From a missionary point of view, the three greatest threats and challenges to the Christian church in Africa today are Communism, Islam and witchcraft.
More than half of Africa is strongly influenced by animism or ancestor worship. The power of the witchdoctor is immense as he lays on the people’s fears of the spirit world and exploits their superstitions.
When someone falls sick or dies, it isn’t because of disease, lack of hygiene or for want of medical help. No, says the witch doctor, it is an evil spirit who placed a curse on them. Nobody ever seems to get bitten by a snake or eaten by a crocodile, according to the witchdoctor. No, an ancestral spirit took the form of a snake and punished the person for some transgression of tribal custom.
One of our field teams was preaching the Gospel to a crowd of two hundred Caprivians near Katima Mulilo. They all seemed to be responding very positively until one of our workers spoke out against witchcraft. Suddenly the whole hail was filled with a rumbling sound as many angrily murmured and complained. One man stood up and rebuked us for condemning witchcraft — “It is our tradition!” he declared.
“Are you a Christian?” he was asked.
“Yes, we who are here are all Christians,” came the reply.
“Do you believe that the Bible is the Word of God?”
“Yes, we all are good church members — but how can you speak against our traditions. The witchdoctor protects us against the evil spirits, and heals some diseases that the white doctor cannot.”