Human Sacrifice Redux

How the church battles deadly prophets in its midst.

Responding to persistent reports of human sacrifice last August, police raided several shrines of African traditional religionists in Okija, Anambra state, in largely Christian southern Nigeria. The reports had understated the problem. To their horror, authorities recovered more than 80 skulls and 50 fresh corpses. In these shrines, the police recovered three registers. They list 1,258 visitors who had allegedly come to offer human sacrifices in the past five years.

Christians say the raid was an answer to their prayers.

Last Easter, Christians in Okija began praying and fasting for deliverance from the gods of the traditionalists. Ifeanyi Atueyi, a Christian pharmacist, said idol worship had desecrated the land. "We believe that the problems holding us down are these idols, and so we centered our prayers on these idols. I never knew God can intervene so quickly and in this way," Atueyi said. "It is marvelous and very dramatic."

While most adherents of African traditional polytheism practice their beliefs peacefully, a minority engages in ritual killings. Precise figures on the phenomenon are impossible to obtain. However, the bbc reports that police in South Africa estimate that hundreds of children have died so their body parts could be used in potions.

In 2002, London police discovered the mutilated torso of a young boy floating in the Thames. The boy was apparently the victim of a West African ritual for good luck. European authorities say such sacrifices have probably reached double figures across the continent in immigrant communities. Police believe the boy may have been sacrificed to one of the 400 ancestor gods of the Yoruba, Nigeria's second-largest people group.

For Christians in the Idepe and Ogute villages in southwestern ...

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