On the 27 October 2008, 12 year old Joseph Kasirye disappeared from his home. A few days later his decomposing, headless body was found in a swamp. Someone had drained all the blood from his body, indicating that Joseph had been abducted and murdered in a ritual killing; a child sacrifice.
Child sacrifice is a chilling reality in Africa. It is happening today.
The horrific murder of Joseph Kasirye (reported here) and subsequent trial created a sensation in Uganda. Most Ugandans remember it, years later, as the most high-profile case of child sacrifice in their country. Seeking greater wealth from the spirits, and accompanied by a witchdoctor, a local business man had sacrificed Joseph. Recalling this story may be shocking. But child sacrifice is far more common in Africa than we acknowledge.
Child Sacrifice Is Happening In Africa Today
Human sacrifice is a chilling reality in Africa. It is happening today. Countries where it is reported include: Uganda, Nigeria, Swaziland, Mali, Tanzania, and Namibia. The victims of this cruel vice are mainly children. They are tortured, mutilated, and killed. One reason as to why children are the victims is because they are easy prey to abduct. But more significantly, it is that their blood is viewed as pure: without blemish. Many Africans believe that pure blood yields better results in the practise of sacrifices.
Many Africans believe that pure blood yields better results in the practise of sacrifices.
According to ANPPCAN (African Network for the Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect), 3000 Ugandan children disappear every year. These children cannot be traced and some of them undoubtedly become victims of child sacrifice. In 2014, UNICEF reported 13 cases of child sacrifice in Uganda, stating that 6 of the 13 cases were related to political elections. But these official statistics are just the tip of the iceberg.
Often authorities do not have the capacity to follow up all the cases of missing children. In other cases it seems that the authorities are unconcerned that many children who disappear will very likely be sacrificed. Indeed, one of the most shocking aspects is actually the absence of reliable (and recent) numbers around child sacrifice – just try googling it now.
What Beliefs Lie Behind Child Sacrifice?
Child sacrifice in Africa originates from the belief that man is limited in power, while spirits have unlimited power. By appeasing the spirits one can tap into their power. Many believe that there is power in shedding blood from animals. This appeases the ancestors and spirits. Thus people make sacrifices seeking power from the spirits.
Child sacrifice in Africa originates from the belief that man is limited in power, while spirits have unlimited power.
Power & Prosperity At Any Cost
Underlying this practice is the desire to get rich quickly or to gain political victory. The high poverty levels in Africa only catalyse this evil, for desperation makes it worse. People are willing to sacrifice anything – even their children – to gain power and money. Often parents, housemaids, and relatives are involved in the practice. These men and women seek the power of the spirits through whatever means possible.
Through child sacrifice many Africans believe they can secure wealth and happiness.
Thus child sacrifice today is about much more than religion. Through it, and the mediation of the spirits, many Africans believe they can secure wealth and happiness. It’s a means to an end: the purer the sacrifice the more influential its power; the greater one’s desire the greater the sacrifice needs to be. Because political or material gain is not cheap in the African spirit world. While animal blood sacrifices can achieve much, many hold that a child’s blood is unparalleled in its effect.
Appeasing A Distant God
Therefore, child sacrifice is a symptom of a bigger problem in Africa. At the root of this problem is the African traditional view of God. In this tradition, mankind strive to manipulate a distant and unpredictable god through the giving of gifts. Unlike the God of the Bible, this god is far from mankind and largely unknowable. Therefore, one can only gain access through spirits, serving as mediators.
People begin by making smaller sacrifices of chicken, goats and sheep. But eventually, and tragically, they progress to human sacrifices.
Witchdoctors and mediums are often involved in this process too. These authorities teach that the greater the sacrifice the greater the reward. So people begin by making smaller sacrifices of chicken, goats and sheep. But eventually, and tragically, they progress to human sacrifices, or “Big Blood” as some call it.
How Do We Stop Child Sacrifice?
The indigenous and traditional African preventions against child sacrifice are circumcision, ear pricking, and scarring children. Why? Because these practises supposedly render children impure, thus their blood is no longer highly effective in the African spirit world.
What these practises demonstrate is how greatly African communities fear for their children. Therefore, as those tasked with shedding light and love, the African Church has a critical role to play in addressing this evil practice.
As those tasked with shedding light and love, the African Church has a critical role to play.
The Old Testament Sacrifices Were Insufficient
Surveying the Old Testament we learn that the significance of blood cannot be downplayed. Covenants are cut with blood and many sacrifices demand it. In fact, according to the Old Testament, there is no forgiveness of sin apart from blood being shed (Leviticus 17:11). As Christians living after Jesus’s death on the cross, we know the Old Testament points towards the ultimate and unrepeatable sacrifice that was to come: the crucifixion. The Old Testament system was only ever provisional.
Like the Old Testament sacrifices, traditional African sacrifices are insufficient. For there is no point in time when the spirits are finally or fully appeased.
Traditional African Sacrifices Are Insufficient
In African culture, the medicine man demands a blood sacrifice for each ceremony. But this quickly escalates. For stealing your neighbour’s clothes you must sacrifice a chicken. If you lie against your uncle you need to sacrifice a lamb. For insulting the elders you must offer a cow to avert the anger of the ancestors. If you’re seeking protection for your house you need the blood of a goat. Finally, to win big political office or a business deal, you need to make a human sacrifice.
There’s no way out of the system; no promise of an end to sacrifices.
No matter the sacrifice in traditional African religion, it is commonplace that these sacrifices are always insufficient. Thus there’s no way out of the system; no promise of an end to sacrifices. Instead, as we have seen, there are only the dangerous and increasingly horrific demands made by spirits and witchcraft. This is because there is no sufficient sacrifice for them: they are awaiting perfectly effective and powerful blood; blood that never comes.
The One Perfect Sacrifice
There is no one sacrificial animal powerful enough to rectify all evils; no single sacrifice can make all wrongs right. This is one of the primary points of Hebrews. Repeatedly, the author highlights the insufficiency of the old covenant sacrifices. It is only Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice that is eternally effective. “When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12). Thus Jesus is a superior priest who offers his own perfect blood. “By a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14).
The uniqueness of biblical Christianity is that in Jesus there is one perfect sufficient sacrifice.
Behold, The Lamb of God
The uniqueness of biblical Christianity is that in Jesus there is one perfect, sufficient sacrifice. Jesus’ death was sufficient to avert the wrath of God, eternally. In Christ we also have a single, reliable, and relatable high priest. He lives to intercede, hiding nothing from us while holding out his perfect blood. His death made all other blood sacrifices and mediators obsolete.
God no longer demands blood sacrifices. The sacrifice to ancestors and spirits has been replaced by Christ’s perfect and superior sacrifice. Therefore, it is not necessary to make sacrifices today. For not only is there no sacrifice that is sufficient other than Christ’s, there is no priest that lovingly serves and represents us like he does. Then, now, and forever.
His death made all other blood sacrifices and mediators obsolete.
In John 1:35-42, John the Baptist exclaims regarding Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God!” For in Jesus there is one perfect sacrifice. Christ is the one, sufficient, eternal, and final sacrifice. He takes away the sins of the world. His work brings us back to God, without fear. Because of Jesus we need no more sacrifices.
This is the wonderful gospel news that Christians celebrate at Easter. The old has gone and the new has come. No longer do we live with fear. No longer can spiritual leaders or spirits force us to do evil, in order to achieve some or other good. We need look only to Christ.
We need no other blood than his.