Nigerian bishops ask for synod action against belief in witchcraft


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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Two bishops from Nigeria asked the Synod of Bishops for Africa to make a clear commitment to educating Catholics about the fact that, while the devil exists, witchcraft does not.

"Suspected witches are abandoned, isolated, discriminated (against) and ostracized from the community," Bishop Augustine Akubeze of Uromi told the synod Oct. 12.

"Sometimes they are taken to the forest and slaughtered or disgraced publicly and murdered," he said.

Obviously, Bishop Akubeze said, witches do not exist and so the accusations are always false. Even worse, he said, people have been known to accuse someone of being a witch just to settle personal squabbles.

"Witches are said to possess superhuman powers that they use to perpetrate evil," even against members of their own families, which makes them particularly hated and feared, he said.

Belief in witches and their curses predated the arrival of Christianity in sub-Saharan Africa and continues to this day despite evangelization and much higher levels of general education, the bishop said.