Thursday, November 13, 2014
Ebola is a plague sent to punish ungodly Africans and sinners who have angered God and their ancestors, according to an African government witch-doctor fueling the spread of the disease
In an astonishing video rant, the so-called holy man appointed as head of culture in Liberia's Bong County claims only prayer, herbs and tobacco can save the millions of people in danger from the deadly disease ravaging Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Waving a cow's tail, Joko Moses Kuyon, a high priest of the African Traditional Religion, shrieks that the virus is a curse that only traditional healers can lift. He shouts: "We have sinned against God and he has brought his wrath on us by bringing a plague. This is a plague and it has a spiritual connection. We have sinned against God and he has brought his wrath on us so we have asked the ancestors to appeal to God. We have the cellphone number for the ancestors and we dial the number and they relay the message to the almighty." The highly-respected government figure - who preaches to tens of thousands and is the head witch doctor in his region - is simply one among dozens driving the epidemic underground. Senior pastor Idris Wright Samura, who preaches to his large congregation in Monrovia that Ebola is a punishment from a God who is angry that Africans drink alcohol and don't go to church regularly enough. "Ebola is a plague and a plague can come upon the people as a result of sin," says Samura. "Liberians have not been living right which may have brought the plague upon our country. They have been drinking alcohol, not going to church, indulging in witchcraft and unfaithfulness. There are demonic powers. You must fight Ebola spiritually. God can heal any disease. Ebola can be healed by the word of God." Witch-doctors and preachers are increasingly being blamed for preventing ordinary Africans from complying with crucial hygiene methods. Recently a burial team was prevented from removing a contagious body in New Kru Town, a Monrovia slum, because local people wanted to perform traditional healing rituals for the dead. Unicef accuses these community leaders of being highly irresponsible - and claims by healers that they can make a direct cell phone call to ancestors to drive away Ebola are making it worse. The belief in God-sent plagues, witchcraft and the power of herbs goes right to the top of Liberian society. Kuyon is a high-ranking Liberian government official - the entirety of his region respects him and listens to what he says. Liberian society remains deeply traditional and an estimated 60% of the population belong to secret societies known as Poro and Sande whose practices have been blamed for helping to spread Ebola. They indulge in three day long rituals in the forests during which men and women are circumcised. The blood is used to make a stew. Members are also ritually scarred. All the practices involve close contact between members, exactly the sort of behavior blamed for spreading Ebola. Traditional burial rituals including the washing of the body and various magic rituals are among the most dangerous, because death is the point at which Ebola is most contagious. The Liberian government has ordered the suspension of the practices but it is believed that many continue. Ebola has claimed the lives of many traditional healers who thought they could fight the disease with herbs and by carrying out rituals which brought them into close contact with victims who in turn infected them and continued the spread of the disease.