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Archives July 2023

A Call to Move Away From “Muzyoka Syndrome”: Reorienting Evangelization And Christian Praxis To Challenge Superstition

By Father Erick Nyondo

Over a period of time, the thrill and muse to write has never hit me. Surely, whether that has been out of choice or merely the focus on the “busyness attitude” that sometimes cripples hobbies, I still cannot describe. But I have been challenged with the discernible superstitious beliefs and conducts among the people I have for a limited time pastored. This has obliged me to coin a simple write up that would aid me evacuate my inner turmoil and disquiet over what I have observed and give suggestion for change.

It is a sad reality that 21st century Christian persons would still be chained in the shackles of superstitious beliefs and still adhere to the so called “witchfinders or witchdoctors”. The question that every reasonable pastoral worker would ask himself or herself in the fronts of these heinous beliefs would be: Has the Gospel of Light been entrenched in our souls? After all this charismatic and kerygmatic proclamation of the Gospel, why is the faith still skin-deep?

The honourable expectation is that with the advent of sophisticated academic progress, the technological and digital acceleration processes and inter-cultural confrontations we should all embrace more radicalized and liberalized mental-paradigm shifts by becoming more and more reasonable and logical. There is need for questioning our life circumstances and events and subject them to a relatively reasoned direction that would foster mental and spiritual maturation. The Gospel has been preached ever since to challenge our different beliefs, customs, attitudes and habits. It has powerfully exposed essential and reified conceptions of life and destiny. What a grace and fortune! To still expect in this “Reign of the Gospel of Light”, the presence of persons stuck in dark reign of superstitious beliefs and other related issues is sadly and worrisomely unfortunate.

To reiterate my pastoral experience and encounters in the couple of months that I have been a priest, I have been confronted with what I have styled in this article “Muzyoka Syndrome”. It relatively entails, the people’s desperate and perpetual recourse to magic, a flawed hope in the efficacy of certain rituals as being capable of unleashing certain hidden realities and intention and also a fatally flawed strategy of life that could decorate one’s fortunes without hard work and sacrifice.

The assumption of this terminology has further been enhanced basically by different sentiments that I have heard most often among the flock that I have pastored. For instance, I once heard someone at a funeral ceremony saying, “Mwana angafwa uli, kalipo kalipo, tamuchima”, literally meaning “How would a child just die? There must be something amiss, we will find out from the herbalist the truth of the cause of death”. Another Christian lamenting over the poor yield of his field uttered these words, “Mpunga wangu ghutacha kanunu, alipo uyo oyawila” literally meaning, “The harvest of my rice or the yield of my rice is not as I expected, there must be someone who has magically tampered with the yield”. These statements were pronounced by people who have been Christians for over twenty years. As a poor novice priest, with months’ experience, I felt deeply embarrassed, wounded and challenged. Deep in me, I felt a wave of unanswered questions. Do we as preachers have a problem? Do we really sow the seed that would yield a hundredfold? Would we ever be successful to engrave the Gospel of Light in the hearts of the people to ignite their credo in dark-moments?

All these unanswered questions led me to propose a better re-oriented approach to evangelization and Christian praxis. The following patterns of apostolate are my humble suggestions. We need to embrace a more mature and Christ-centred catechetical commitment as pastors of the Gospel of Light. This aspect should not be overlooked. It can be of help especially in introducing the young Sunday school children to the fundamental mysteries of life and its usual hiccups and align them to the mystery of Christ’s Gospel of Light which becomes clearer when life moments are precisely turbulent and overwhelming.

I would like to applaud the Diocese of Karonga in introducing Catechisms for instruction and faith formation. These Catechism, named Kasambizgani Mitundu Yose, have truly and continue to shape the faith of the Christians in the diocese. If we would move towards composing a Catechism on the Mystery of Suffering as grounded in the Paschal Mystery and orient the cries of the people to Christ’s redemptive paschal sighs in Garden of Gethsemane, their pains to the atoning thorns of Christ at Cavalry and their life suffocating moments to the hope of Easter Joy, we would eradicate the muzgoka syndromes that usually manifest in people’s dark times.

Secondly, there is a prompt need for the re-evangelisation of culture. What is expected for us ministers of the Gospel of Light in our confrontation with people’s cultural beliefs that are marred with awkward hopes in witchfinders and witchdoctors and their submission to “cleansing” rituals is to emphasize on the transformative power of the Gospel.

Furthermore, we need to make the Table of Sacrifice a “True Ritual” where everyone submitted to the Eucharistic Banquet would realize in their life a mysterious explanation of the life’s tragedies as being answered by Christ who is Broken and Shared to give us all a true meaning and dignity amidst torments. This demands a well-founded mutual intimacy with Christ, a deep rooted spirituality and an aggressive witnessing. We need to let the Gospel of Light radiate in all our parochial circumferences. Each ray of this Gospel must find its destination in a people so apt to transformation.

We all as ministers must fight the muzgoka syndrome so soberly, seriously and aggressively carrying the emblem of Christ’s Pasch.