On Sunday (September 13) in South Africa Cardinal Angelo Amato declared Benedict Daswa a blessed and a martyr. Blessed Benedict Daswa was a handsome, smartly dressed South African who bore a striking resemblance to Sydney Poitier. The father of eight kids, Blessed Benedict Daswa worked as a school principal. Known as ‘a family man and martyr’, Blessed Benedict was savagely murdered because he opposed witch-craft and witch-hunts in his local area of Nweli.
On February 2 1990, Blessed Benedict was driving home after bringing a bag of mealie meal (coarse flour made from maize) to a man in need. As he drove home, he found the road ahead of him was obstructed with stones and logs. When he got out of his car to investigate he was confronted by a group of attackers who showered him with stones. He ran, but his assailants chased him. When they had hunted him down, Blessed Benedict knew death was imminent and prayed, “Father, receive my spirit”, just before they struck him on the head with a club. His murderers tipped boiling water over his ears and nose to make sure not a trace of life remained in him. He was only 43.
The reason that Blessed Benedict had such murderous enemies was because he was against employing sangomas, known euphemistically as “traditional doctors”. Whenever any of his fellow teachers spoke in favour of hiring a sangoma to engage in a witch-hunt, he would tell them off, saying, “I am surprised that you who are educated, instead of teaching people about the will of God, are taking them backwards.”
Blessed Benedict was also against killing people who were suspected of being witches. Some of the so-called gifts of a sangoma is discerning who is a witch. In Blessed Benedict’s village, there was a move to hire a sangoma so that they would do the ritual of ‘casting the bones’ so they could ‘identify’ a witch.
Blessed Benedict was adamant that he would not contribute any money towards hiring a sangoma to do a witch-hunt. He was articulate in explaining why: “[The sangoma] will ‘sniff out’ the so-called suspect and the villagers will kill that person as soon as the name is known.” That very week he was cruelly bludgeoned to death by those who feared he was influencing too many people to take a stand against the sangomas.
I think that Blessed Benedict could become a great saint for people who are concerned that friends or family are abandoning the sacraments because they are intrigued by the New Age practices of those modern ‘white witches’, mediums and psychics. Also, remembering that he was slain because he opposed a witch-hunt, he would be the ideal intercessor for innocent people who are falsely accused of taking part in black magic. Lest we forget, St Joan of Arc was accused of witch-craft.
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