AACHEN, Germany (CNS) — Missio, one of Germany’s Pontifical Mission Societies, marked the third World Day Against Witch Hunts Aug. 10 by warning that the phenomenon is on the increase worldwide.
The German Catholic news agency KNA said that in at least 43 countries, women, but also men and children, are in mortal danger because they are being persecuted as alleged witches, according to the 2022 World Map of Witch Hunts published by missio Aachen.
Missio said it had added Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe to the map since last year. Most of the countries affected are in Africa, but the phenomenon also exists in Southeast Asia as well as Mexico, Bolivia, Guatemala and Haiti.
The current missio world map is based on conservative estimates. Other lists put the number of affected countries near 60, KNA reported.
Experts said more people had been killed as alleged witches and sorcerers worldwide in the past 60 years than in the 350 years of European witch hunts.
The accusation of witchcraft often is triggered by sudden and inexplicable deaths or illnesses, but also by weather phenomena, Swiss Franciscan Sister Lorena Jenal said in a recent interview with KNA.
Sister Jenal works against the phenomenon of witch hunts in Papua New Guinea, where she said many people had been hurled from the Stone Age into the digital age in recent decades. That, combined with weapons, alcohol and a lack of education, has led to a dangerous development, she said. However, she said it was possible to free victims through mediation and de-escalation.
With the World Day Against Witch Hunts, missio has been drawing attention to these worldwide human rights violations since 2020. It said the United Nations had given an important signal by working on the first-ever resolution to prevent violence linked to accusations of witchcraft.
“But the resolution must then be followed by corresponding action,” the aid agency added.