Madonna Seeks Kabbalah Converts in Malawian Orphanages

Several months ago, Time reported on Madonna’s plans to proselytise Kabbalah among the children of Malawi, through a “Raising Malawi” project:

Her co-founder in the Raising Malawi project is Michael Berg, founder of the Kabbalah center in Los Angeles and one of the driving forces behind its growing popularity. And although it has no religious affiliation, the orphan-care center—which will be like a day camp for orphans, who often have relatives who will give them a place to sleep but cannot feed them—will offer programs based on Spirituality for Kids, Kabbalah’s children’s program.

Now the UK Daily Mail adds some further details:

…last November, a team of Malawians were flown out to the States for an intensive three-month course in Kabbalah, so that they could teach it to orphans back in Malawi.

Many children in the orphanages she is supporting are already being tutored in Kabbalah and in the coming months, 7,000 orphans across the country – which has a population of only 12million – are set to receive instruction.

Perhaps to disguise its Kaballah origins, the course is entitled Spirituality For Kids (SFK).

…a shipment of blue Kabbalah ‘bibles’ to Malawi remain undistributed, for fear of a backlash.

The Mail’s journalist, Natalie Clarke, visits an orphanage where children are being taught that bad things happening to them is merely payback for having done bad things:

Jacinta Chapomba, project officer for orphans and vulnerable children, talks me through it. Each of the students has been given a paper ‘tree of life’ planted in a small pot.

On Mrs Chapomba’s desk is one belonging to one of the orphans. On one of the leaves, the child has written: “I had a bicycle accident because I did bad things”; on another: “When travelling I hit my foot on a stone because of the bad things I did.”

Clarke suggests that the singer wishes to spread the religion in order to make the country “Mother Madonna’s very own state”. But if so, the singer is going to have to face some serious competition; Clarke mentions the Presbyterian heritage of the country, and it should be noted that Pentecostalism is huge: scholar Rijk A. van Dijk, for example, sees it as “the single most important religious factor” in the country for a number of socio-cultural and political reasons. Traditional religion also remains significant.

Kabbalah is not the only outside religion vying for the orphans; last September, the government acted against a Taiwanese Buddhist orphanage:

Malawi’s Human Rights Commission has ordered a Taiwanese-funded orphanage to remove statues of Buddha from all dormitories, saying their presence amounts to brainwashing children into joining Buddhism against their will.

The Amitofo Care Centre near Blantyre opened three years ago and was touted as the biggest orphanage in southern Africa operated by followers of Buddhism. The centre has statues of Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, in all the dormitories and an elaborate temple situated within the orphanage.

…This contravenes Section 23 of the Malawi Constitution, which stipulates on how best children and orphans ought to be treated,” said [Commissioner John] Kapito during the orphanage’s open day. “This exposure to statues can easily influence them into joining the religion unwillingly since they cannot decide their future on their own.”

One wonders how Madonna will be judged in relation to the same “Section 23”.