On the issue of proliferation of witch camps, the least talk about it the better. The cacophony about the proliferation of witch camps in every nook and cranny of our society in recent times is a major source of concern and worry to many well- meaning people not only in Ghana but also across the globe.
But, one may ask, “Who is a witch? Who determines who is a witch? What criteria are used to determine who a witch is?” These and many others are the questions begging for answers.
Over the years, scholars across the world have been trying their best possible to finding a universally accepted definition for the term “witch” but to no avail. However, on a rather chauvinistic note, the Encarta Dictionary opined that “a witch is somebody, especially a woman, who is supposed to have magical or wonder- working powers that are most often used malevolently”.
Also, in its offensive form, a witch is used to deliberately insult a woman regarded as ugly, vicious, or malicious. As if that is not enough, a witch is described in many cultures as a seductive woman. That is to say, a woman who is regarded as alluring or seductive. What a chauvinistic world! In the religious sense of the word, the concept “witch” may be described as a follower of nature religion.
That is, a follower of wicca, a pre- Christian religion. With regard to its ordinary meaning, a witch may be defined as any person or group of persons whose behaviors seem to be out of the ordinary and have no logical explanation. Statistically, exceptional children and adults, the aged, persons with various forms of disabilities, homeless people, and persons without any strong blood relations are more likely to be branded as witches.
But should that be the case? What do we say about eminent personalities like Albert Einstein, the renowned mathematical genius and Charles Darwin, the great contributor in the field of genetics?
Ironically, efforts made by individuals and groups in order to gather enough scientific evidence to support the claim that witches really exist remain a mirage or better still, a mystery. Some theologians however, opined that witchery is a real phenomenon since it has historical and Biblical antecedents.
The explanation to this weird, incomprehensible and rigid moralistic view is that, at the start of mankind’s history, a rebellious spirit creature called “Satan” which in Hebrew means “resistor” or adversary turned against the Almighty God and was banished together with some notorious angels who were loyal to the course of Satanism.
It is speculated that due to the ever merciful and forgiving nature of God, the powers to do good and evil were not taken away from these banished angels as they continue to multiply and expand their territories on earth. Thus, witches are believed to be the descendants of banished angels whose mission on earth is to destroy mankind.
In many cultures, individuals and groups seek spiritual protection against the harmful effect of witches but to no avail as witches continue to be implicated for many calamities on the planet earth including even common natural disasters such as flood, drought, earthquake, disease outbreak like the almighty Ebola, HIV/AIDS etc.
What is the faith of perceived witches in this 21st century? Interestingly, the issue of witchery is not only an African problem but global in nature. Perceived witches over the years have constantly been subjected to inhumane treatment in many cultures across the globe. During one of his lectures, Dr. Kofi Krafona, a clinical Psychologist and senior lecturer at the Department of Educational Foundations, University of Cape Coast said:
“the Middle Ages happened to be a dark period in the affairs of humanity, at least, in Europe. Witch- hunting was then established in Europe by Pope Innocent VIII and Protestant Priest. Witches were beheaded, mutilated or strangled before being burned”.
Torture, he added, was used to gain confession from people believed to be witches. What a hell!
The story is not anything to write home about in the 21st century Ghana as perceived witches are subjected to barbaric inhumane treatment in traditional shrines, prayer camps, witch camps etc. in a more clandestine manner, many perceived witches are now being smuggled to some prayer camps due to the stigma attached to witch camps of late.
To make matters worse, Ghana today can shamefully boast of a multitude of witch camps with the Gambaga witches camp in the Northern Region being one of the biggest in sub-Saharan Africa. As if that is not enough, all these are happening in an era when Ghana as a nation prides itself as the Gateway to Africa, the star of Africa and the beckon of democracy in Africa and even across the globe.
The current state of affair is not only an indication but also a vindication that policy and practice are two different things in our part of the world.
In conclusion, perceived witches in our society today continue to suffer extermination, and several others banished from their communities, a situation which clearly violates the fundamental human rights of this devalued social group.
This kind of barbarism and impunity can no longer be tolerated in modern civilization and must be thrown to the dogs. The time to act is now, for a stitch in time saves nine! Ghana deserves better!!!
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