A series of horrific murders and mutilations in Africa over the past two years has led a Canadian businessman, Peter Ash, to form a foundation called "Under the Same Sun." The Africans Mr. Ash is helping are afflicted with albinism (a rare genetic disorder that leaves the skin, hair, and eyes without pigment), but the real threat is not the disease but instead belief in magic.
Many Americans only think of witches and witchcraft around Halloween, perhaps conjuring images of warted old crones in pointy hats cackling as they ride broomsticks. But in many countries belief in witches is common, and black magic is considered part of everyday life. In Africa, witch doctors are consulted not only for healing diseases, but also for placing (or removing) magic curses or bringing luck-much like many psychics and fortunetellers in America.
In the East African countries of Tanzania and Burundi, at least fifty albinos were murdered for their body parts last year, according to a recent Red Cross report titled "Through Albino Eyes." An albino's arms, fingers, genitals, ears, and blood are highly prized on the black market, believed to bestow magical powers. In November 2009, four people were arrested and sentenced to death in northern Tanzania for killing an albino man to harvest his body parts. A month earlier, albino hunters beheaded a ten-year-old boy and hacked off his leg.