Standing in the Gap — no.9
— praying for children accused of witchcraft.
'When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.’ — Acts 28:4–6
Paul and many others received kindness from the islanders when they arrived shipwrecked on the island of Malta. When Paul was bitten by a snake the islanders show an understanding of the physical consequences of a poisonous snake bite. However, they also show an association between ‘justice’ and harm or illness coming to Paul, because of his assumed wrong actions towards another. This is then followed by an alternative spiritual explanation in his coming to no harm and being attributed with the status of a god himself.
This sense of a predominant spiritual explanation related to episodes of illness is also seen in communities affected by accusations of witchcraft. In Dr John Morgan’s research in Togo, he explores how illness and health beliefs are often associated with belief in a malevolent external cause.
"Illness aetiologies were attributed by the majority of respondents to malevolent others through the means of witchcraft." — Dr J.R. Morgan, 2012
- For his living word that is always relevant to issues people encounter in their daily lives.
- For his love of community and for people coming together to serve and help one another.
- We give thanks for people, such as Dr Morgan, who have been immersed in cross–cultural situations and who share experiences and lessons learnt, so that we too may gain better understanding, respond and pray.
"They brought me to arrive (at the hospital) and immediately the white people saw me. I was almost dead but they did God’s work and they worked on me until suddenly at one point I came to myself." — Participant in research by Dr J.R. Morgan in Togo, 2012
This man recounts his experience of a poisonous snake bite in Togo, where (unlike Paul in the bible) he did swell up and people were expecting him to die. But instead, he received medical treatment that was ‘God’s work’. As with the islanders of Malta, there is a spiritual explanation following snake bite. Here, we see the work of God, not the medical intervention at the hospital alone, being credited as the source of a cure.
- For opportunities for us to learn from people with different lives to ours, and to understand life from their perspective. Pray that we might see with God’s eyes and be ‘God’s work’ in addressing the challenges of life, in an attitude of love.
- Particularly for opportunities to speak of the topic of health and illness in relation to witchcraft accusations — that many might be prepared for a new conversation that reveals truth, and prevents the harm and cruelty so often experienced by those accused of being witches.