Child Sacrifice in Uganda on the Rise

Child sacrifice is on the rise in Uganda.  By some accounts, there are hundreds of unsolved “disappearances” each year, many of which are attributed to human sacrifice.  There is a belief that burying a human head under the wall of a new building will bring success to that business, and that powerful medicines can be made from various body parts of human victims.  Children’s bodies are particularly effective for this type of witchcraft, as their blood is still “pure.”  Many parents are now circumcising or piercing the ears of their children, as these make the child no longer suitable for use in witchcraft.

In this ostensibly very Christian country, there is still plenty of room for witchcraft.  It is not an untenable contradiction to leave church on Sunday afternoon, and swing by the house of a local witchdoctor to place a curse on a neighbor or have one removed that was placed on you.  There is room for both sets of beliefs in the mind of a practical person who is looking for both salvation in a future life and a bit more comfort in this one.  Witchdoctors are consulted by rich and poor, urban and rural.

Much of this business is driven by greed, either on the part of the client or the witchdoctor.  If you have engaged the services of an unscrupulous “healer” to help save the life of a family member, they may gradually increase the fees for their treatments until they sense that you are getting low on funds, and then drop the big one on you – if you really care about the person who is ill, you will pay for the kidnapping and murder of a child.  On the part of the clients, it is often wealthy businessmen who see sacrifice as a way to engage the spirits in helping them become even richer.  This article refers to a businessman who paid $9,000 for the tongue of a 9-year-old girl to get his candle-making machine working.

The U.S. government spent $500,000 last year training Ugandan police officers to pursue cases in human trafficking, which includes human sacrifice.  According to Jody Clarke in Uganda’s Child Sacrifice Scourge, 125 people have been arrested as of the end of January this year for suspected human sacrifice, but there haven’t been any convictions.  Both the alleged killers of the 9-year-old girl and the businessman who allegedly hired them are walking free.

What is it about us humans that enables us to do these things to each other?  This is a horrible practice, but it is just one manifestation of a deeper problem.  From slavery to war, and even to the current financial crisis where many people’s lives have been wrecked by the greed of a few, we have an amazing ability to justify the pursuit of our own desires without thinking about the impact we are having on others.  At the same time, we have an amazing capacity for compassion and for setting aside our own needs in order to help others.  How do we reconcile this contradiction?

Mark D. Jordahl – Kampala

Additional Resources:

Child Sacrifice (A summary of recent news articles on child sacrifice from Refugee Documentation Center in Ireland)

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/weekend/2010/0501/1224269451810.html

http://untoldstories.pulitzercenter.org/2010/04/uganda-child-sacrifice-not-a-cultural-issue.html#more

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