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20140607 ‘Harmful religious practice and occult on the rise in SA’

The following article by Jerome Cornelius appeared in June 07, 2014 in Times Live media. The penchant of SA Government bodies to hold conferences with “faith based groups” discussing how they are going to “deal with”  the “threat” which they claim is posed by alternative non-mainstream religions is most disturbing and demonstrates a level of government complicity together with the media in the increase of incitement of hostility and intolerance towards non-Christian religions and identities in South Africa.

Harmful religious practice and occult on the rise in SA

Jerome Cornelius | 07 June, 2014 10:48

Human skull. File photo.
Image by: Gonzo Carles / Flickr

Vampirism, spiritual intimidation, voodoo and other harmful religious practices are on the rise in South Africa, including in our schools.

To try curb the incidents, which in some cases have resulted in death, government officials have urged parents and teachers to look out for children who wear black clothes or black make-up, who are quiet or secretive and who lose concentration.

Because of the “significant increase” in harmful religious and occult-related practices, the Justice and Correctional Services Department hosted an awareness campaign in Johannesburg on Friday.

The event drew together a number of concerned government officials, including from the South African Police Service, the National Prosecuting Authority, the departments of basic education, social development and health, as well as teachers, pupils and faith-based speakers.

It was hosted in Soweto, in the same community where two schoolgirls were found murdered in February in what is believed to be an occult-related crime

The bodies of George Khosa Secondary School pupils Thandeka Moganetsi, 15, and Chwayita Ratazayo, 16, were found in an open field, together with burnt black candles and razor blades. Two 16-year-old boys have been arrested in connection with the murder.

Speaking at the event on Friday, Pastor Faith Stevens, who was called in to assist the school after the girls’ deaths, said some children were at a higher risk of becoming involved in harmful practices. These included children from dysfunctional families, those with absent fathers, orphans and those living in poverty, she said.

Stevens, who calls herself a prophet, described the George Khosa school as a “hub for harmful religious practices”. Stevens said altars where initiation ceremonies were believed to be taking place were found on the school’s premises, with the female cloak rooms being a common spot.

It was here that girls reported performing abortions and drinking blood, as well as making sacrifices “for strengthening”.

Stevens believed said that Moganetsi and Ratazayo were “sacrifices” because they did not want to take part in harmful religious practices like some other children.

Chief director for the promotion of the rights of vulnerable groups at the Justice and Correctional Services Department, Advocate Praise Kambula said the campaign would be rolled out in other provinces.

 “This was a meeting to open their eyes to realities,” Kambula said.


The following open letter was sent to Times Live on the same day, and also posted around Facebook and on Christina Engela’s blog:

RE Harmful religious practice and occult on the rise in SA by Jerome Cornelius

RE Harmful religious practice and occult on the rise in SA by Jerome Cornelius
The article by Jerome Cornelius on 7 June (http://www.timeslive.co.za/local/2014/06/07/harmful-religious-practice-and-occult-on-the-rise-in-sa) is a prime example of hysterical drum-beating propaganda, repeating known falsehoods and baseless accusations against religious minorities and alternative identity groups as though they were true.
It seems the author, who in writing this drivel details nonsensical “tell-tale signs” of occult-related crimes cunningly referred to as “harmful religious practices” sourced from material placed on the SAPS’s own website where they masquerade as “experts on the occult” while all they are really, is a state-empowered Christian evangelicalist spiritual warfare ministry paid for with tax money.
Cornelius’s commentary reveals that he knows absolutely nothing about the occult, alternative non-mainstream religions, or alternative subcultures or identity groups and has the objectivity of someone who has never stepped outside his own comfort zone to bother to try and research the beliefs of others beyond what fakers and frauds claiming to be “occult experts” tell him they are. In short, to those who do know something about occult religions such as Satanism, Paganism, and other alternative subculture groups, he makes his ignorance and hysteria plain – and it comes across as, well, shall I say it – rather small and vindictive.
Unfortunately, to the ordinary folk out there who share his glaring ignorance of these topics, he seems to make a frightening sort of sense, fueling their fearfulness and prodding them to huddle in church the next few Sundays – and the tripe he has written – and which you have published, appears to lend credence to the nut-job evangelists in police uniforms running around like headless chickens squawking that “the Satanists are coming!”
Never mind the detail – as the old saying goes, the Devil is in those – so I suppose the facts are irrelevant because they are not quite as entertaining as the blatant fiction which people like Cornelius – in collaboration with your publication – spoonfeed to the public.
I challenge you, Mr Cornelius, Times Live – and the SAPS’ ORC to provide bona fide statistics to prove this alleged “significant increase in harmful religious and occult-related practices”, coupled with a comprehensive list of confirmed and verified convictions detailing persons found guilty of crimes while listing their confirmed and verified affiliations to any known or recognized occult religious group or spiritual path. I’m inclined to think you will be able to list nothing more than an increase in hysterical claims reported in the media – i.e. hearsay, not facts.
While you are at it, perhaps you will be so kind as to explain why a criminal act has to be used to condemn a wide spectrum of non-Christian religious beliefs, calling them “harmful religious practices”, even when those committing them have nothing to do with the religions in question – and while even Christians commit crimes of all descriptions, no attempt is made to demonize either them, nor their religion as “harmful religious practices”?
Why? Because it’s stupid, that’s why. Because people who identify with Christianity as a religion or a value system wouldn’t see it that way, and would most typically take offense at their religion being portrayed as a “harmful religious practice” simply because someone who committed a criminal act either claimed to be a Christian or was alleged to have committed his crime AS a Christian or in the name of Christianity. That is simply not acceptable – and it shouldn’t be. But in the same breath, it’s quite acceptable and even plausible to think, speak and repeat the lies that other belief systems are?
I name as examples the headlines this past week proclaiming how a pastor killed a boy in his church, and another incident in Humansdorp a few years ago, when a pastor and his congregation were responsible for the death of a child undergoing an “exorcism” to cure her epilepsy. Where was mention of the SAPS’s ORC unit then? Where are the headlines calling these crimes “Christian murders” associating the religion with crime, violence and “harmful religious practices” and giving lists of inventive but totally implausible “warning signs” of involvement?
Cornelius has plainly labeled Voodoo a “harmful religious practice” in the very first sentence of his article, which is anything but objective and demonstrates not the slightest effort in having researched his topic. Nor did he make any effort to offset the one-sided load of unadulterated propaganda in his article with any material contradicting the nonsense he presented as fact, despite a tome of useful reference material being sent out to all media houses in South Africa during 2013 by the Alternative Religions Forum, or even from other sources to provide a balanced perspective.
Add to that, why have traditional healers not been accused of muti murders, rounded up and their religions criminalized? If only “Satanists” or those who commit “harmful religious practices” wear black, lose focus, or are quiet or secretive, why are the coppers not out there dragging in Goths, Emos, ADHD sufferers and introverts for questioning about the missing cats in their neighborhoods? The double standards in this melting pot of scapegoating reeks of moral corruption of the lowest order.
Ironically the media – nor the ORC and its vaunted ‘experts’, seem to say much of the host of innocent victims of witch hunts in South Africa each year – people who have no ties to the religion of Witchcraft nor even any other occult practice – but who nevertheless find themselves being lynched or run out of their homes by people calling themselves Christians and using the convenient excuse in their holy book stating “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”. Does that not qualify as a “harmful religious practice”?
Funny how I’ve never heard the government calling conferences to discuss the inordinate increase in the number of “harmful religious practices” being committed by people calling themselves Christians? It might be a good idea, perhaps they should invite a few other “faith-based organizations”, perhaps a few Imams and even a Hindu priest or two to weigh in on the subject? If the religious affiliations of criminals were to be used in keeping score of which religion was allegedly more harmful, then I’m surprised that all the churches in the country have not been closed down, and preachers nailed to the front doors by now.
But we don’t do that, do we? Why? Because it’s stupid, that’s why.
We don’t criminalize beliefs, because it’s illegal and immoral and unconstitutional – and because it’s invasive and paranoid and Orwellian and oppressive and impractical. We don’t slander race in the media for obvious reasons – but for some reason that nobody seems willing to recognize or to face up to, it seems perfectly okay to publicly shame and slander religious identities by linking them to heinous criminal acts and fairytales intended to spread fearfulness and incite hate against them and to systematically break them down and deny them the equality enjoyed by everyone else simply because they are different in some ways. They do it because religious minorities in this country historically – even now, have no recourse – legal or otherwise, to tackle abusive or offensive content in the media, and they get away with it every time.
If we impair the freedom of one group of people to believe what they will, we open the nation up to the frightening prospect of wondering who will be next? Whose religious beliefs will they go after next? The Mormons? How about those Jehovah’s Witnesses? What about people who wear crocs? Or worse, socks in slops? Where will it end? The language of precedence is a powerful one and it bears frightening consequences.
The Constitution of this country grants everyone equality and freedom of religion and expression – even though it exists that way mainly on paper and doesn’t reach all the way to the ground – because despite the blissful veneer of equality on paper, there IS discrimination – because the agents of “some” religions abuse their influence in government and in organs of state, like the SAPS and its built-in Christian deliverance ministry, in order to slander and oppress other religions, and to undermine their legal freedom to practice and exist by spreading lies and fearfulness against them.
We don’t criminalize beliefs in South Africa – unless the criminal happens to leave a black candle or a few razor blades at the scene of the crime, and happens to be wearing black clothing, or listens to Slipknot, or watches horror movies, or hasn’t been to church in a few years, or simply because he recites the crap listed in idiotic articles such as this one to substantiate his media-induced fantasy that he is a “Satanist”. Or unless someone at the ORC wearing a police uniform, on a government salary, who has a mail-order degree in theology from some diploma mill in the Seychelles and who has never done anything more “occult” than read the back cover of “Harry Potter” or “Twilight”, says so.
I find the hypocrisy and the malice in articles such as this garbage utterly repugnant and reprehensible.
Sincerely
Christina Engela
P.S.
I direct you to the following resource where Mr Cornelius may find some education on the subject of alternative religions and subcultures including Satanism, Paganism, Luciferianism, and the Vampire subculture. https://alternatereligionsforum.wordpress.com/”
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