By Muleta Kapatiso
Witchcraft and Christian spiritual practices are not easy to differentiate from one another as they both possess aspects which cannot be naturally proved but can only be believed to exist by those who feel they have had a non-natural experience or supernatural experience.
In Zambia, witchcraft has been defined under section 2 of the Witchcraft Act Cap 90 of the laws of Zambia to include, the throwing of bones, the use of charms, and any other means, process or devices adopted in the practice of witchcraft. This definition carries little weight with anyone who has neither the belief nor firsthand experience with witchcraft. Unlike murder, theft or rape, this is not an offence one can prove without using the same means or closely related means as witchcraft to show as evidence of any such thing regarded as witchcraft. For example in the village set-up, individuals who claim to have ability to detect witchcraft are made use of in witchcraft related cases.
From the Christian perspective (which is based on the teachings of Jesus which are professed to be true), witchcraft is believed to be of the devil who is regarded as the real enemy of Christianity. It is believed that he is the one who invokes misery, suffering, diseases and all manner of wickedness upon people. Also, he makes people do evil things and all those who follow him will go to hell together with him. Some Christians blame all the economic crises and poverty as a direct work of the devil, thus, Christian nations like Zambia have held prayers to commit the economy in Gods hand. It is believed that God can destroy the powers of the devil and set his people free from the burdens of suffering and economic problems. Several examples are shown of how God came to the Israelites in the Bible.
Interestingly, Christianity is also associated with a number of spiritual practices. Unlike witchcraft, however, the spiritual practices by Christians are claimed to be aided by the spirit of God. Such spiritual activities are mainly performed by individuals who claim are filled by the spirit to do all manner of supernatural things. The power granted to these men and women allows them to do things which cannot be accessed or explained in natural ways. The power of Moses, a prophet of Israel who was able to divide the sea aided by God’s spirit, is worth noting.
The Christian Nation
In present day Zambia, claims are made publicly by Christians on social media and television about their ability, with the aid of the spirit of God, to make “money rain”, heal diseases, see the future or past, kill witches and wizards, and punish agents of the devil. In this country where Christianity is actually the proclaimed national religion, it is feared by the public that witchcraft is being practised in Christianity.
Put differently, that Christian brother, sister, pastor, prophet, friend or anyone who claims ability to do things by supernatural power(sending fire to the alleged witch responsible for your suffering or your business failure, scattering by fire or death, destroying any place of gathering, your enemies or any relative) are actually claiming knowledge of witchcraft and are liable to imprisonment upon conviction. It is immaterial whether or not the event occurred as the law still regards it as knowledge of witchcraft.
The point here is that majority of Christian spiritual practices may safely be regarded witchcraft. There is no legal justification for the supernatural abilities to see the future, strike alleged witches with thunder, fire or know who caused what by the spirit. Though Zambia is a Christian nation by the conventional declaration, such controversial issues have been mutely addressed in indirect ways which do not cause alarm to the Christian majority.
The question would then be is anyone doing it under the umbrella name of Christianity is less likely to be practicing witchcraft, or maybe the umbrella name gives some partial immunity from prosecution?
Christians of today solicit a prophet or known Man of God to advise on why certain things may be happening in their lives, with expectation that by some supernatural non-natural means, the prophet or pastor will reveal what is really going on as seen in the spirit. Such conduct is still an offence under the Witchcraft Act. There is no exception of religious affiliation whether or not bones were thrown. Additionally, Christians filled with the spirit may issue spiritual threats even against alleged witches of death, or claim to know the cause of some misfortune by the spirit. Astonishingly, this will be done with the use of some object, cloth, food substance, article or device; yet no one will report such matters to the police when actually all these practices are offences under the witchcraft law in Zambia.
Perhaps the non-reporting holds no water considering that the law cannot successfully be used to regulate, punish or prescribe spiritual or religious activities except to the extent that they cannot be physically proved without mention or consultation of spirits or spiritual experts which is itself a breach of law. Section 5 of the Witchcraft Act provides that any person whether professing Christian, Jew, Moslem or Satanist, who represents himself as able by supernatural means to cause fear, annoyance or injury to another in mind , person or property or pretends to exercise any kind of supernatural power is liable to a fine or imprisonment.
The newly established Ministry of Religious Affairs whether in Zambia or elsewhere is irrelevant unless it is meant to help followers of different beliefs to build shrines, churches, temples ,mosques or any gathering place of spiritual activities, otherwise it is a misplaced idea.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs in Zambia is an action which the public have viewed as a threat to charismatic Pentecostalism and charismatic Christian denominations, and as a way of fixing controversies in Christianity.
The relationship between witchcraft and Christian spiritual practice is a controversial one and not even the law can provide redress by deciding who to punish and who to let free. The idea of witchcraft is most likely examined from misconceptions of what witchcraft is. Few are ready to examine it and prove its claims, whether as a science or religion. The law has no platform in matters of spiritual practice; doing so is abuse of other people’s religious rights. Moreover, matters that involve the spirit, the soul, the invisible and such truths or ideologies can never be dealt with by the law.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs itself is of no value. Religion simply cannot be regulated by the law or government without being a tool for oppressing the minority who disagree with certain beliefs and practices. Under section 7(d) of the Witchcraft Act, whoever solicits any person to advise him on any matter or for any purpose whatsoever by means of witchcraft or non-natural means is also committing a crime.
The law should concentrate on harmonizing social practices and balancing the life of society by protecting all people. If the Witchcraft laws were to be were to be strictly applied, the majority of Christians may find themselves in the witchcraft practice category. Thus,the Witchcraft laws ought to be repealed and criminal law should not criminalise spiritual practices.
You may contact the author directly for details about references.
The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his/her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of the University and its management (which includes editors(s) of this blog). Information on this site may contain errors or inaccuracies; we do not make warranty as to the correctness or reliability of the site’s content. If you own rights to any of the images, and do not wish them to appear on this site, please contact us via e-mail and they will be promptly removed.