At the beginning of the month, a few Pagans (particularly within the Wiccan community) issued me a list of hard questions.
Was I willing to face discrimination for my new Wiccan personae? Could I stomach threats to take away my family for my beliefs? Would I risk losing my job, facing ridicule at work, social excommunication? Just how far could I go?
I’ve lived as a Wiccan for 29 days and I have yet faced persecution. My pentacle necklace attracts the occasional stare and my friends toss the occasional “witch joke,” but I can’t say I’ve felt uncomfortable. No, that was my month as a Sikh when I felt that way. What I have found is that a great number of Wiccans and Pagans live normal lives unencumbered by persecution.
But that isn’t the case for everyone.
Yesterday’s post touched on the scriptural basis for why Wiccans and Witches face social pressures. Today, thanks to the help of the Congregation, I will bring to light a few examples of contemporary struggles that plague this faith community today. I will offer a brief overview of the event and provide links to the full story. I encourage you to take time in reading about and internalize these occurrences.
- Shamans being slaughtered in Peru. “Last week the government of Peru issued a statement saying that fourteen shamans in the country’s north-eastern region have been killed in the span of twenty months. The provincial prosecutor’s office alleges that these killings were ordered by Alfredo Torres, the mayor of Balsa Puerto, and carried out by his brother. Author and indigenous leader Roger Rumrrill claims these killings are part of a wider witch-hunt by the brothers, who are members of an unnamed protestant Christian sect.” –from The Wild Hunt. Follow the link to the full story.
- Witch-burning in Africa: “The mob dragged them out of their houses and burned them individually and then set their homes alight…The mob came to his door and dismembered his wife, a retired schoolteacher.”
- Forcing Christian prayers at non-Christian military funerals: Turns out that a few die-hard members of the American Legion, The National Memorial Ladies, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and a local Texas pastor are in a legal conflict with the Department of Veteran Affairs, accusing the department of “banning” mention of God or Jesus at military funerals. Trouble is, not all of our service members are Christian, so why should there be a Christian-based formula prayer for every warrior?
- The Apostolic Reformation wants Bible as law of the land. The event is called “DC40″ in which members of the right-wing Christian group gather in Washington, DC in order to prayer and lobby for spiritual change in the United States. Christian doctrine should be law, in their eyes. Pagans organized a counter event in which the goddess, Columbia (a representation of which sits atop the capital building) was honored and prayers offered up for a continuation of religious freedom.
- 12-year-old Tempest Smith kills herself for being teased. Facing daily harrassment for her choice of dress, shy nature, and interest in Wicca, Tempest Smith finally had enough and ended her own life. All because she was seen as “different.”
These are but a few stories regarding persecution and discrimination against the wider Pagan community. Each one is deplorable and inexcusable. As a member of another faith (or no faith at all) I hope you read each of these stories and feel a sense of urgency for change. We’ve covered these issues before with other faiths this year. Remember the Baha’is being slaughtered in Iran? What about the struggles of the Latter-day Saints in their trek across the country? How about the Sikhs and their martyrs?
We cannot forget that this disease is present within every faith and culture and that only through education and our shared humanity can we snuff out this sickness. No, I haven’t personally faced these social ills, but does that disqualify me from learning about them and sharing information with others? Ignorance breeds the hatred which perpetuates these crimes against humanity. My job this year is to help destroy this ignorance. Will it ever be enough? No. But then again, who wants to get involved in a pissing contest of who suffers the most? That’s not a competition I want anyone to win. By ending the bickering and infighting we can join together regardless of your spiritual disposition take part in the cause of peace and coexistence.