Witch hunts are not a thing of the past

By September 3, 2015

India (MNN) — It’s easy to assume that the extreme superstition that fueled historical tragedies like the Salem witch trials is a thing of the past, but sadly, Mission India says that’s not the case.

It turns out that fear-driven witch hunts are a very real and disturbingly-common part of society in many of India’s states.

For example, in early August, five women were killed in the state of Jharkland when villagers claimed they were witches. The entire village contributed to the angry mob that blamed the women for many of the community’s issues, including illness and poor crop yields.

The problem is especially serious in Jharkland, where 37% of all witchcraft-related murders occur.

And that’s only one example. It happens all across the country. Last August in the state of Assam, a 63-year-old woman was beheaded on the basis that she had cursed the village with an illness. In July, a couple and four of their children were killed in their sleep when their own relatives accused them of causing the sickness that was spreading among infants in the village.

Photo Courtesy Mission India

(Photo courtesy Mission India)

One study revealed that at least 2,500 women were killed for being witches over a time period of only 15 years. However, that doesn’t even include those who weren’t actually killed for their supposed witchcraft but were beaten, abused, shunned, or forced to leave their communities

So what’s the solution? Government officials have tried to help. In the state of Assam, a new law makes witch-hunting a criminal offense, but the root of the problem might be simpler than it seems.

Most superstition relating to witchcraft goes back to one thing; fear. Often, that fear stems from a lack of understanding, which isn’t surprising. A community that has never been taught about basic health care or learned to read will try to find a cause of disease or bad weather, and tradition dictates that magic or spirits are involved.

That’s where Mission India steps in. Their Literacy Classes are a first step to helping communities overcome their superstition. It allows men and woman to learn skills and gain knowledge that shows them how unfounded some traditional superstitions are.

Above all, the one thing that will help communities struggling with superstition is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Pray for Mission India’s teams as they spread the love of Christ across India.

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