Church in Central Africa Fights Witchcraft
Parishes Try to Instill Habit of Forgiveness
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KOENIGSTEIN, Germany, SEPT. 25, 2007 (Zenit.org).- On top of the many problems faced in Africa, the Church in the Central African Republic is battling against the idea that suffering and natural disasters are caused by witches.
Bishop Peter Marzinkowski of Alindao spoke with the group Aid to the Church in Need about the lingering belief in witchcraft. About one-quarter of the country is Catholic, one-quarter Protestant.
The prelate explained that many of the people have "no natural explanation for death, sickness or natural disasters." The people always look for a scapegoat who must, in their view, have caused the misfortune through witchcraft, he said.
Accusations of witchery can be hurled at anyone, Bishop Marzinkowski explained, and the accused can sometimes be killed as punishment.
Even Christians are sometimes guilty of thinking in this way, the German-born bishop added, given that the faith is not yet deeply rooted and "at the least difficulty they relapse back into their traditional way of thinking."
Bishop Marzinkowski said that the Church continues to preach the Gospel, and especially tries to instill the Christian concept of forgiveness.
"We must help the people to acquire a new image of God and man," he said.
The 68-year-old prelate explained that many parishes exclude people who have accused someone of witchcraft until they come to retract their accusations.
The bishop noted that belief in witchcraft is heightened by a prevailing fear in society.
The social support system is in ruins, he said, and state-run institutions such as schools and hospitals are no longer running.
He said the money that should be flowing in to development aid is mostly used to pay back the debt the country has incurred with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. "The repayments are strangling the country," Bishop Marzinkowski lamented.
The prelate detailed the Church's struggle to promote education, noting that the first battle is convincing family leaders of the need for literacy.
"We cannot proclaim the Gospel while being indifferent to everything else," Bishop Marzinkowski said. "A society in which there is no education cannot develop."
Anyone who calls himself a Christian must feel a sense of responsibility for his neighbor, Bishop Marzinkowski emphasized.
The episcopal motto that he chose at his ordination is "solidarity creates joy and life." Putting this motto into practice, he said, is "the duty of every Christian."