By Leo Igwe
The Advocacy for Alleged Witches (AfAW) salutes the Church of Scotland for taking steps to acknowledge abuses linked to Scotland
s historic witchcraft laws centuries ago. At its 2022 General Assembly, the church accepted the motion brought by Rev Prof Susan Hardman that regrets the terrible harm caused to alleged witches in Scotland. AfAW received this news of the Church of Scotlands acknowledgment with much excitement and hope for the future of its campaign to end witch-hunting in Africa.
This development marks a significant step in the efforts by Witches of Scotland to win justice, legal pardon, apology, and national monument for thousands of people mostly women who were convicted of witchcraft and executed between 1563 and 1736. AfAW is delighted by the progress that the campaign by Witches of Scotland has made. On March 8, 2022, the International Women`s Day, the Scottish first minister, Nicola Surgeon, offered a formal apology to people accused of witchcraft in the 16th and 18th centuries.
Incidentally, this campaign has elicited criticisms from some segments of the Scottish population who think that the initiative is unnecessary because these are wrongs committed centuries ago. Some people say that such a campaign is an anachronism to the current generation of Scottish people. But these critics are greatly mistaken. They have forgotten that injustice is injustice no matter how long in the past it was committed. And it is never too late to say: “I am sorry”. It is never too late to acknowledge mistakes and wrongdoings. It is never too late to remedy past injustices, especially when these injustices are still meted out to people in some parts of the world.
More importantly, this campaign has so much contemporary relevance and resonance. Tens of thousands of people, including women, children, and elderly persons, still suffer harm linked to witchcraft accusations and prosecution in many African countries. And churches with a direct and indirect link to the Church of Scotland often perpetuate these abuses. Churches in Africa are part of the problem of witch-hunting in the region. Churchmen and women are modern-day witch hunters, witchcraft accusers and witch persecutors. This acknowledgment by the Church of Scotland sends a clear and powerful message to its counterparts and affiliates in Africa. This regret provides the moral leadership that has been missing in this campaign. This development in Scotland will help persuade and mobilize African churches to become part of the efforts to end abuses linked to witchcraft beliefs in the region.