Navigating Justice: Defender of the Accused (Scholar’s Compass)

Lagos,_Nigeria_57991

Lagos, Nigeria. Courtesy of Jrobin08 at Wikimedia Commons

Drawing on her experience as lecturer and head of the Mission department at West Africa Theological Seminary in Lagos, Nigeria, Chinyere Priest contributes to our Lent justice series with a reflection on pursuing justice as a Christian academic. She shares a story from a forthcoming paper, “Why Nigerian Christians Accuse People of Witchcraft,” then meditates on God’s justice as a theological scholar. 

When they cry out to the Lord because of their oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and he will rescue them. – Isaiah 19:20b

Narrative from Chinyere’s forthcoming paper: Uche, a mother, was tormented and beaten severely by her husband due to her failure to bear a male child. So, she found an additional wife for him to marry with hope that this wife would give him a son to end the torture she experienced. In fact, the co-wife (Nkechi) also bore him female children. Ten years later, Uche bore a male child while Nkechi did not. Their husband experienced a poor harvest; within eight days, four young men died in that family via accidents and other means. Conflict ensued between the wives. Nkechi accused Uche of being a witch who is responsible for the poor harvest, Nkechi’s failure to bear male children, and for all the concurrent deaths in the family. The husband and some other family members believed her and tortured Uche in a very cruel manner.

Uche was taken to a native doctor who initially declared her innocent. The co-wife bribed him so he changed his proclamation saying Uche was guilty. According to local beliefs, the gods ought to have killed her if she was guilty, but the declaration was accepted. The husband divorced her, and the entire village gathered to humiliate her. She was banished from the village. Uche went into a coma for forty days and when she survived that she remained ill for five consecutive years. Her own children abandoned her because they believed the accusation due to difficulties they were experiencing. Twenty years later, the same native doctor who declared her a witch confessed to the entire village of Uche’s innocence. She was restored to the village with a huge celebration and pleas for forgiveness by her accusers. The Lord defended her.

Reflection

Witchcraft accusation is a reality in African societies though some perceive it as superstitious and primitive. However, the social reality of these accusations is observed through the negative impact on those charged with being witches. Many children have been injured, tortured, abandoned or even killed while widows and elderly women equally faced rejection, banishment and death as well, the same people the Lord has asked us to defend and protect. These so-called witches are accused of using evil power to harm people, kill, cause accidents, barrenness, sudden death, infertility, misfortune, etc. The Lord said, “When they cry out to the Lord because of their oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and he will rescue them”. (Isaiah 19:20)

Are you falsely accused? Are you declared guilty while innocent? Are you suffering for offences you never committed? Are you abandoned or rejected for no just cause? Are you even banished by your kinsmen? Weep no more, the Lord our Defender will vindicate you in due time. He is the Defender of the oppressed, accused, and powerless and will rescue you. His ears are attentive to your tears, they never go unnoticed.

Questions

  1. Do you cry unto the Lord when falsely accused or do you look to for help elsewhere?
  2. Do you lose hope when you are in a seemingly hard situation?

Prayer

My heavenly Father, please look down and see the suffering of the accused and send them a savior. Lord, hasten and vindicate them, plead their case and grant them justice. Amen!

Further Reading

Exodus 3:1-10

 

Update 3/12/2015, 10:45 pm

Update 3/19/15, 2:15 pm

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Chinyere Priest

Chinyere holds double master’s degrees in Missions and Biblical Studies from West Africa Theological Seminary (An Affiliate of the University of Nigeria Nsukka) Lagos, Nigeria. She is presently a PhD student at the department of Missions of the Africa International University, Nairobi, Kenya. Her field of research is in the Conversion of Christians to Islam within sub-Sahara Africa. Apart from serving as a missionary in Sudan, she was once the head of department and for many years lecturer in the Mission Department of the West Africa Theological Seminary (WATS) Lagos, Nigeria. She is equally involved in children’s ministry, concerned about the persecuted church, and concerned for the accused.

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3 Comments

  • singinpriest@yahoo.com'
    Victor Priest Chukwuma commented on March 13, 2015 Reply

    Yes indeed God is the defender of the accused. However, the accused are to call on the name of the Lord for help and vindication.

  • canbundo@yahoo.com'
    Fernando Cambundo commented on March 18, 2015 Reply

    I think this is the time for a best perspective on Africa Traditional Religion and a balanced Biblical and Theological approach to the subject of witchcraft, accused and accuser.

  • eukaoha@wats.edu.ng'
    Eugene Ukaoha commented on March 27, 2015 Reply

    Witchcraft is real in Africa, and elsewhere, including the Bible. Witches cause terrible havoc to their victims. Witches thrive in wickedness. The spirit of wickedness lies at the root of witchcraft. Witches like to see their victims suffer pain, shame and humiliation. The Bible says, “Suffer not a witch to live” (Exodus 22:18). See also Leviticus 20:27. Undoubtedly, there are witches in the church. Ironically, it is difficult to know who a witch is because they like to operate in hiddenness. In fact, witches have become so modernized and sophisticated in their manner of operation. Many of them are deacons or deaconesses, elders and are even church workers. I know a friend whose mother is a witch and he knows it. And she has been the thorn in the flesh of this brother and his family, especially his wife for many years. In Chinyere Priest’s article, which could be a real life story, Uche was unfortunately accused of witchcraft, humiliated, tortured, maligned, banished, and denied justice for more than twenty years. But the God of justice remembered and vindicated her.

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