Overcoming Powers of Darkness in Tanzania
November 14, 2013
Gospel workers with Christ Alive Tanzania have planted hundreds of churches in rural villages where people practice animistic rituals and witchcraft.
Imagine being marked for death because you are an elderly woman with red, swollen eyes. Or if you were born with the genetic condition called albinism in which your skin and hair lack pigment. In either case, if you lived in some areas of Tanzania, your life would be in danger.
This is not the fodder of fairy tales. Witchcraft is a very real and widespread practice in rural villages in this East African nation, where superstition influences day-to-day decisions and fear has led to the needless deaths of thousands of people.
Ingrained in Tanzanian society is the belief that sacrifices offered to one’s ancestors or to other spirits will keep people from danger or misfortune. If an inexplicable event occurs, such as a sudden illness or the death of a child, villagers often assign blame to a neighbor for “be-witching” them.
During the past seven years, over 3,600 people were killed in the country on suspicion of witchcraft, according to Tanzania’s Legal and Human Rights Center (LHRC). In 2012 alone, 631 witchcraft-related murders were reported, many through acts of mob violence.
Witches are believed to have red eyes. That strikes terror in the hearts of poor, elderly women who commonly develop the condition from years of cooking over smoky stoves. The redness results from smoke irritation to the eyes when cow dung is burned as a substitute fuel for firewood.
Sadly, these women become easy scapegoats when something goes wrong in their community. The 2012 LHRC report cited an instance on February 22 of that year in the Katavi region.
“A mob battered and killed three elderly women accused of witchcraft. The crowd blamed the women for a shortage of rain. None of the perpetrators was prosecuted,” the report stated.
Albinos, some 200,000 of them in Tanzania, are another segment of the population at great risk because of false beliefs. They are not considered to be human, and it is thought that they are creatures from the devil.
The belief that body parts from albinos bring power and wealth has led to the savage practice of dismemberment. “Hunters” kill albinos and sell their body parts to witchdoctors, who use limbs and blood mixed with herbs to make potions.
A woman is delivered from demonic forces.
The 2012 LHRC report noted 71 killings and 31 mutilations of persons with albinism, and 15 robberies and two failed robbery attempts of the graves of deceased albinos.
These issues are no longer merely a subject of horror and fascination by Western media. In recent years, political and social reformers within the country are trying to change some of these long-held beliefs in African tribal culture.
While the government is trying to crack down on these practices, the only way to truly break the chains of fear and ignorance is through the saving grace of Jesus Christ. That’s what Christ Alive Tanzania, a ministry assisted by Christian Aid, is seeking to do as missionaries proclaim the power of the gospel over evil, sin, and death by the shed blood of Christ on the cross.
As Christian workers interact with villagers, they shine the light of God’s truth on the darkness of witchcraft and false teachings. Elderly women are not demon-possessed, nor do people with albinism hold special powers. Instead they are human beings created in God’s image who deserve the same rights and respect as other people.
Transforming a fear-based community into a faith-based one takes time. Sometimes when a family is convinced their home has been cursed by evil spirits, they will ask a pastor to come and pray for their deliverance. In one village, a terrified family told missionaries the witches had planted “dangerous things” in their house and no one could enter or sleep there. The missionaries agreed to sleep in the residence for a few nights to demonstrate that evil is no match for the Holy God of heaven.
“Nothing bad happened. It was an amazing thing to the people in that area,” said the ministry leader. “We called the owners to return, and now they are fearlessly living in their home again.”
Villagers are often astonished—and deeply impacted—by such examples of faith. After hearing the good news of redemption through Jesus Christ, they realize that they, too, can be freed from the bondage of fear and death.
In a recent report to Christian Aid’s Africa director, the leader of Christ Alive Tanzania shared additional accounts of people who have experienced the joy of deliverance in their lives:
Spiritual revival is spreading across the land as Tanzanians commit their hearts to Jesus Christ.
Karagwe Town: The open-air meeting August 12-18 was conducted with teaching every day. As a result, four people were saved, two people were delivered and six people experienced God’s healing power. We thank the Lord for those who received the Word of God. Below are the testimonies of the miracles God did for the people and the events that took place during the meetings.
A woman was disturbed for many days by the witches, who had given her some evil materials, such as sheep guts, a dead dog’s head, and other bad things. Our preachers went to her house, where they removed those things from under her bed and at the front door. After hearing the gospel, she received Jesus Christ as her redeemer. Jesus set her free during our prayers, and we gave God the glory.
Our church in Chato District had a four-day meeting for the opening of the new branch [church] that the Lord God by His mercy gave us. At that time 20 people were saved, six were delivered, and 10 persons experienced God’s healing power. During that meeting many evil things were burned. The people in that village were fearful about the event, but we shared with them how to have faith in the power of Jesus Christ.
Christ Alive Tanzania oversees more than 200 gospel workers, many of whom travel on foot to reach remote villages. They endure daily hardships, but that has not deterred them from planting hundreds of churches and leading thousands of people from over a dozen tribal groups to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in Africa, and these faithful laborers for the Lord live a meager existence like those to whom they minister. Half of all the ministry’s workers receive no outside support. Many have families and lack the money to send their children to school.
The leader of Christ Alive Tanzania has requested monthly support ($50) for the missionaries, as well as funds to purchase four motorcycles for their district overseers ($1,350 per motorcycle). They are also in the process of building two village churches and need about $4,500 to complete the projects.
Please pray for the missionaries and those they serve, and that Tanzanians will experience true liberation through the Savior, Who triumphs over all forms of spiritual darkness.