As you may know there is a great deal of concern at the moment over a Facebook page called “Witches Must Die By Fire”. The page explicitly calls for acts of violence against and murder of “Witches”. There are actually two pages;
Numerous requests to Facebook to have the pages removed as Hate Speech have proven unsuccessful to date –although the page was briefly removed, then reinstated. Although Facebook has a rule against Hate Speech, it seems a page advocating murder of a religious minority does not meet Facebook’s criteria for Hate Speech.
I have hesitated to say anything about this, in part because what I am going to say may not be very popular. Since these pages have become a cause célèbre I have seen a lot of people expressing emotion – but few people taking meaningful action. In particular I have received many requests that I sign online petitions –which I almost never do.
An online petition does not constitute meaningful action. They are not effective. They are not taken seriously. They are often not even looked at, if in fact they even reach the people they are intended for. They are a waste of time and energy for the most part –and even more so when people cannot agree on a single petition, but insist on making rival petitions which, by dividing the numbers, lessen any potential impact there might arguably have been. An online petition is rather like hearing of someone’s crisis or misfortune and saying “sending energy” without ever actually sending any energy. It may make you feel good for a moment, but it does not really help the situation.
IF YOU WANT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THESE PAGES you need to put out a little more effort.
First –instead of taking a moment to sign a petition which is unlikely ever to be looked at, take a few more moments to contact Facebook directly. They don’t care about petitions, but if they see that enough people care about this issue to contact them directly, they may do something, if only to avoid the inconvenience of having to deal with it.
However, the very best suggestion I have seen was posted by one Heather Freysdottir who suggests that people directly contact Interpol. These pages are not just distasteful –they are advocating murder, and real murders are happening.
You can contact Interpol here: http://www.interpol.int/Forms/Contact_INTERPOL
Write a polite but thorough letter. Do not be emotional. It is recommended that you include the relevant links given above, one or more screen shot of the site and its activities, and talk about the fact that these pages are in fact advocating real violence. Also, include some examples of that violence. You can find MANY MANY MANY examples here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/advocacyagainstwitchhunts/
Again, emphasize that this is not objectionable only because it is Hate Speech, but also because it a real world campaign of actual violence.
In my opinion these two acts are the single most relevant things you can do: keep contacting Facebook, and contact Interpol. Please take the time necessary to do them.
Now I remarked earlier that some of what I have to say might be unpopular, and here it comes. No, it wasn't just that online petitions are political masturbation. There is something much bigger here.
I am very glad to see people finally get upset about this. I am very disturbed by why they are upset –namely, that it is finally “in our face”.
Our community has known about this issue FOR YEARS. A number of prominent people, myself included, have been trying to get people to see how horrible this is, and what a threat it ultimately poses to our community when it eventually comes to our doorstep, FOR YEARS. Although some have listened, the majority of reactions have been along the lines of “This doesn’t concern us”, “Those aren’t our Witches”, “We don’t care about ‘Those People’ over there”.
Now –just as we warned- it is getting closer to our doorstep. Here it is right on our Facebook. And we are concerned. We are horrified. We are outraged. We are also rather late to the dance.
These Facebook pages are not the problem. They are a symptom. Yes, it is good and important to have the removed. But removing them does not really address the core issues that created them. This is not an aberration. This is not a handful of nuts. This is not a “third world problem”. This is not “Those people”.
This IS a major international movement that is growing in real world power and effectiveness. It is well funded, and receives a great deal of financial support from certain churches in the US.
Remember the Sarah Palin / Thomas Muthi flap? Thomas Muthi was a Witch Hunter funded in part by Palin’s Church. Ever heard of Helen Ukpabio? She is one of the most notorious Witch Hunters in Africa – appears regularly in the US. This is not, and has never been, just a problem “over there.”
When we have known this was going on for years, why did we have to wait till it was in our face to get upset? Why could we not have gotten upset for "Those People"? When these Facebook pages are gone, will we forget about this and think that the issue is over?
The issue is Christian Dominionism. It is a serious problem in the world today. By all means be upset about these Facebook pages and get them down. Use direct action as described above -it will be most effective. But once the pages are down, do not think for a moment that this problem has gone away just because the symptom is removed.
We must stop thinking this is “not our problem”. It is, and has long been, very much our problem, and it requires sustained action to prevent it becoming even more our problem. We most consistently oppose extremist fundamentalism, or we will end up living (or dying) with it.
Rev. Don Lewis