People with albinism in Africa are particularly vulnerable to skin cancer and sight problems, as they lack the pigment melanin that usually provides protection. Most of them don’t survive beyond their 40th birthday. But in parts of Africa, they also face the threat of being killed for their body parts.

Working with the BBC, a doctor from London is trying to raise awareness of the plight of albinos across Africa. Accounts of kidnap and murder are not uncommon. 75 albinos in Tanzania have been killed since 2000, and 19 in Malawi since 2014. Many others have been kidnapped or have disappeared. Children have had limbs cut off in machete attacks, and body parts have been taken from graves. Witch doctors are generally revered across rural Africa, and many believe that potions made from albino body parts will bring good luck and wealth. In 2016, Amnesty International also reported beliefs that the bones of albinos contain gold, and that sex with a person with albinism can cure HIV. Amnesty International also say that a lack of police investigative skills means that many attacks go unsolved.

Yet amid the stories of attacks, there are also stories of community spirit and heroism. One albino woman from Malawi told of being unable to sleep for fear after a gang attempted to kidnap her, claiming to be from the police. Because she did not know them, she was reluctant to go. Eventually persuaded, she went with them to the police station, but her husband and neighbours went with her. When the police station was locked, and the gang wanted her to go further, she refused and her neighbours protected her until finally the gang got angry, gave up and went away.

A fundamental belief of Christianity is that Christians are called to protect and care for the vulnerable. Yet when faced with circumstances like these Christians, with others, are often left asking, ‘What can we do?’ Practical questions like, ‘How can we help?’ sit alongside questions about when it is and isn’t right to attempt to change the beliefs of others, and the acceptable, or unacceptable ways of doing so. Most people would agree that murder is wrong. Finding solutions to murder of this kind is less straightforward.

  • Who in your community might you protect, as her neighbours protect the albino woman from Malawi?

  • What examples have you seen or heard of either targeting or protecting the vulnerable?

  • Try to imagine yourself in the position of someone who would buy albino body parts. Why might you do it? And how might you justify it?

 Prayer for the week - 23rd February 2017

 

A couple of Lego enthusiasts, known for using the toy bricks to make giant Christmas decorations, are using their enthusiasm to support fundraising for a wildlife conservation project in Cambridgeshire.

This week, thousands of people from as far afield as Canada and New Zealand have signed a petition asking that a police dog handler from Shropshire be allowed to keep his police dog when he retires. His daughter says he is heartbroken at the thought of being separated from the 4 year old dog, Ivy.

 

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