm 141, 4-5b)