Thursday, January 31, 2008

Religion 'gone crazy' in Belize

Living in Belize, we've come across some crazy situations with regards to superstitions. People in our local community believe in witchcraft, demon possessions, etc. It seems to be that many of the (rural) communities in Belize have blended the message of the evangelical missionaries with their old traditions/religions and/or superstitions. All that shouting about the devil (something the US missionaries seem to do a lot) is at least part to blame for crazy situations like the following story of today's Channel 7 newscast:

Stories of spirit possession in children are often things of village lore – and when the come across our news desk, we look very critically at the reports. But it became a story in Hattieville today when the strange behavior of 4 children forced the entire school to close down and sent 369 children home. What’s more the District Education Officer says it’s authentic! But is it really? Keith Swift went looking for answers.

Keith Swift Reporting,The classrooms were empty and the playground was deserted today at the Hattieville Government School. That is because since Monday 4 students have been possessed by what school officials are calling an “evil spirit.”

12-year-old Aquila - who we spoke to in the presence of her mother - is one of them.
Aquila, Claimed She Was Possessed“I was with my friends and afterwards I started to talk about demons and then I felt something in my belly, something was in my belly moving, and then it started to make me tremble up and then I started to scream out. I didn’t want to scream but I had to make a little noise. I was screaming, my friend took me to the office and they tried to calm me down but I couldn’t calm down. I was trembling and I couldn’t stop.”

Keith SwiftWhat did you think was happening?
Aquila,“Well I think it was some kind of spirit that was trying to take over me.”

And if you don’t believe Aquila, 11 year old Richard Wade and his cousin 12 year old Devon Wade, who we met on the street playing because of their unexpected holiday, say they saw it – and they weren’t the only ones who did.
Devon Wade, “I saw a little girl Aquila on the ground going on crazy and she was spinning around her head and it was just frightening.”
Keith Swift,What did your teacher tell you?
Devon Wade,“She told us to stay in our class.”
Richard Wade,“She locked up the class because she didn’t want any demon coming in we. And then after that they just told us to get our school bag and go home.”
Devon Wade,“Our teacher is like a really good Christian, Ms. Mejia, she is a really good teacher and a Christian so she give, sometimes she prays for us and like that so that nothing goes in us.”

Richard Wade,“He just started to hold his head and was screaming how he is tired of this thing in me and how he wanted it to come out and he started to slam up the desk.”
Devon Wade,“And you know when like demon gets into you, you get stronger, he was lifting some beavy beavy desks. So I don’t know what went on because he was just scary. I was really frightened. I didn’t know that would happen. I didn’t know demon could come to Hattieville.”

Shanine Holland,“Yesterday evening around 5 o’clock to 5:30 when I was going to Belize, I saw the young lady Aquila just started to go on crazy and everything. She just started to cuss her. She said nobody can stop her from doing what she wants. That is all I see. She was flinging herself on the ground and in the drain.”

Janelle Thompson,“I came out here this morning and then I saw the young lady run from out of her classroom towards her mother and she bit her at her neck and then the blood came out and then she started to throw about herself, know her mom, and all the kids started to run and cry.”
There was a mass exodus from the school. This afternoon when we visited only teachers were there. Jahmor Lopez is the district education officer and he told us the ministry of education says they are trying to contain the situation.

Jahmor Lopez, District Education Officer“We were in contact with members of staff, telling them to remain calm, to try to deal with the situation. I believe that the staff members on the ground did an excellent job in trying to maintain order but things got a little bit out of hand when a relative of one of the children who is affected apparently was trying to perform some kind of, trying to exorcise the demon right on the compound. I think at that point students got very very alarmed because I think the woman shouted that the demon is here in the compound and I think that is when students began running. It was pandemonium and there were some parents in the vicinity and so a lot of parents came for their kids and others just dismissed themselves.
I was informed that when they had attended church that the manifestation started there and so it seems to be something involving evil spirit so clearly we would have to get in touch with the clergy, we would have to get in touch with somebody who will be ready to do such a job, to exorcise the demon. We just can’t call on anybody. You have to fast, you have to meditate, you have to prepare for spiritual warfare.”

Keith Swift,Sir but demon possessions don’t happen.
Jahmor Lopez,“Keith is that your position, you are telling me? You believe in good? That is your position.”

But Pastor Mark Somerville from the village Baptist Church – where the possession allegedly originated - has a simpler explanation.

Pastor Mark Somerville, Hattieville Government School“They were affected by something and then when we tried to find out what was the situation that was causing them to divide then they came up and behaved like they had some kind of unclean spirit but that doesn’t say they are possessed by these spirits.”

Keith Swift,So these kids aren’t demon possessed?

Pastor Mark Somerville,“Well I would not say they are not influenced by some sort of evil spirit but to say that they are demonized – then I am saying that they are not. They are not demonized.”

Keith Swift,Is it safe for these children to return to school?
Jahmor Lopez,“Certainly. In my view I believe it is perfectly safe. The problems that the kids have been experiencing, these are students in standard six, I was told there is one student from standard five. But it is not the entire school, it is a number of students from one classroom. And so there is no need for all the students to stay away from school. If it was such that there is something on the compound then I would be affected, all the other members of staff would be affected. There is no need for us to be alarmed and take alarmist’s approach. We have four students and we need to address the issue with those four students. It is not a thing with the entire school so we need to get that clear. I am appealing to parents, send your kids to school and we will continue to monitor the situation.”

The Ministry of Education says it will be seeking treatment for the four children.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Aruban life

Aidan loves having his aunt and his nan so nearby. Strangely enough, he calls them both 'Opa', which is Dutch for grandad. Oh well, guess he's a tat confused.

Lucas has been struggling the most with our move, but he is just starting to get settled in now. He has started school (finally) and is loving it. It's a brilliant Dutch private school, called 'De Schakel'. So he should be talking Dutch in no time, seeing as he's already got the basis of it, with me talking Dutch on and off to him since he was born.

Our dear friends Roy and Cindy came down from Rochester, New York to stay with us. They brought their son Joshua along for a few days. We had never met Joshua before, but he turned out to be a wonderful guy. They are such a nice family : )

Chilling at 'Fisherman's hut' with Cindy. This is the place where we spend many weekends...

Our little pirate Aidan

Still in love after all these years. If only we could remember for sure how long we've been together. Has it been 11 years now?