Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sacrificing Children to Molech, Witchdoctors, and the Spirits

When I was in graduate school at Wheaton College, I took a class on Ancient Near Eastern History with my friend and professor Dr. John H. Walton. Dr. Walton often had us do research projects on the cultural backgrounds behind various Old Testament passages. Since I was moving toward ministry to orphans in Uganda, I tried to dig into as many passages dealing with orphans or children in the light of the world of the Ancient Near East. During that time I had come across the warning in quite a few passages about not offering up your children to Molech. The texts seemed plain to me in that they were warning against the age-old practice of sacrificing children, in this context to a god named Molech who especially demanded this ritual as a part of his worship. However, instead, I found quite a few authors arguing against this interpretation, making a case instead that it had more to do with “dedicating” children than actually sacrificing them. The same argument was given for the texts that speak about passing children through fire. Ultimately, then (as it seemed to me), these cultures were not so barbaric as to sacrifice children in any sense that would have to do with killing them. I mean, how could such a barbaric practice be found among “civilized” cultures? And yet it still does today.

I was caught off guard and quite alarmed a few years ago when I found out what all of the buzz was around New Hope. I had wondered why we were told that kids could no longer walk home alone, but had to be in groups and with older kids present. Evidently a new shrine was being dedicated somewhere in our vicinity (a shrine is a place where worship of spirits/ancestors takes place), and the witchdoctor had demanded that in order for it to be dedicated it had to have five human children skulls present (my wife remembers it as ten). This all hit a bit closer to home when a friend of ours who lives in the village had to run off one of his ex-employees who was hanging around his farm, trying to entice a few of the local children to walk home with him. He knew that this man was a part of the cult who was dedicating the shrine. Since the farm is only about a mile from us, it put all of us with small children on red-alert. Eventually the police got involved and to my understanding the shrine was never dedicated, but it did open up to me the stark reality of child-sacrifice that is still alive and well here in Uganda.

A few years ago I sat and talked with a couple of children’s workers from the Rakai area of Uganda. I had heard about Rakai from the Dangers, who to this day have some interesting stories about the times they have stayed in that place. What I heard from these children’s workers, though, really stunned me. Rakai is on the border of a lake (I’m forgetting the name). Now, here in Uganda, bodies of water are feared and reverenced as places where spirits dwell, sacred places if you will. Certain rituals are practiced by multitudes of people who want to both appease the spirits and while binding themselves to fear are attempting to get free from it. Well, these workers sat and told my wife and I an interesting fact: there are no (or few) abandoned babies in Rakai. Interesting, I thought. But it was the “why” that hit me square in the eyes: because they are all thrown into the lake. There is a serious spiritual/demonic bondage in that place unveiled in the reality of child sacrifice that is occurring there up to this day.

Over the last couple of months the topic of child-sacrifice has been popping up more and more in the news. I picked up a newspaper in Kampala (pictured above) with the headline, “Ritual Murder: Man Sacrifices Nephew for Shs50,000” (which is around $30). It’s been gaining press because it seems that of late it is happening on a wider scale within country. A good friend of ours had a serious scare when her nephew wandered off and was not seen again for a week. We were all praying against abduction, and it turned out that it was not. But the scare is all over the place.
The closest to home that this thing has hit has to do with the mother of our friend Fiona. Jaja (grandma), as we call her, has been keeping a young boy (11) and girl (13) to help her with her daily chores for survival (i.e. fetching water, digging in her small garden, etc.). Well, the week before Christmas, a neighbor man just showed up and took the children off with him to Kampala. No word about where or for how long, they were just simply gone one day. This put Jaja into serious concern. When the children had not returned after a week, the police were brought into the situation and her neighbor (who is another close friend of mine) Kibeti found himself going back and forth to the police for Jaja. Then suddenly the man showed up back here in the village, but without the kids. That was enough for the police who quickly told the man to go back to the city and to return with the children. He did, and then he was promptly arrested.

Though it does not appear that anything serious happened to the children (I only say that because of external appearances, not because of medical exams or their own testimony as of yet), what the man did had caused an uproar in the village around Jaja. With the man in prison and facing serious charges, his father decided to step in. The man’s father lives a bit of a distance from Jaja, but he journeyed to her house with one purpose in mind- scare Jaja into dropping charges against his son. God be praised that Kibeti “happened” to come up at just the time that this old man was yelling and threatening Jaja with serious words here in this culture. You see, the man is a witchdoctor and was threatening with statements like, “I can kill you, just like that. I just speak and things happen. If you don’t drop this right now, I will be against you. In fact, you must pay me the 200,000USh I have had to pay because of my son.” He then began chasing Jaja around her house! Kibeti told me that it took everything within him to stop from tearing the man’s head off!

But this is where I stand as a proud father, so proud of Kibeti- he never backed down in the face of serious threat of witchcraft. FEAR is such a controller here, and no one wields it better than a witchdoctor. In fact, as Kibeti moved around the village to find witnesses who would testify against the witchdoctor, no one would dare speak a word unless the man was already in prison. Kibeti and his wife stood alone, though, sure of the truth of Jesus authority in heaven and ON EARTH, refusing to allow the fear to stop their defense of the widow Jaja and the fatherless children who had been taken advantage of. They testified together and the witchdoctor now stands to be arrested (if they can find him!).

Yes, child-sacrifice is alive and well here in Uganda, but so are the continued injustices against helpless widows and fatherless children. In a way, they are all related. Pray for the church here to stand in the face of the evil powers that continue to destroy lives. Pray for freedom from fear and a boldness that can only come from truly seeing Jesus and basking in the truth of the Gospel that alone can free from fear- both fear of death and fear of Satan. Pray that child-sacrifice would end and that it would not be replaced with that sacrifice of another-kind called abortion, which is presently not allowed in this country.

[picture is taken from the Daily Monitor, edition Tuesday, December 30, 2008, No. 366]


Anonymous said...

Beef, I had no idea that Child Sacrificing was still going on like this. Shocking! Heartbreaking! Mer

Joshua Smith said...

I was in Uganda with a church group and one of the pastors used to be a witch doctor who had sacrificed two of his sons before he became saved. It is sad and most people turn to this crap to make their lives better or keep it from getting worse. That's how twisted this stuff is.