Burkina Faso: traditional spiritual rituals providing protection

The belief in supernatural powers is an important driving force behind ritual murders. Yet there exists another area in which the belief in supernatural powers is crucial. The following two articles focus on traditional spiritual practices which provide protection against violence and aggression to its believers and users.

The objective of including these articles here is to offer the reader insight into the cultural side of spiritual practices and rituals. After all, is is easy – and absolutely warranted from various points of view – to condemn ritual murders, but in order to fight effectively these crimes which constitute gross human rights violations we must understand the minds of the perpetrators of these intolerable and outdated crimes.

For this reason I found it justified to include the following two articles. To avoid any misunderstanding: the ritual practices described below have nothing to do with ritual murders.
(webmaster FVDK).

Burkina Faso fighters seek protection with spiritual rituals

Published: April 29, 2021
By: Star Tribune, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Minnesota, Associated Press – Sam Mednick

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso — Antoine Ouedraogo didn’t run when Islamic extremist fighters killed his colleagues only feet away from him in northern Burkina Faso. Instead, the 53-year-old says, he simply recited a secret word and became invisible.

The father of 17, who used to arrest bandits and now fights the extremists as part of a local defense militia, says a secret medicine he took as a child continues to protect him from bullets and machetes.

“As adults, we still have that medicine inside of us,” he said. “Even now if something happens, I can disappear.”

Fighters like Ouedraogo are putting their faith in these traditional spiritual practices to protect them as attacks linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State ravage the West African nation, killing thousands and displacing more than 1 million people. The deeply rooted tradition holds that plants, animals and ritual objects mixed with verses from holy texts can provide protection before going to battle.

“Before someone faces a challenge, they know there are supernatural powers and spirits they can call upon in any situation,” said Jean Celestin Ky, professor of history at Joseph Ki-Zerbo University in Ouagadougou.

People have believed in these powers since the beginning of time and it remains strong in Burkina Faso because it’s been passed down from generations, he said.

Some people say the practice is rooted in animism, the belief that all things, from rocks and trees to animals and places, have a spirit. Approximately 15% of Burkina Faso’s population identify as animists, according to a report from the International Crisis Group, which says the belief holds considerable weight in the majority-Muslim country.

However, cultural anthropologists say regardless of the origins, what the rituals speak to is human nature when faced with violence.

“These fighters are taking incredible risks, often risks that they don’t understand and can’t control and that it’s hard to imagine anybody in that position who doesn’t rely on a really complicated set of belief systems and sometimes magical thinking in order to stay safe and understand their place in the world,” said Danny Hoffman, chair of the African Studies Program at the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington, who researched fighters using spiritual protections during the civil war in Sierra Leone.

Fighters in Burkina Faso were reluctant to divulge too much about the process and types of plants used, saying those are kept secret even from family members.

But they explained that one way to become “bulletproof” involves mixing 13 plants, inserting the paste into food and eating it out of a hole in the ground. The meal is prepared with water that was used to soak a metal arrow for 72 hours — the idea being that since the arrow is metal, a person will be protected from the heat of the bullet if shot.

While many Burkinabe grew up familiar with these practices, some never participated in them until the jihadis arrived several years ago.

Soumaila, a 19-year-old volunteer fighter tasked with helping the army combat extremists in rural parts of the country, said he only started using spiritual protection for the first time when jihadis attacked his village in the north.

Even before receiving a gun, community leaders gave Soumaila and other fighters bracelets, rings and special clothing that would stave off severe injury and death, he said. The AP is only using his first name to protect his identity as he feared reprisals for speaking to journalists.

Soumaila has survived at least 10 clashes with jihadis over a year and a half, a feat he attributes to a custom-made jacket he believes repels bullets. It cost nearly $90, a huge sum in rural Burkina Faso.

“When you go to dangerous fights and you survive, and nothing happens, then you realize that (the jacket) works,” he said. “If we didn’t have these protections, we would lack the courage to go to some fights.”

Made from cotton by a local tailor who studied the Quran for more than a decade in Mecca, the jacket is soaked in water from leaves and has several Arabic phrases written on animal hide sewn into it. Some of the writings include the name of the jacket’s owner, while others say different things which Soumaila said he could not reveal lest the jacket lose its powers. Being photographed in the jacket can also rid it of its powers, he said.

Some religious leaders, though, worry the rituals provide a false sense of security for fighters, many of whom are ill-equipped and lack training.

“If you rely on the power of the shirt and then go and fight and (the powers are) fake, you can be killed. It’s as if you caused your own death,” said Ali Kamena, an imam in the capital.

He called the practice “satanic” because the Quran says anyone who needs protection should ask God. Anything else is idolatry, he said.

Kamena has provided blessings to members of Burkina Faso’s armed forces from the Quran before going to fight, including for his son, a soldier in the army. One of the verses he uses says: “With the grace of God, you may come back healthy and safe.”

But for some fighters, these beliefs transcend religion. The Dozos, ancient hunters who have been drawn into the fight, believe people can rely on powers from their ancestors. Spiritual protections can be granted so long as someone is a good person, believes in the process and undergoes an initiation.

Since the violence broke out, many Dozos have been working with the army to help protect their country, relying on traditions to keep them safe. But many Dozos fighting on the front lines say they feel ill-equipped and want the government to provide them with better arms in order to stave off the jihadis.

Soumaila, too, said that if body armor were provided for him to protect himself, he would use it.

At a March celebration of Dozo culture in the western city of Bobo-Dioulasso attended by the AP, new initiates about to receive spiritual protections together with seasoned Dozos fired guns, danced and paraded with a dead leopard draped around their bodies.

Firing his rifle in the air and giddily twirling it between his fingers, Idrissa Cisse said he wouldn’t be able to help the army fight extremists without the ancestral powers he says make him bulletproof.

“When we go into the bush, our ancestors give us their goodwill and we go to fight, to do what we have to do,” he said.

Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

Source: Burkina Faso fighters seek protection with spiritual rituals
Also, with pictures: Burkina Faso fighters seek protection with spiritual rituals

Burkina Faso fighters seek protection with spiritual rituals.
Source: Stars and Stripes.

Burkina Faso Fighters’ Faith In Tradition Amid Attacks

Published: April 29, 2021
By: Republic World, India – Written by Associated Press Television News 

Some fighters in Burkina Faso are putting their faith in traditional spiritual practices to protect them as attacks linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State ravage the West African nation, killing thousands and displacing more than 1 million people.

Some fighters in Burkina Faso are putting their faith in traditional spiritual practices to protect them as attacks linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State ravage the West African nation, killing thousands and displacing more than 1 million people.

Since the jihadist violence broke out, some Dozos – ancient hunters who have been drawn into the jihadist fight – have been working with the army to help protect their country, relying on traditions to keep them safe.

Their deeply rooted traditions holds that plants, animals and ritual objects mixed with verses from holy texts can provide protection before going to battle.

“Many Dozos are participating in the fight against the jihadists with the authorities, with the armed forces, we help them because we are true Burkinabè, true fighters,” said Idrissa Cisse, who attended a celebration of Dozo culture in the western city of Bobo-Dioulasso in March.

The ceremony brought new initiates about to receive spiritual protections together with seasoned Dozos who fire guns, dance and parade with a dead leopard draped around their bodies.

The support among the Dozos and their unity is what made Dramane Sanou decide to become part of the group.

“I want to join this group because of their honesty. You must be united as members of the same family, as brothers,” he said while waiting for the day of his initiation ceremony.

Philosophy professor and university researcher Jean-Baptiste Sanou said the rituals were linked to the “archaic” human need for protection when faced with violence.

Some people say the practice is rooted in animism, the belief that all things, from rocks and trees to animals and places, have a spirit.

Approximately 15% of Burkina Faso’s population identify as animists, according to a report from the International Crisis Group, which says the belief holds considerable weight in the majority Muslim country.

Some religious leaders, though, worry the rituals provide a false sense of security for fighters, many of whom are ill-equipped and lack training.

“They use this (magical protection) because they learned it from their parents. But we are Muslims and Islam forbids us to do that,” said Ali Kamena, an imam in the capital.

Fighters in Burkina Faso were reluctant to divulge too much about the process and types of plants used, saying those are kept secret even from family members.

But they explained that one way to become “bulletproof” involves mixing 13 plants, inserting the paste into food and eating it out of a hole in the ground.

The meal is prepared with water that was used to soak a metal arrow for 72 hours — the idea being that since the arrow is metal, a person will be protected from the heat of the bullet if shot.

Source: Burkina Faso Fighters’ Faith In Tradition Amid Attacks

Africa’s shameful acts of racism: the plight of persons with albinism (PLWA) in Africa

It is not known with certainty how many people in Africa are affected by OCA, which stands for  ‘Oculocutaneous albinism’ (see below). It maybe a quarter of a million, it may be more. What we do know is the plight of persons with albinism. The lack of melanin which brings this condition with it, results in unhealthy effects of ultraviolet radiation exposure. Moreover, widespread superstition causes many wicked people to believe that albino body parts bring wealth and/or power. As a result, persons with albinism are chased, kidnapped, murdered.

The article below contains many examples of these gruesome practices which occur in many African countries. The author, Edmund Zar-Zar Bargblor of the Liberian newspaper, The Daily Observer , is to be commend for drawing attention to these outdated and cruel practices which constitute a serious violation of the human rights of people with albinism and have no place in a modern society. 

Warning: the following article contains graphic details of cruel ritualistic activities (webmaster FVDK).

Some of the protestors with various placards that called on the Liberian Government among other things, increase their budgetary support (Courtesy of Daily Observer, Liberia).

Africa’s Shameful Acts of Racism: The Plight of Persons with Albinism (PLWA) in Africa

Published: December 2, 2019
By: Edmund Zar-Zar Bargblor, The Daily Observer (Liberia),  Webmaster Admin 

Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior to another, and that a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics.   On the African Continent, we have seen the impact of colonialism and its attributes of racism and discrimination.

The former Apartheid system in South Africa and its institutionalized racial segregation was an extreme expression of European treatments of Africans. The miserable treatment of people living with Albinism by fellow Africans is not only unfortunate, it is shameful.

The condition known as ‘Oculocutaneous albinism’ (OCA) is a genetically inherited autosomal recessive condition and OCA2, tyrosine-positive albinism, is the most prevalent type found throughout Africa. Due to the lack of melanin, people with albinism are more susceptible to the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation exposure.

The National Institutes of Health reported that about 200,000 Americans are affected; and around the world, it is between one in 17,000 and one in 20,000 people are people living with albinism. However, it is prevalence in parts of Africa, but it is far higher than the global average. People living with Albinism makeup about one in 4,000 people in South Africa and perhaps one in 5,000 in Nigeria. According to a 2006 review published in the journal BMC Public Health, the prevalence in Tanzania is one in 1,400, but this estimate is based on incomplete data. Since Tanzania’s total population is more than 40 million that would suggest an albinism community of about 30,000. A census is underway, however, and the Albinism Association of Tanzania believes the total figure could be more than 150,000.

People living with Albinism suffered in the hands of fellow Africans

The human rights organization Amnesty International quoted the Malawian police’s description of the gruesome murder of Mr. Machinjiri: “About four men trafficked him to Mozambique and killed him. The men chopped off both his arms and legs and removed his bones. Then they buried the rest of his body in a shallow grave.”

There are superstitions in some parts of Africa that albino body parts bring wealth, power or sexual conquest, and that having sex with a person living with the condition of albinism cures HIV and AIDS. Attackers sell albino body parts to witch doctors for thousands of dollars, according to Amnesty International. In Tanzania, some 75 people living with albinism were reported killed between 2000 and 2016.

Also, there have been reports of people living with albinism killings in South Africa; although such crimes are less common there than in Malawi, Tanzania and Burundi. Last February, a South African court sentenced a traditional healer to life in prison for murdering a 20-year-old woman living with albinism.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the UN agency that deals with human rights issues reported in 2016 that hunters of people living with albinism sell an entire human corpse for up to $75,000, while an arm or a leg could fetch about $2,000”.

In many African countries, it is sad and shameful the atrocious manner in which people living with albinism are treated; their lives are compounded by “exclusion, stigmatization, and denial of basic rights such as the right to education and health,” according to Amnesty International.  People living with Albinism continue to experience social isolation and stigma which includes name-calling, mockery, and exclusion from certain community activities.

It is reported in Zambia that at least ten people living with albinism are murdered in ritual killings every year.  Some believe their body parts bring wealth or luck. Those born with the genetic condition are calling for an end to this madness. There are more than 25,000 people living with the condition in Zambia.

Madame Janet Kakusa Wonani of Zambia, Founder/President of Light of The World Foundation. She works closely with children with Albinism in Zambia, irrespective of limited financial support.

According to the Albinism Foundation of Zambia (AFZ), Executive Director John Chiti, more than 25,000 persons with albinism in Zambia are currently in need of sunscreen lotion.

In an interview with Africa Renewal, Ms. Ero, said that the albinism situation in Africa, “is a tragedy.” She referred to the 7,000 to 10,000 people living with albinism in Malawi and thousands of others in Tanzania, Mozambique and other countries as “an endangered people”, facing a “risk of extinction if nothing is done.” Tanzanians call people living with albinism zeru, zeru, meaning “ghosts.”

Prevailing Superstitious Mindsets

Superstitious mindsets in some African countries continue to seek murdered for body parts, including infants and babies. Most of the attacks have taken place in Tanzania. Murders and attempted attacks, though in smaller numbers, have also been documented in Burundi, Kenya, Swaziland, Guinea, Nigeria, South Africa, Congo, Zambia, Namibia, Ivory Coast, and Burkina Faso.

The Converson.com conducted research and looked at media reports published between 2008 and 2011 on albinism and murders in Tanzania. It published a data set of 563 media reports in both English and Swahili from Tanzanian national newspapers.

The data showed that the Tanzanian press portrayed and explained violent attacks against persons with albinism in four ways. They were:

  • criminal activity,
  • cultural practices,
  • a socio-economic phenomenon,
  • a human rights issue.

Ms. Kway-Geer, the first Member of Parliament in Tanzania with albinism described her individual testimonials, first-hand accounts of difficulties as:

“When I was at primary school, people used to laugh at me, tease me – some didn’t even like to touch me, saying that if they touched me they would get this color. People used to abuse me on the road when I took the buses to school. They would run after me – crowds of kids following me – shouting ‘zeru, zeru’. (zeru, zeru, is a derogatory term).

Recommendations

The Conversation.com has identified the following recommendations.

  1. There is an urgent need to address the violence faced by this vulnerable group. Public health awareness is an important first step.
  2. Adequate health services for skin and vision disabilities should be prioritized.
  3. Putting out messages that counter the stigma against people living with Albinism is also important, as is access to education.
  4. Interventions must consider Albinism’ human rights. For example, putting children with albinism in camps may protect their right to life and security,but it restricts their rights to freedom of movement, and family life.

In addition, African Governments should seriously advocate against harmful practices against people living with albinism.  State parties should take all appropriate measures and offer support and assistance to victims of harmful practices, including legal sanctions, education, and advocacy campaign to eliminate harmful practices perpetrated on persons with albinism, such as witchcrafts, abandonment concealment, ritual killings, etc.

Conclusion

One thing for sure, the people living with Albinism did not create themselves; they were created in the same way you and I were created by the God who doesn’t make a MISTAKE. Their birth process is the same as you and me! Their mothers’ carried them for nine (9) months in their wombs before giving birth to them.

Who are we – be it an individual or government to decide that they should not live because they are different? Did God ask he needs our HELP to make His decision? The Almighty God does not need the assistance of mortal humans to run his affairs. The actions of those individuals perpetuating violence against persons suffering from albinism are no different than King Leopold II of Belgium, Adolph Hitler of Germany, Napoleon Bonaparte of France, and White racists today.

In Genesis 1:31(NIV): “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good…” God himself said it was Good, NOT bad. God doesn’t create anything UGLY! So, why individuals, including governments, are killing these innocent people? In addition, 1 Thessalonians 5:22 instructs us to “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” Accordingly, the GENOCIDE against these poor innocent people must be STOPPED!

Now, take a closer look at the beautiful tapestry of the people living with Albinism provided here. The question that readily comes to mind is any of you better looking than the people living with Albinism provided in these photos? I DOUBT IT! Therefore, let the persecution and killing of people living with Albinism STOP before the wrath of God descends upon us.

As Africans, it is embarrassing to read or hear that other Africans are discriminated against due to their race. Racism is contrary to God’s plan for humanity. The divisions we face today in contemporary Western nations are due to Race, the color of one’s skin or ethnic background.  And obviously, this perception is not part of God’s plan.

The Albinism Society of Kenya held a Mr. and Miss Albinism beauty pageant in Nairobi to support those with the hereditary condition. (https://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-46439699).

In the words of Maya Angelou: “We, the black people, the most displaced, the poorest, the most maligned and scourged, we had the glorious task of reclaiming the soul and saving the honor of the country. We, the most hated, must take hate into our hands and by the miracle of love, turn loathing into love. We, the most feared and apprehensive must take the fear and by love, change it into hope. We, who die daily in large and small ways, must take the demon death and turn it into life.”

Indeed, Children living with albinism in Africa are our brothers, sisters, daughters, and sons, let us protect them always, they are all God’s children as well.

Source: Africa’s Shameful Acts of Racism: The Plight of Persons with Albinism (PLWA) in Africa

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