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Tuesday, 15 October 2013

A Handy Piece Of Superstition

Witchcraft Trade, Skin Cancer Pose Serious Threats to Albinos in Tanzania: Scientific American

A charming account of the effects of religion, this time in Tanzania, is brought to us this week by Scientific American. As though being born with the genetic mutation which causes albinism wasn't bad enough, sufferers have to put up with living in a religious society where local superstitions hold that the body-parts of albinos have magical properties which can lead to power and wealth.

People born with albinism make little or no melanin - the pigment responsible for skin colour. This makes them especially susceptible to skin cancer from which melanin protects us by acting as a natural barrier to harmful solar radiation. Albinos frequently also have defective vision and hearing and most rarely live beyond the age of fifty, with skin cancer being the number one cause in Tanzania.

Another cause of early death is religious superstition. Since the year 2000 some seventy-two Tanzanian albinos have been murdered for their body-parts, many in childhood. Only five prosecutions for murder have been successful. Another superstition is that albinos don't die but simply disappear so the authorities often don't pay much attention when they do, in fact, disappear. I wonder which witch doctor invented that handy piece of superstition.

It is believed that the body-parts have much greater power if they are from children and especially if the person screams when their parts are being cut off, so many children are 'harvested' whilst still alive. A complete human being is said to be worth some $250,000 on the open market.

The situation remains particularly dire in part of the northern part of the country. Near Lake Victoria fishermen are known to weave albinos’ hair into their fishing nets in the hopes of improving their catches. Witchcraft beliefs are more entrenched in that part of the country, making individuals with albinism particularly susceptible to attacks. “When I was growing up it was not like this. It was just stigma, but not people coming to cut bodies,” says Zihada Msembo, 60, a leader of the Tanzania Albino Society, during an interview elsewhere in the country. In the past five years, she says, the attacks in Tanzania have gotten worse. But what has prompted the new attacks remains unknown. Whereas the attacks are most prevalent in the so-called “Lake Zone,” Nsebo says that “people travel to hunt for albinos” throughout the country.


Isn't it just great the way religion increases human kindness and fellowship and heightens sensitivity to suffering, whilst reducing greed and selfishness, unlike atheistic science.

And it's soo reassuring to know that a kindly and benevolent god is watching over humanity to make sure nothing like this happens, isn't it... well, at least making sure it only happens in far-away unimportant countries, to far-away unimportant people.

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1 comment:

  1. Religion? Witchcraft? Call it what you will. It's barbaric and disgusting. Even worse is the fact that we live in the 21st Century and these caveman/stone-age belief systems still exist.

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