Guest / Limited Access /
Warning on Witches
Gwenn Dubourthoumieu / AFP / Getty

A recent rise in the number of people accused of witchcraft—particularly African children—isn't just an issue for missionaries to address, say scholars. It's also a problem they may be contributing to.

An entire track of the annual missiology conference at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School this February was devoted to witchcraft, a topic usually neglected by the field.

"We had thought this was a phenomenon that would die out," said Robert Priest, professor of missions and intercultural studies at Trinity. "Instead we are finding that the conditions of modernity—urbanization and social differentiation under capitalism—are contributing to accusations getting stronger and stronger."

Presenters hope the conference will prompt missionaries to focus more on the subject.

"Most missionaries go out knowing the answer—namely, Christ—without knowing the questions the local people are asking that the local religion answers," said Carol McKinney, an anthropologist who teaches at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics. "Questions like, 'Why did something happen to John and not to Joe when John and Joe were at the same place?'?"

Witchcraft often provides answers, whether in traditional African cultures, India, or Papua New Guinea. Someone is accused of bringing evil on another, often because the "witch" is jealous of that person's good fortune.

Missionaries have commonly responded in two ways, said Priest. The power of witches to harm others is dismissed as superstition, but this seldom persuades local Christians to abandon the concept; or the reality of witchcraft is endorsed by missionaries not wanting to ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedI Went From Fighting in a Cage to Living in a Hut
I Went From Fighting in a Cage to Living in a Hut
How an MMA fighter found Jesus—and discovered his calling in the Congo.
Trending‘Worst Year Yet’: The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest to Be a Christian
‘Worst Year Yet’: The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest to Be a Christian
Islamic extremism now has a rival, according to 2017 World Watch List.
Editor's PickUltrasounds Help Bridge Evangelical and Catholic Theology
Ultrasounds Help Bridge Evangelical and Catholic Theology
Pregnancy centers find common ground in the pro-life cause.
Christianity Today
Warning on Witches
hide thisMarch March

In the Magazine

March 2011

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.