Monday, February 2, 2009

Zambezia witch hunting

We can’t say that we’re having a drought here in eastern Zambezia, after all, we have had some rain. But it hasn’t been enough to keep the seedlings alive. When it comes, it spatters and leaves.

In the developed world there are many theories about such freakish weather, not the least of which might be global warming, that scapegoat catch-all. But Africa is different. When things go wrong in Nature, people start looking around for who is responsible.

Yesterday as the rain clouds threatened, and thunder rolled, I waited in the heat for the release of cloud buckets and the smell of wet earth. Instead, the weather toyed with our expectations, promised, and withdrew. Disappointment. At least I hadn’t gone out and transplanted seedling flowers like Jacky had.

You know, I was nearly tempted to complain to the Lord; He is in charge of the weather, after all. But I found out why it didn’t rain later in the afternoon. An outlying village, also hard hit by the dryness, went on a witch hunt and decided that a widow with an elderly mother was responsible for the drought. So they caught her and beat her “to a pulp” were the words used to me. Two timid police on a motorcycle came and reluctantly took her away for her own safety. The crowd turned on her mother. Their house was destroyed and belongings smashed.

I don’t know how either woman is doing. My heart goes out to them. How sad to live where you can pay the price for something all reason would tell you was out of your small control. Why did they pick on her, I wanted to know. Apparently, as a widow she is supposed to accommodate whatever man in leadership wants accommodating. But since she would not hand out sexual favors to the leaders, she was the scapegoat for the community.

I just talked with a well-educated Mozambican friend who has confirmed this story and added that there have been a variety of incidents like this: some scapegoats have not had police assistance and have died at the mob’s hands. Makes me wonder: what type of mind would think that a person who could control or influence the weather would still be weak enough to be victim of a hostile rabble?

There are well-meaning non-government organizations who disparage mission work because it interferes with the local belief system and challenges the culture. “The people are perfectly happy in their own milieu,” they insist. Ask the scapegoats, I want to say.

Anyway, now I know why it didn’t rain yesterday. And today clouds promised and wimped out, too. And hot as I am, I’m glad.

2 comments:

OldMommy said...

We in the first world are just more subtle in our use of scapegoats. Abuse of the powerless is the opposite of Christ's servant-leadership. It's not the culture; it's the ugly face of sin. So, so sad.

Karen DuBert said...

Absolutely true and insightful.