MSP raises issue of witchcraft-based violence in Malawi

February 2, 2016

Kenneth Gibson, SNP MSP for Cunninghame North, has lodged a motion (S4M-15539) to The Scottish Parliament raising the important issue of witchcraft-based violence in Malawi. This comes only weeks after an announcement that funding is to be cut to the programme.

Motion S4M-15539

Humanist Society Scotland launched its partnership project with the Association for Secular Humanism (ASH) in Malawi last year. The partnership aims to add to the rich cultural, educational and economic links between Scotland and Malawi.

ASH was commissioned by the Norwegian Embassy in Malawi to conduct an in-depth study of the prevalence of witchcraft-based violence in Malawi in 2011. Following the publication of that report, the Norwegian Embassy then awarded funding for ASH to carry out a peer and community education campaign from 2012 to 2015.

ASH succeeded in reducing the reported instances of witchcraft-based violence, raising awareness or state and judicial collusion and willing a lot of popular support for social change.

Despite these significant advancements, HSS reported in October 2015 a couple had been burned to death following witchcraft accusations. HSS also reported the murder of five people in Malawi in January 2016 in two separate witchcraft-related attacks.

Gordon MacRae, HSS Chief Executive, said:

“We are proud to be working in partnership with the Association for Secular Humanism in Malawi to help build their capacity to campaign against witchcraft accusations.

“The Scottish Government, through the Malawi Development Programme, has been at the forefront of funding sustainable development projects in Malawi. We ask for their support in securing funding for this vital project.”

KennethGibsonMSPSpeaking on the issue Kenneth Gibson MSP said:

“Scotland is a country that in its past was scarred by fear of witchcraft, with an estimated 4000 to 6000 people, tried for witchcraft and a major series of trials in 1590–91, 1597, 1628–31, 1649–50 and 1661–62. Some 75% of the accused were women and over 1,500 people were executed.

Mr Gibson continued: “Bearing in mind our own tragic history in this regard, we should do all we can to help other societies rid themselves of this dangerous superstition, with all the fear, misery and tragedy it brings.”

Commenting on the recent attacks, George Thindwa, Executive Director of ASH, said:

“The Association for Secular Humanism of Malawi is deeply saddened by this event. ASH calls upon Malawians to desist from such barbaric actions which are not in line with human rights principles and the rule of law. It is also very disheartening that people should be killing each other because of witchcraft beliefs in the 21st Century.

“ASH has been campaigning against witchcraft based violence for the past five years and has expectations that this behaviour should actually be declining or being eradicated.”

Notes:
For further comment please contact Gary McLelland on gary@humanism.scot or 07813060713
A detailed report on witchcraft-based violence in Malawi is available from the Norwegian Embassy website.
Donations welcome via our JustGiving page.

Full text of the motion is:
“Anti-witchcraft-based violence programme in Malawi
That the Parliament acknowledges the significant contribution made to combating witchcraft-based violence by the Association of Secular Humanism (ASH) in Malawi; welcomes the development of the Scotland Malawi Humanist Partnership supported by the Humanist Society Scotland as a recent contribution to the well developed connections between our two nations; is concerned given the recent murders in Malawi linked to witchcraft accusations about the impact of the recent decision by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Malawi to discontinue funding for ASHs anti-witchcraft-based violence programme and urges the Scottish Government to do do all it can to support anti-witchcraft-based violence initiatives in Malawi.”

Images Courtesy: Creative Commons, UncleBucko; The Scottish Parliament

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