Friday, April 16, 2010

Belief in witchcraft widespread among Christians: survey

Christian leaders get ready to destroy witchcraft paraphernalia in Mombasa. A study says a quarter of Kenyans believe in witchcraft despite being deeply religious. Photo/FILE

Christian leaders get ready to destroy witchcraft paraphernalia in Mombasa. A study says a quarter of Kenyans believe in witchcraft despite being deeply religious. Photo/FILE 

By MUCHIRI KARANJA

A quarter of Kenyans believe in witchcraft even though they are deeply religious, a survey shows. They also believe that the world will end in the next 39 years.

According to the survey conducted by The Pew Research Center, a US-based organisation dealing in religious research, Kenyans are ranked 11th in Africa and 16th in the world on the most religious people, with nearly nine in every 10 people stating that religion plays an important role in their lives.

The Tolerance and Tension: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa survey compares Kenya to the Czech Republic and Sweden where only eight out of 100 people said religion was important.

But in spite of impressive religious credentials, strong belief in one God, and in heaven and hell, the survey found that sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya included, leads in the worship of alternative gods — witchcraft, evil spirits, and sacrifices to ancestors, traditional religious healers and reincarnation.

Kenya is ranked 15th in Africa in its people’s belief in witchcraft, a few points behind the Democratic Republic of Congo, and way ahead of Ethiopia, Nigeria, Zambia and Rwanda. A quarter of Kenyans, both Christians and Muslims, confessed they believe in the protective power of juju (charms or amulets) and that they consult traditional healers.

A number admitted to revering their dead ancestors and treasuring animal skins and skulls or knowing of friends or relatives who identify with these faiths. Tanzania leads the pack in believing in juju and other superstitious objects, with six in every 10 Tanzanians confessing to sacrificing to spirits and dead ancestors.

The Rwandans, according to the poll, are the least superstitious people in Africa, with only five out of 100 people interviewed saying they believed in juju. And with a shrinking life expectancy of 57 years, Christian and Muslim Kenyans believe the end of the world is near.

Some 61 per cent of adult Christians in Kenya believe Jesus will come before they die. Similarly, 53 per cent of Kenyan Muslims said the caliphate — the golden age of Islam — will come before they die. In terms of end-of-times belief, both Kenyan Muslims and Christians are ranked seventh behind Tanzania.

Kenyan and Rwandan Christians tie in the percentage of people who believe the end of the world is near. Congolese Christians and Mozambican Muslims top the list of countries that believe the end of time is coming sooner than we think, at 69 per cent. In terms of peaceful coexistence, the survey unearthed a simmering sense of suspicion between the two dominant religions; Christianity and Islam. This is because both know very little about each other.

Fewer than half of Christians said they knew either some or a great deal about Islam. Similarly, fewer than half of Muslims say they know either some or a great deal about Christianity. Members of both faiths said they were uncomfortable with their children marrying from outside their religion.

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