Monday, 11 June 2012

Obstacles of Life: Are they really the devil's work or curses from God?

Today my Ugandan friend Dorothy invited me to go to church with her; it was a Pentecost church. I call myself catholic, so I normally attend catholic masses, but I would attend just about any church as long as they believe in Jesus. So I went to the Pentecost church with Dorothy. Anyway, I am not writing this blog to talk about religion, I am writing it to talk about what happened in church today.

Today’s sermon was about praying and asking God for protection; protection from evil spirits that is. The evil spirits that the pastor was referring to are witchcraft, wicca, sorcery and other uses of black magic. The sermon was very interesting to me because I don’t believe in witchcraft and all the other stuff, and the fact that it was being discussed in church, by a pastor, was just intriguing. The pastor started the sermon by saying that witchcraft is becoming more and more common in the community and it is very sad that some members of the church and their relatives are partaking in this practice. He went on saying that spirits of sorcery have attacked several community and church members causing sudden malfunction in marriages, unemployment, and death. At one point, he shouted, “My heart tells me that some of you in here are under witchcraft attack right now. I am here to awaken you because some of you are ignorant of what is happening. My brothers and sisters, we need to pray and tell the devil and his followers enough is enough”. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Not only because I was doubtful of what he was saying, but also because I never thought of witchcraft as sermonic.

The pastor was standing at the altar facing us, the audience. Behind him was an overhead with  a list of “the signs of witchcraft” displaying on it. The signs were as followed:
1.     Loss of peace
2.     Unexplainable sickness and/or death
3.     Unexplainable financial loss and delays
4.     Tensions in relationships/marriages
5.     Failure/closures of churches and other religious institutions

He reassured everyone in church that if these things were happening, then they were certainly under the attack of witchcraft. As he went on taking about the signs in detail, in my head I was thinking about a million things that could cause the things listed above that were not related to supernatural forces.

Why did the sermon intrigue me?

As you already know I came here to do a research project and my proposal for the project is regarding the knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes about sickle cell anemia (SCA) among parents/caregivers of children with the disease in Uganda. I’ve read tens of research papers on SCA published by African researchers from all over Africa and one thing they all had in common was that there is a huge knowledge gap about Sickle cell diseases between care-givers/the general public and healthcare workers. Most people in “Africa”, specifically Sub-Saharan Africa, believe that SCA is either something to do with witchcraft or a curse from GOD. Only a few of them believe it to be a medical problem. Today’s sermon explains where such beliefs come from. During the time I’ve been here, I’ve learned that religion is stronger than politics and anything else and hence people are more likely to listen to religious leaders than doctors or anyone else. This not only impacts the way society operates, but it also affects the way people respond to health policies and such. Anyway, I can’t wait to see what I come up with at the end of my project. I wonder if the results will be similar to those suggested by the researchers whose work I’ve read.

The pastor (whose name I don't remember) praying for and with church members

Another shot of the pastor praying for  church members

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