From Jennifer LeClaire, news editor at Charisma News:
It started a little later than usual, but spiritual witchcraft is rising—and rising rapidly—in South Florida this October. My community is home to a large population of witches, pagans, Wiccans and other heathens who practice one form of witchcraft or another. Your community may not have palm trees and beaches, but it’s likely got a few witches, pagans, Wiccans and heathens practicing witchcraft.
A quick scan of the latest news reveals that reports of witchcraft-related child abuse are on the rise in London; two children were tortured and dumped on the streets over witchcraft in Akwa Ibom; a pastor who runs several churches in Kiambu and Meru was found practicing witchcraft; authorities have tied Texas drug smugglers to witchcraft, cartels and a house explosion; and seven people accused of witchcraft were burned to death in Tanzania.
It’s shame that LeClaire’s “quick scan” apparently didn’t involve any actual absorption of content, since several of those articles are actually salutary warnings against the kind of scaremongering that she’s promoting.
Anyone who simply takes LeClaire at her word will come away from the article believing that witches are abusing children in London and Nigeria, when in fact what’s actually going on is that children are being abused and abandoned after being falsely accused of witchcraft. Further, many of these accusations are the result of teachings that have gained ground within African churches (most famously in Nigeria through the “ministry” of Helen Ukpabio). LeClaire would be better employed dealing with this urgent problem among her co-religionists, rather than attempting to whip up suspicion against harmless Wiccans in South Florida.
However, it is possible that LeClaire has been misled by some regrettably confusing headlines in the UK media. These include “Rise in cases of ritual child abuse linked to witchcraft beliefs reported, say police” (the PA); “Witchcraft and ritual child abuse cases rise in London” (the BBC); and “Ritual child abuse linked to witchcraft on the rise in the UK” (the Daily Mail).
Such headlines are accurate, insofar as children are indeed being subjected to abusive “deliverance” rites to supposedly “cure” them of witchcraft; but a casual and uninformed reader will assume that such statements in fact refer to rituals that are being performed by witches. Among LeClaire’s core readership, this in turn risks resurrecting the “Satanic Ritual Abuse” panic of the 1980s that caused so much needless suffering.
But even if we allow an honest mistake here, what about her example from Tanzania? According to the source she cites (an AFP report):
A local rights group, the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), has estimated as many as 500 “witches” are lynched every year, based on reports that counted some 3,000 people killed between 2005 and 2011.
Many of those killed were elderly women, the centre said.
The rights group said some are targeted because they have red eyes — seen as a feared sign of witchcraft, even if they in fact that is the result from the use of dung as cooking fuel in impoverished communities.
It’s grotesque that LeClaire would promote news of these deaths, not as a warning that witchcraft accusations are an absolute bane, but as evidence that “Your community… [has] likely got a few witches, pagans, Wiccans and heathens practicing witchcraft.”