Bishop: Church Must Work To End Violence Against People With Albinism
By Bronwen Dachs – The Church in Africa must work to end violence against people with albinism through its schools and other education efforts, according to Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of Mthatha, president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
“It’s the mindset that needs to be changed,” said Bishop Sipuka, noting that superstitions are entrenched.
About 150 people with albinism have been killed for their body parts since 2014 in countries that include Tanzania (with 76, the highest number of killings), Malawi, Mozambique and Congo, Amnesty International said in a statement from Johannesburg.
Across southern Africa, albinos “live in fear of being killed or abducted for their body parts”, Amnesty International said.
“These waves of violent attacks are fuelled by the false and dangerous myth that body parts of persons with albinism can make someone rich,” it said. The body of a person with albinism can bring many thousands of rands on the black market.
Albinism is a congenital condition that leaves people without colouration in their skin and hair.
“It is simply a biological condition,” said Bishop Sipuka.
“We need to educate people about albinism in our schools, catechisms and sermons,” he said, noting that “everybody is created in the likeness of God, and we need to acknowledge and protect that”.
He said bishops in countries such as Malawi and Tanzania, where violence against albinos is “most brutal”, have the support of the Church in other African countries in their calls for stronger action to end it.
Not only physical violence but also negative attitudes towards people with albinism “are totally unacceptable,” Bishop Sipuka said.
Parishes throughout the region should work on encouraging friendships between albinos and others, particularly among the young, he said.
Amnesty International said that the leaders of the Southern African Development Community “must send a clear message that those who perpetrate these attacks will be brought to justice”.
They “must tackle the root causes of these targeted attacks”, Amnesty said, noting that “it is intolerable that persons with albinism continue to live at the mercy of these criminal gangs”.—CNS