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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cultural Insights: The Flying Coffin

Some traditions are just plain evil, like the Flying Coffin tradition of the Kaonde people.

Let me try to describe it from the traditional Kaonde point of view:
The flying coffin is a ceremony to destroy the evil witch who has caused the person (in the coffin) to die. This is done to bring peace back to the community before the witch can kill another person. The men who carry the coffin will take a herbal drug that will put them into a trance. This will allow the ancestral spirits to guide them to find the witch. During the funeral, they will start carrying the coffin. The spirits will guide the coffin and even make it hover over their arms to the witch's house. Then the witch will be accused and beaten to death, thus eliminating the threat to the peace of the community. Sometimes if this ceremony is not performed, the coffin will come back up out of the ground after it has been buried. Then it will fly to the witch and bring a curse to that witch or beat the witch to death itself.

Obviously, I have some problems with this perspective. Let me give my perspective:
Revenge belongs to God! He is the only one capable of judging and forgiving a person through Jesus Christ. The flying coffin is an attempt to seek revenge against an unknown enemy. However, it is based on the assumption that all physical consequences are a result of other humans bringing evil into the community. The ancestral spirits which the people trust to guide them to the "witch" are actually demonic spirits seeking to destroy an innocent person. The men carrying the coffin are acting as Satan's servants bringing murder to the community (thus they are the very witches they want to destroy). During the ceremony, I am sure Satan finds it quite humorous to see these men murder innocent people in the name of restoring peace. This is a demonic and abominable tradition which must be boldly spoken against by the Kaonde Christians.

The flying coffin is illegal and punishable as murder according to the Zambian law. However, the police cannot do much without the support of traditional leaders like the local chief. In some chieftancies, the chief has helped to punish the men who have done the flying coffin. In those places, the tradition is reduced and the men are most likely to allow the offending "witch" to pay a large fine instead of being beaten to death. However, in many places innocent people still die each month because of this evil tradition.

For example, about a month ago, a man was beaten to death in a nearby village. However, the family went to the police claiming their father was innocent (this is a good change, because in the past the family would ofter turn against their own family member and join in accusing him). The traditional leadership was very angry that this happened and the men were arrested. From what I understand, they are expected to be put in prison for 5 to 10 years.

Please pray that Christians will stand strongly against this practice and spread the message that God will judge according to his just ways. God has put governments into place to give criminals a fair trial where evidence is considered and the truth is attempted to be found. This is not perfect as human judges and criminal justice systems still make mistakes. However, it is far better than revenge killings. In revenge killings everything is led by pure anger and hatred and no sense of justice or truth is accomplished. God has taught clearly that revenge does not accomplish anything good - Romans 12:19

- Rick Love

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