Rising incomes and prosperity can actually increase child sacrifice rituals.
January 7, 2010 2:02 PM   Subscribe

A former witch-doctor who now campaigns to end child sacrifice confessed for the first time to having murdered about 70 people, including his own son. Human sacrifice is on the increase in Uganda, and according to the head of the country's Anti-Human Sacrifice Taskforce the crime is directly linked to rising levels of development and prosperity, and an increasing belief that witchcraft can help people get rich quickly. Uganda's Minister of Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba Buturo believes that "to punish retrospectively would cause a problem... if we can persuade Ugandans to change, that is much better than going back into the past."

The witch-doctor allowed ceremonial items including conch shells and animal skins to be burned in his sacred grove after agreeing to give up sacrifice.

He told us that clients had come to him in search of wealth. "They capture other people's children. They bring the heart and the blood directly here to take to the spirits… They bring them in small tins and they place these objects under the tree from which the voices of the spirits are coming," he said.

Asked how often clients brought blood and body parts, the witch-doctor said they came "on average three times a week - with all that the spirits demand from them."
posted by VikingSword (91 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
And now I start my campaign to put this man in jail.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:03 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


James Nsaba Buturo believes that "to punish retrospectively would cause a problem . . . ."

As opposed to punishing preemptively?
posted by The World Famous at 2:06 PM on January 7, 2010


are the higher-ups for these cats that fat?

what other reason could they have for not wanting to prosecute except that it'll strangle people who are too important to fall. if it was a large network of poor operators in charge of this network...

whew Uganda, this is a sad day.
posted by artof.mulata at 2:11 PM on January 7, 2010


Uganda's Minister of Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba Buturo believes that "to punish retrospectively would cause a problem...

I don't want to privilege Western ideas of justice for other countries, but the whole "statute of limitations on crimes" thing tends to work pretty well in many cases.

Much better than that old "the sins of the fathers shall be visited on the sons" thing we used to do.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:12 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


You'll notice that Uganda is not currently freezing. Britain - learn from this!
posted by Artw at 2:12 PM on January 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Funny how the spirits almost never demand the genitals of wealthy older men.
posted by aramaic at 2:14 PM on January 7, 2010 [41 favorites]


"the sins of the fathers shall be visited on the sons"

actually, they're really pushing this one...
posted by artof.mulata at 2:17 PM on January 7, 2010


"if we can persuade Ugandans to change, that is much better than going back into the past"

I'm thinking that punishing people who do this would be a pretty effective method of persuasion.
posted by anti social order at 2:26 PM on January 7, 2010


How much evidence is there that this is happening to the degree stated? Are we positive that this isn't another situation like Kenya where "witches" are being blamed as scapegoats by churches for societal problems? And that the self-proclaimed "former witch doctor" isn't simply making up his claims for his own publicity and for that of the churches he's working with, much in the same way that self-proclaimed "former Satanists" do in the fringes of the U.S. Evangelical movements?
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:30 PM on January 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


What's that, Mr Buturo? You want Ugandans to respect human life? Hmm. Maybe the government could encourage respect for human life a little more by, you know, not trying to murder all the gays. And no, watering it down to life in prison under strong pressure from the U.S. does not count as a good deed.
posted by jock@law at 2:32 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't want to privilege Western ideas of justice for other countries, but the whole "statute of limitations on crimes" thing tends to work pretty well in many cases.

Yeah, but even in the US there is no statutory limit on murder.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:34 PM on January 7, 2010


Wow, Idi Amin really left a thumbprint there.
posted by Max Power at 2:35 PM on January 7, 2010


I understand that this kind of thing actually happens there, but I'm pretty sure we had a lot of people claming to have been involved in murdering children in black magic rituals back in the '80s here in America, and I'm also pretty sure it was largely bullshit.

I'd be very careful of accepting at face value sensational stories of the former crimes of reformed "bad guys."

Maybe it's all true. But it just seems like I've heard that tune before....
posted by edheil at 2:36 PM on January 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Apparently, the minister talks of retroactive punishment because child sacrifice wasn't considered a crime until recently and it was up to individual judges to consider it a murder or not.

This is not really a new thing, reports of child sacrifice are at least 4 or 5 years old but this is a BBC investigation which I suppose gives the whole subject more credibility.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 2:41 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Funny how the spirits almost never demand the genitals of wealthy older men.

To use for what? Hacky-sack? Have you ever tried to pick up jelly?
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:52 PM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


"To punnish retrospectively"? Are you kidding. Most countries in the civilized world regard murder as a crime punnishable without a statute of limitations. Isn't sacrificing a human life in Uganda a crime, isn't it murder?

There may be a backlash from the people who have killed, but somehow I don't think those who are at risk in the furure will have any problem with jailing those who would kill them... and the killers would be in jail anyway so I'm not sure what backlash they are afraid of... my2cents
posted by RENNER8592 at 2:59 PM on January 7, 2010


BBC's Newsnight is showing their report on this right now. You can watch it on the programme's website here.
posted by Paul Slade at 3:00 PM on January 7, 2010


How much evidence is there that this is happening to the degree stated?

...I'm pretty sure we had a lot of people claming to have been involved in murdering children in black magic rituals back in the '80s here in America, and I'm also pretty sure it was largely bullshit.

Yeah, I had the same thought. I grew up in a not-so-fundamentalist church here in the US and even we hosted "former satanists" who would testify to committing an atrocious number of horrendous acts.
posted by muddgirl at 3:02 PM on January 7, 2010


Wise words, edheil, but I think comparing this with the American myth of satanic murder is like apples and oranges.
posted by Roman Graves at 3:02 PM on January 7, 2010


but I think comparing this with the American myth of satanic murder is like apples and oranges.

Why? Because we're civilized and they're not?

Unless the BBC crew witnessed an actual child sacrifice, I am skeptical.
posted by muddgirl at 3:04 PM on January 7, 2010


Sam Harris mentioned this phenomenon in his very recent, and very entertaining, exchange with the non-sequitur queen, Karen Armstrong.
posted by Dasein at 3:08 PM on January 7, 2010


BBC's Newsnight is showing their report on this right now. You can watch it on the programme's website here.

Only if you are in the UK. :(
posted by Bort at 3:14 PM on January 7, 2010


Yeah, but even in the US there is no statutory limit on murder.

That was my point, actually.

Saying "Oh, we don't want to punish people retrospectively" is crap. Saying "Here are the things that have a statute of limitations and here are the things that don't" works reasonably well most of the time.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:28 PM on January 7, 2010


Why? Because we're civilized and they're not?

Um...what? You're making a very rude assumption and counter remark about something I assume you don't get the meaning of, which is not a very good way to have a conversation. Next time you don't understand something, ask for clarification instead. It's a much more civilized way to act.

Skepticism is certainly warranted, which I conveyed in my comment. I said apples and oranges because there are already cases going to trial over the attempted abduction of children for sacrificial purposes, and the country apparently has an Anti-Human Sacrifice Taskforce. That doesn't make it a wide-spread phenomenon, but it does merit more serious attention than our satanic fascination.
posted by Roman Graves at 3:36 PM on January 7, 2010


what. the. FUCK. africa?
posted by gnutron at 3:37 PM on January 7, 2010


Funny how the spirits almost never demand the genitals of wealthy older men.

I'm a wealthy older man*. Trust me, NO ONE wants the genitals of wealthy older men. I just wish more people did.

* not actually wealthy, but comfortably middle-class
posted by me & my monkey at 3:37 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I understand that this kind of thing actually happens there, but I'm pretty sure we had a lot of people claming to have been involved in murdering children in black magic rituals back in the '80s here in America, and I'm also pretty sure it was largely bullshit.

actually, most of these claims were more like "friend of a friend" claims when it came to perpetration or they were claims that they'd seen what they were told were babies being sacrificed, not what they could actually identify as real babies. the only "confessions" to these things involved coercive interrogations following reports of abuse by children who'd been led to make those reports by credulous adults. and the failure to find bodies or actual missing children cases related to claims.

I never heard of a case where an adult said that he or she had personally sacrificed a baby in a satanic ritual-- nor of a case where a woman said she'd had a recent pregnancy and delivered the baby up for sacrifice without getting a birth certificate or revealing the pregnancy. All of the claims of this "brood mare" stuff were similarly urban-legend-y or involved childhood "recovered" memories under hypnosis.

the sad thing about all that was a lot of real child abuse-- no satan and no murders involved-- got obscured by people trying to get kids to "open up more" after spontaneously reporting real abuse and thereby producing false accusations.

I do wonder about the true prevalence of child sacrifice in Uganda as a result of that stuff-- but the fact of the boy with his penis cut off does suggest that it's not just exaggeration.
posted by Maias at 3:38 PM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Human sacrifice is part of human DNA.

We believe that if we kill one, two or enough people, we will magically achieve a goal.

We like to think that war is about pressuring the enemy to do our will. But it's really human sacrifice: We believe that if enough people die over a cause, God will respond by deciding the issue in favor of the most worthy party.

The American Civil War makes no sense except as human sacrifice to decide the issue of slavery. The Allied terror bombings of WWII make no sense except as rituals of human sacrifice. Following 9-11, the call went up all over America for human sacrifice to avenge the attack. What else would explain the sending of Americans to die overseas? The point was to sacrifice our people as well as theirs in a sacrificial holocaust that would decide who was right, us or them.

Add to this the fact that some people enjoy killing, and you get human sacrifice in Uganda. No citizen of a warmaking nation need feel superior.
posted by Faze at 3:39 PM on January 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


the country's Anti-Human Sacrifice Taskforce
WHat what what now?
posted by minimii at 3:56 PM on January 7, 2010


I never heard of a case where an adult said that he or she had personally sacrificed a baby in a satanic ritual

I think that Paul Ingram "confessed" to sacrificing dozens of babies to Satan. However, he was not prosecuted for it--he was prosecuted for raping his daughters, to which he also confessed.

He may not have raped the daughters, either, as it turns out. But the point is that authorities don't necessarily prosecute everyone who confesses to a crime.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:58 PM on January 7, 2010


Um...what? You're making a very rude assumption and counter remark about something I assume you don't get the meaning of, which is not a very good way to have a conversation. Next time you don't understand something, ask for clarification instead. It's a much more civilized way to act.

My apologies. Can you please explain exactly why it is "comparing apples to oranges"? Because to me, nearly every single claim in this article is highly suspect.
One witch-doctor led us to his secret shrine and said he had clients who regularly captured children and brought their blood and body parts to be consumed by spirits.
Unless the witch-doctor has been mis-quoted (and setting aside the fact that he could be lying or exaggerating), he saw no children, only "blood and body parts". Blood and body parts that could have come from any animal?
In the course of our investigation we witnessed the ritual torching of the shrine of a particularly active witch-doctor in northern Uganda by anti-sacrifice campaigners.
Stunning evidence! A mob torched a shrine! How is this NOT a direct parallel to the Salem Witch Trials, where "an angry mob" is enough evidence to bring someone to trial?
We saw a beaker of blood and what appeared to be a large, raw liver in the shrine before it was destroyed, although it was not possible to determine whether they were human remains...
No comment necessary.
Mr Binoga said police had opened 26 murder cases in 2009, in which the victim appeared to have been ritually sacrificed, compared with just three cases in 2007.

"We also have about 120 children and adults reported missing whose fate we have not traced. We cannot rule out that they may be victims of human sacrifice."
Ah yes, we cannot rule out that they were abducted by aliens, either. Furthermore, in a country of 32 million people, if there truly IS a ring of witch doctors (as the article claims), and each witch doctor performs up to 70 sacrifices in his whole life, "26-200" victims a year seems like a very small number.

Then we have testimony of one man who has apparently converted to Christianity, as he speaks of going to "all the churches" to exonerate himself and implicate is fellow witch doctors. We also have the only semi-verifiable piece in the whole story:
When he returned to Uganda he says he was told by those who had initiated him to kill his own son, aged 10.

"I deceived my wife and made sure that everyone else had gone away and I was with my child alone. Once he was placed down on the ground, I used a big knife and brought it down like a guillotine."
Well? Did the reporters follow up on this at all? Did they talk to the wife? Or to any other children in the family? Are death records kept?
One such witness is a three-year-old boy called Mukisa, who was left for dead after his penis was hacked off by an assailant.

He survived thanks to quick work by surgeons, and later told police he had been mutilated by a neighbour who is known to keep a shrine.
Yes, and the death of my cattle was caused by my neighbor who is known to consort with black cats and has the devil's mark. Furthermore, if the neighbor was the perpetrator, there's a big leap from this incident to "ritual human sacrifice". I see nothing about draining this child's blood or cutting out his heart or liver. Yes, it's horrible that this boy was attacked and mutilated, but I don't understand the significance in terms of the broader article about supposed human sacrifice.

I think that stories like this one, if they are untrue, tend to be used to obscure greater crimes or injustices that may be occurring. They can also be used by child abusers to defer blame to a more undesirable element in their community.
posted by muddgirl at 3:59 PM on January 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


The American Civil War makes no sense except as human sacrifice to decide the issue of slavery.

I disagree. Wars make sense not as human sacrifice, but as ways to force one side to accept a particular solution. The Emancipation Proclamation decided the issue of slavery; the Civil War was fought to force the South into accepting that.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:00 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]



Human sacrifice is part of human DNA.

No. Human sacrifice is the result of ignorance. War is not the same thing when it is fought with a distinct goal in mind. Killing a child because you think it will bring you luck is not the same as burning Atlanta and fighting the battle of Gettysburg in order to defeat an enemy and force them to bring about social change. The first is insane. The second is terrible and takes a great toll in human terms, but it's not crazy. The Civil War produced the desired result. I don't think witchcraft has ever produced any results.
posted by dortmunder at 4:01 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, someone committed a crime against the three-year-old boy whose penis was severed. Whether it was the neighbor or someone else, and what the motivation of the perpetrator was, would ideally be revealed in the course of an investigation.

I agree that "witch hunt" is not a good investigation strategy. But one way this is unlike the US Satanic Ritual Abuse stuff in that there is objective evidence that a crime has been committed against at least one specific person.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:03 PM on January 7, 2010


Killing a child because you think it will bring you luck is not the same as burning Atlanta and fighting the battle of Gettysburg in order to defeat an enemy and force them to bring about social change.

So you believe in killing to achieve your goal: Social change. These Ugandans also believe in killing to achieve their social goal: wealth. You all believe in human sacrifice.
posted by Faze at 4:06 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


So I guess its safe to assume that just saying "oo ee oo ah ah" wasn't cutting it?
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:06 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Human sacrifice is a religious act meant to appease nonexistent spirits or deities. So, no, I don't believe in human sacrifice.
posted by dortmunder at 4:08 PM on January 7, 2010


Whether these specific crimes truly happened or not, it's undoubtedly true that witch doctors hold an incredible amount of power in Ugandan traditional religion. You see it again and again out in the little villages - loads of little wattle-and-daub mud huts, and just one brick house in the whole village. Who owns that? That would be the witch doctor.

Hold enough psychological power over people - maybe do some of these horrendous crimes, maybe just make everyone think you did, who knows what else - and you too can end up extremely rich at the expense of people who are staggeringly poor by any measure.
posted by ZsigE at 4:13 PM on January 7, 2010


Note to self:

Never buy Baby Powder in Uganda. Just to be on the safe side.
posted by chambers at 4:14 PM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Faze, you are missing the point.

The point of war is not to kill people to delight invisible deities. The point of war is to force the opponent to accept a state of affairs that you have tried to establish by political means.

Equating war and human sacrifice is like equating bats and birds.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:14 PM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


...and you too can end up extremely rich at the expense of people who are staggeringly poor by any measure.

(Unlike the Catholic church? Unlike, until relatively recently, the Ugandan government itself?)

Yes. The social status of Ugandan witch doctors would be an interesting and substantive subject to cover. Why muck it up with unsubstantiated allegations of ritual sacrifice?

Am I being overly skeptical here? If there was any verifiable evidence that a witch doctor mutilated Mukisa for the purposes of a religious ritual, I would be first in line to denounce the practice. But so far, all I see is a Wag the Dog-like effort to turn attention away from legitimate human rights abuses in Uganda.
posted by muddgirl at 4:21 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here is the audio of the BBC program Crossing Continents: Uganda Battling the WitchDoctors (embedded audio on the BBC site, not UK restricted, 29 minutes)
posted by Bort at 4:27 PM on January 7, 2010


This sacrificing children for wealth... it works?

Just asking out of, um..., curiosity.

*checks employer's event calendar for next "family friday" date*
posted by Hairy Lobster at 4:34 PM on January 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


If there was any verifiable evidence that a witch doctor mutilated Mukisa for the purposes of a religious ritual, I would be first in line to denounce the practice. But so far, all I see is a Wag the Dog-like effort to turn attention away from legitimate human rights abuses in Uganda.

I agree whole-heartedly that the timing of this is odd, considering the "death penalty for gay sex" legislation crisis.

Also agree that justice would be better served for Mukisa by an objective-as-possible investigation into who actually mutilated him, rather than a witch hunt.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:35 PM on January 7, 2010


The point of war is to force the opponent to accept a state of affairs that you have tried to establish by political means.

Well, yeah. Nobody goes out and says, "Let's create a mountain of dead bodies and see what the gods decide." Human sacrifice is part of the deep structure of the human mind. The superstructure says, "We must achieve our political goal." The deep structure says, "We're frustrated. Let the killing begin." Very little of the killing that goes on in war is strategic. Mostly, it's done to produce dead bodies. (This became a cult in the Vietnam War, with America's obsession with body counts as a marker for success.) What is the strategic value of sending American soldiers over to Iraq to get blown up by IEDs? What strategic end does a dead American lying by a crater in Iraq serve? What kind of nation would accept its young people being killed by the thousands by booby traps to no apparent end? A nation that believes in human sacrifice. But nationhood and the state are all built on human sacrifice. So is religion.
posted by Faze at 4:40 PM on January 7, 2010


We believe that if we kill one, two or enough people, we will magically achieve a goal.

Like splitting your soul to save part of it in a horcrux
posted by jock@law at 4:53 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


What is the strategic value of sending American soldiers over to Iraq to get blown up by IEDs

There is no strategic value in doing that. Which is why nobody is doing that.
posted by jock@law at 4:54 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Peas in a pod.
posted by minimii at 4:56 PM on January 7, 2010


Not a recently emerging story - this Jan 2009 story from one of Uganda's main news organisations says:
Of the 18 cases of suspected ritual killings reported to Police in 2008, 15 cases have been conclusively investigated and suspects arrested and taken to court. On Wednesday, Justice Eridad Mwangushya sentenced Ssenoga Setubwa to 16 years in jail after she was convicted of stealing a two-year old child with intention to sacrifice her after being given Shs100,000.
and further says there had been 'at least 25' such murders since 2006. Of course, there are greater risks to children - abduction by the LRA in the north and many more must die from simple abuse and deprivation, but the issue is real enough to the best of my limited knowledge (know some people working for child rights agencies in Uganda).
posted by Abiezer at 5:00 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Upon consideration, my "Wag the Dog" comparison is perhaps too harsh, but I'm a bit suspicious of any activity coming out of Uganda or the US that could have ties to The Fellowship or The Family.
posted by muddgirl at 5:01 PM on January 7, 2010


Not a recently emerging story

Ablezer, I can't speak for muddgirl, but I was referring to the timing of this particular news story, not to the timing of the Ugandan government's anti-ritual-killing initiative.

It seems like there's plenty to talk about with the Ugandan government's pro-killing-of-homosexual-people initiative; why this story on the BBC right now? And--in the Wag the Dog sense--it's interesting to see how much more willing to be interviewed on this topic the Ugandan officials are than on the other.

I get a little "PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE WITCH HUNTS OF GAYS! PAY ATTENTION TO THE ACTUAL WITCHES BEING HUNTED BY ACTUAL WITCH HUNTS" vibe from this. And I question whether this is the best way to get justice for Ugandan children who are the victims of crime.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:08 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


jock@law -- They think they're sending American soldiers overseas to achieve some strategic end. But the effective end, which they knew, and still know in advance, will be dead soldiers. Most of the US dead in Iraq have died as the result of IEDs. Wars don't produce political solutions. They produce dead bodies. And in the deep grammar of human thought, that's what they're supposed to do. Human sacrifice -- in some form or another -- is a basic and universal attribute of culture. It may be the single most powerful driving force of human culture. Think about it: everything else we do is grounded in biology. But piling up the dead bodies of our own species, as we do in war, the death penalty, and violent crime, is an exclusively human activity. And we must like doing it. Or we'd stop.
posted by Faze at 5:09 PM on January 7, 2010


Or yeah, what Sidhedevil said. I appreciate the fact that I keep making pseudo-baseless accusations in a thread where I'm skeptical of seemingly-baseless accusations.
posted by muddgirl at 5:13 PM on January 7, 2010


is an exclusively human activity.

What? Other species engage in war. Ants, at least. Murder is harder to decide on, since we can't know the motivations of animals, but I think there's reason to conclude other primates commit murder (based on behavioral essays I've read).
posted by wildcrdj at 5:21 PM on January 7, 2010


It seems like there's plenty to talk about with the Ugandan government's pro-killing-of-homosexual-people initiative; why this story on the BBC right now?

Did the BBC not cover the other story? I know NPR has covered it several times. Nothing wrong with covering both stories, to me.
posted by wildcrdj at 5:22 PM on January 7, 2010


I get a little "PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE WITCH HUNTS OF GAYS! PAY ATTENTION TO THE ACTUAL WITCHES BEING HUNTED BY ACTUAL WITCH HUNTS" vibe from this.
I think that might be just that it's been highlighted by posting here.
The BBC has numerous faults but it must offer broader coverage of Africa than any other Western news organisation, especially when you think of the World Service, and it's certainly not ignored the attacks on gay people, e.g
They did have to apologise for one spectacularly idiotic fuck-up on the death penalty bill only recently - but even there there's some merit to their defence: "the BBC can provide a platform for debate that otherwise would not exist across the continent and beyond" - I think that's broadly true and that in some ways the corporation was victim of its own policy of including a wide range of African voices, as that then will include those of the holders of some appalling views.
posted by Abiezer at 5:23 PM on January 7, 2010


Human sacrifice is part of human DNA. We believe that if we kill one, two or enough people, we will magically achieve a goal.

Half the country chows down on flesh and blood every Sunday morning due to magical thinking.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:54 PM on January 7, 2010


Half the country chows down on flesh and blood every Sunday morning due to magical thinking.

No, only the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox. Everyone else thinks it's symbolic. Wars were fought over it and everything.

In your local Lutheran/Methodist/Presbyterian/UCC/whatever church, it's bread and wine. Or grape juice, even.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:16 PM on January 7, 2010


I don't buy this without further evidence, but the reason for that has little to do with possible ties to The Family or anti-gay legislation and a lot to do with the bogus witch persecutions taking place in neighboring Kenya (not to mention Gambia, Angola, Nigeria, etc.). If Kenya is full of whacked out fundamentalist Christian churches killing children for "witchcraft," I'm going to need to see a lot more evidence that what's going on in Uganda is the fault of actual witch doctors.

Right now, it's coming across like, "All these neighboring countries are torturing and killing children (children!) for supposed crimes of witchcraft," but our witches are real. That's not to say that there aren't self-proclaimed witch doctors committing atrocities in Africa (like the murder of albinos in Tanzania), but I'm going to need more evidence than the testimony of one professed "reformed" child sacrifice practitioner. Jury's still out.
posted by infinitywaltz at 6:19 PM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Human sacrifice is on the increase". Just matter-of-factly like that, even though it's the most absurd thing imaginable. "Human sacrifice is on the increase". In 2010, no less. We're animals and we'll always be animals. There really is no hope for us.
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:25 PM on January 7, 2010


Half the country chows down on flesh and blood every Sunday morning due to magical thinking.

No, only the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox. Everyone else thinks it's symbolic. Wars were fought over it and everything.


And Anglicans. But even among transsubstantiationists, it's not human flesh. As I mentioned in the other thread, traditional Christianity teaches about the dual nature of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the man, the embodiment of God's salvation on Earth. Christ is God's presence, is that salvation. The formulation is "Body of Christ," not "Body of Jesus," and that's for a reason. You're partaking of salvation, not committing cannibalism.
posted by jock@law at 6:26 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm going to need to see a lot more evidence that what's going on in Uganda is the fault of actual witch doctors.
Guardian covered the story too, last September:
"Cases of child sacrifice have always existed, mainly in the Ugandan central region, but there is a new strain of traditional healers in Uganda and their geographical spread is mainly attributed to increased unemployment and poverty," said Elena Lomeli. She is a volunteer with the British charity VSO who is supporting ANPPCAN Uganda, a child abuse NGO, in its work with victims in the capital Kampala. "My experience working with victims suggests that the abusers are greedy people who want to get rich quick. In rural areas, people can sacrifice their own child. In urban areas, educated and rich people will look for somebody else's."
From the ANPPCAN site:
Traditional healers should actually be central to the elimination of child sacrifice since it has been closely linked to their activities. The starting point is for everyone to acknowledge that just as we have Christians, Moslems, Hindus, and Bahaiis, we also have a section of our population that believes in the traditional African religion, with the traditional healers as their high priests...

Many of the traditional healers I have interacted with condemn the practice of child sacrifice. Some have even come out publicly to disassociate themselves from those committing the crime. They say that it is clearly tainting their image and leading to some of them being lynched by members of the public; or facing banishment from their areas of operation...

Indeed we must realize that as their good and bad Moslems, and Christians, it is the same with these traditional healers; you have genuine traditional healers (such as herbalists) but also negative elements who practice child sacrifice.

The fight against this horrendous crime of human sacrifice may therefore not yield much if we simply come out to condemn the practice without directly involving those that are central to it. Sending a thief to catch a thief sometimes works. Let us not waste time preaching to the converted while those that really need to be reached remain in their evil ways and our children continue to suffer.
So that's a local child rights organisation on the ground that thinks it's an issue; not sure why people find it hard to believe such crimes occur.
posted by Abiezer at 6:43 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]




Bullshit.

The Eastern Orthodox Church, like the Catholic Church, teaches that the bread and wine truly become the body and blood of Christ. (Although the four-syllable word "metabole"/"metavole" may be loosely said to be "Greek Orthodox for 'transubstantiation'", it actually means "change" or "alteration". Greek for "transubstantiation"--as in "an alteration specifically of the fundamental substance or essence" in the Roman Catholic sense--would be "metousiosis".) However, Orthodox theologians have tended to refrain from philosophical reflections such as those of the Medieval Scholastics. Rather, they prefer to refer to the Eucharist as a "mystery", with the full understanding beyond human comprehension. Most Orthodox theologians would prefer to say too little about the details and remain firmly within Holy Tradition, than say too much and possibly deviate from the truth.

Some Roman Catholic theologians interpreted transubstantiation as a change of meaning rather than a change of substance, however in 1965 Pope Paul VI mandated the retention of the original dogma of the twelth century.

posted by minimii at 6:49 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Human sacrifice is on the increase". In 2010, no less. We're animals and we'll always be animals. There really is no hope for us.

Buy the ticket, take the ride. With humans you get the full spectrum of good and bad. It's not a bug, it's a feature.
posted by chambers at 7:00 PM on January 7, 2010


Let's not get into a derail over which sects of Christianity believe in transsubstantiation, which believe in consubstantiation, and which believe in a symbolic Eucharist. As I said, wars have been fought over this shit.

The point is that if anyone's actual body is being eaten in a Christian church, it's that of someone who died almost 2000 years ago, so the statute of limitations has long expired. (Unless there's some new Procurator of Judaea looking to make his bones by reopening cold case files...coming to a network near you! It's PILATE: CSI!)
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:01 PM on January 7, 2010


Maias: makes a good point. Uganda is in the throws of hyper-christian nonsense. Maybe their "anti-witch-doctor" stuff is as motivated by religious fervor as their anti-gay stuff. Certainly there have been plenty of anti-witch stuff being driven by the same fundamentalist nutsos.

We all remember this stuff where Thomas Muthee an anti-witch guy from Africa who blessed Sarah Palin.

So I wonder how much of this is driven by "chrisian" hysteria the same way we saw with the satanic ritual stuff in the 80s, or the Salem witch trials. On the other hand, perhaps this kind of thing has happened in Uganda. Certainly there are problems with Albino's being targeted in africa.

But there have also been hysterias, like this penis theft hysteria where people were convinced their dicks had been stolen, despite the fact that they were still firmly attached.
posted by delmoi at 7:18 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


[waves towel with increased sense of urgency]
posted by humannaire at 7:21 PM on January 7, 2010


So that's a local child rights organisation on the ground that thinks it's an issue; not sure why people find it hard to believe such crimes occur.

Because there are loads and loads of instances of children being persecuted, tortured and killed as witches by Christian churches in the same exact areas.

The fact that other news and nonprofit organizations are involved -- organizations that don't have ulterior religious motives, as far as I can tell -- does lend a lot of credence to the story, so thanks for providing that information, Abiezer.
posted by infinitywaltz at 7:22 PM on January 7, 2010


Because there are loads and loads of instances of children being persecuted, tortured and killed as witches by Christian churches in the same exact areas.

Very fair point.
posted by Abiezer at 7:27 PM on January 7, 2010


No, only the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox.

I know. I suppose I should have hamburgered that.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:31 PM on January 7, 2010


Though the symbolism and magic remain the same.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:31 PM on January 7, 2010


But there have also been hysterias, like this penis theft hysteria where people were convinced their dicks had been stolen, despite the fact that they were still firmly attached.

That didn't happen in Uganda. Uganda is a different country from Benin, Sudan, and Congo (Kinshasa). And a different continent from China, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia.

Lumping together all the stuff that happens in Congo or Kenya with all the stuff that happens in Uganda is about as silly as lumping together all the stuff that happens in Germany or Spain with all the stuff that happens in France. They're different countries.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:38 PM on January 7, 2010


"Human sacrifice is on the increase". Just matter-of-factly like that, even though it's the most absurd thing imaginable. "Human sacrifice is on the increase". In 2010, no less. We're animals and we'll always be animals. There really is no hope for us.
-- DecemberBoy

There's no hope? Is human sacrifice increasing in your neighborhood? It isn't in mine. Well, unless you follow Faze's reasoning. Accidents are the biggest cause of death among children, and I sometimes send my kids out to play, which increases the chance of them dying by accident. So I must therefore, by some really strange leap of logic, be sending them to their death on purpose because of some built-in human sacrifice DNA.
posted by eye of newt at 7:41 PM on January 7, 2010


I sometimes send my kids out to play, which increases the chance of them dying by accident. So I must therefore, by some really strange leap of logic, be sending them to their death on purpose because of some built-in human sacrifice DNA.

Well, of course. Your log-in is "eye of newt," and you're going to try and tell us you're not a witch?
posted by infinitywaltz at 7:58 PM on January 7, 2010


Lumping together all the stuff that happens in Congo or Kenya with all the stuff that happens in Uganda is about as silly as lumping together all the stuff that happens in Germany or Spain with all the stuff that happens in France. They're different countries.

Yeah, but Germany and France are right next to each other, much as Uganda and Kenya and Tanzania are, and deal with many of the same socio-political issues, much as Uganda and Kenya and Tanzania do. Lumping together similar issues in France and Germany isn't so crazy (lumping together similar issues in, say, France and Japan or Germany and Brazil might be crazier). It's not so much apples vs. oranges as tangerines vs. nectarines: some obvious differences, sure, but also a lot of obvious similarities.
posted by infinitywaltz at 8:08 PM on January 7, 2010


But piling up the dead bodies of our own species, as we do in war, the death penalty, and violent crime, is an exclusively human activity.

Incorrect.
posted by aramaic at 8:35 PM on January 7, 2010


It's worth noting that the countries in Africa do not remotely resemble the actual cultural boundaries. Lumping together stuff that happens in adjoining countries in Africa is very likely not unfair. Doing so for countries on either side of the continent, otoh, probably is unfair.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:05 PM on January 7, 2010


Lumping together all the stuff that happens in Congo or Kenya with all the stuff that happens in Uganda is about as silly as lumping together all the stuff that happens in Germany or Spain with all the stuff that happens in France. They're different countries.

Are they different countries, or different states in the EU? People are free to move between those countries and there are no border checkpoints, just like moving between the U.S. states. Obviously there are many differences, but there are many similarities as well.

Anyway I was just giving examples of recent hysterias, and I included examples from the U.S. in the 1980s. Furthermore this anti-witch stuff is tied in with the same U.S. Christian/African nexus that's behind the anti-gay hysteria in Uganda. The Palin/Muthee connection is just one example of that.
posted by delmoi at 9:11 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


The way to stop this is to present the idea of conservation of evil, aka karma: whatever evil you do will be equally visited on you. Kill a child for riches, and you may well get the riches, but you will suffer as much as that child did in return.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 9:17 PM on January 7, 2010


The American Civil War makes no sense except as human sacrifice to decide the issue of slavery
If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
-- Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address
posted by kirkaracha at 9:19 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


not sure why people find it hard to believe such crimes occur.

A bad case of what we refer to as "noble savage delusions" when we're talking about Victorians, updated for contemporary liberals.
posted by rodgerd at 10:16 PM on January 7, 2010


BBC has more horrorshow information.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:18 PM on January 7, 2010


What is the strategic value of sending American soldiers over to Iraq to get blown up by IEDs?

Observe Halliburton's stock price (you may have to reset the time parameters to cover the Cheney presidency). Perhaps it was juju that made it rise so high?
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:24 AM on January 8, 2010


A bad case of what we refer to as "noble savage delusions"

On the contrary, I am arguing that Ugandan's are NOT savages, and are motivated by the same things as Americans or Europeans are. It's actually a simple application of Occam's razor. There are several possibilities, of which the two major ones are:

1) There is a concerted and conspiratorial effort to lure or steal children and sacrifice them, specifically by draining their blood and stealing "an organ" (listed organs: heart, liver). Furthermore, practitioners are adept enough to hide nearly all evidence of these lurid crimes, such that no corpse has been produced with the specific mutilations discussed by witch-doctors.

2) Witch doctors DON'T lure or steal children to sacrifice them. Blood and organs found in shrines are from sheep, pigs, or goats, which are much easier to steal or buy for ceremonies than live children are. The witch hunts are, like nearly every witch hunt in history, a "witch hunt" spurred on by social and cultural factors, most specifically by a religious organization that has, through history, demonstrated a willingness to demonized whatever the previous local practices were and flat-out lie about them to increase donations from current members of the church.

It is quite likely that SOME Ugandans who have killed or mutilated children, just as there are Americans who kill and mutilate children. These cases should be investigated and prosecuted. But in a country with an child mortality rate of 140 in 1000, witchcraft seems like more of an easy scapegoat for larger societal problems.
posted by muddgirl at 5:55 AM on January 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Saving Africa’s witch children" is a documentary about the subject. Nominated for an Emmy award.
(Channel 4 link)
posted by kudzu at 8:54 AM on January 8, 2010


Just to be clear, kudzu's link is about the OTHER subject:
In some of the poorest parts of Nigeria, where evangelical religious fervour is combined with a belief in sorcery and black magic, many thousands of children are being blamed for catastrophes, death and famine: and branded witches. Denounced as Satan made flesh by powerful pastors and prophetesses, these children are abandoned, tortured, starved and murdered: all in the name of Jesus Christ.
posted by muddgirl at 9:01 AM on January 8, 2010


I have not been to nor have I recently studied Uganda. However, having spent 18 months doing research in West Africa (Ghana), I feel like muddgirl has put together a very well-considered critique of the article. I can attest to the demonization of traditional religions by Christian churches. The portrayal of traditional religions in Ghana and Nigeria (based on my observations of the many Nigerian movies on the subject) are such that I think the bar must be raised for any report on witchcraft and especially witchcraft killings. People are ready to attest to human sacrifice, to the dangerous workings and curses of witch-doctors, to the witches that disguise themselves as Christians. But the only "sacrifical" type murders that I ever saw actually reported were in tabloid-style broadsheets. The newspapers reported plenty of murders, but most were readily attributable to circumstances: a man kills his wife in a domestic dispute; police shoot protestors; a man is killed by a vigilante mob after accused of shoplifting.

People might suspect a rich neighbour of witchcraft simply because he is rich, and they might readily accuse them of it to a foreigner. This is not evidence that human sacrifice never happens, but it is something that should explicitly be taken into account when reporters make their reports. I don't know what's happening in Uganda, although I suspect that this problem is probably not nearly as widespread as other problems affecting the lives of children. However, knowing what I know about how people talk about witchcraft in Ghana, I find this report about as illuminating as if they'd gone into a Canadian junior high and reported on who says who is a stuck-up bitch. As muddgirl points out, they haven't even at minimum found out if the guy who claims to have killed his son has ever had a son who died.

My best friend in Ghana was often accused by neighbours of having bewitched me into being her friend, and they would tell me to be careful that she had put something in my food. It was utter nonsense, but there were people who really believed it. If one of them told a reporter that my extended illness while I was there was due to me being poisoned through my food, I would hope the reporter would try to understand how witchcraft accusations fit into a larger social picture and do a minimum of follow-up before reporting that travellers being poisoned by greedy witches was on the rise.

Something terrible may be happening in Uganda, but this article sure as hell isn't telling us what.
posted by carmen at 9:36 AM on January 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


On the contrary, I am arguing that Ugandan's are NOT savages, and are motivated by the same things as Americans or Europeans are. It's actually a simple application of Occam's razor.
That application of Occam's Razor seems to miss an even more obvious conclusion - that local child rights activists are in fact dealing with a genuine phenomenon (as they are the many far more prevalent abuses of children), one rooted in similar pre-modern (not a pejorative usage - thinking in terms of Religion and Decline of Magic notions of paradigm shifts in cultures) mind-sets that inform the witch hysteria seen elsewhere in the region but now warped by some of the destabilising forces of modernity, such as a newly wealthy bourgeois willing to pay money to procure children - thus providing venal material encouragement to those who might engage it what was formerly a even rarer practice (precisely because of its extremity) in rural communities where parents would have been expected to willingly offer their own child.
One of Thomas's points in the book I mentioned above is that the worst European with hysteria tended to occur at precisely that juncture where the uncertainties of social change accompanying the incipient modern destabilised older patterns; I would not be surprised to find a similar process taking place in Uganda and that alongside new and externally-introduced forces fuelling child abuse, one of the unhappy ways that social disruption finds expression is in a rise in child murders under the auspices of traditional beliefs.
posted by Abiezer at 9:42 AM on January 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


'worst European witch hysteria' - I'm probably a candidate for the 'worst European with hysteria'
posted by Abiezer at 9:43 AM on January 8, 2010


One of Thomas's points in the book I mentioned above is that the worst European with hysteria tended to occur at precisely that juncture where the uncertainties of social change accompanying the incipient modern destabilised older patterns; I would not be surprised to find a similar process taking place in Uganda and that alongside new and externally-introduced forces fuelling child abuse, one of the unhappy ways that social disruption finds expression is in a rise in child murders under the auspices of traditional beliefs.

This! I thought this was the most interesting part of the article, and I framed the FPP in that light. Rising prosperity is seen as the key to social development, but negotiating the early stages can be very complicated. Frankly, I was hoping that the discussion would focus more on that aspect, but I didn't want to be accused of moderating my own thread.
posted by VikingSword at 11:42 AM on January 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


VikingSword, that's another thing that's also interesting about the hysterical "anti-witch" churches that have been lynching children; they also promise earthly gains and take credit for the wealth of their members.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:55 AM on January 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


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