Authorities have arrested two people for performing an exorcism in Peshawar, Pakistan. The country has launched a crackdown against the practice, arguing that exorcists and “wizards” are deceiving the public.
“Political authorities have arrested two persons for exorcism and seized their tools and emulate being used by them to deceive public,” Pakistan Point News reported Tuesday. Authorities added that a “crackdown has been started to apprehend those who are deceiving public at large by pretending themselves to be exorcist and capable of driving out evil spirits by different methods of witchcraft.”
The crackdown goes beyond exorcism, however. The unidentified law enforcement spokesperson also told Pakistan Point News that “so far 12 wizards accused of witchcraft have been arrested by political administration.”
The story did not reveal any details about the exorcists or their alleged exorcism, only noting that “two persons have [been] arrested recently on pretext of involving in exorcism.”
Responding to reportedly rising demand, especially in Italy, the Roman Catholic Church is launching an exorcism training initiative in Vatican City this month. Even so, the Catholic Church exercises a great deal of discretion in directing the practice. Exorcists are required to work with physicians to make sure no medical treatment would fix the issue in question.
Last month, Pope Francis defrocked 9 Ukrainian monks for engaging in rogue exorcisms at the direction of a “priestess.”
Unofficial exorcisms have resulted in deaths across the world. A German father stomped his 25-year-old daughter to death and raped her corpse in one case. A South African mother beat her baby to death with a whip and a Bible in another. Exorcism is not a uniquely Christian practice, either.
In India, a “black magic” exorcism ritual failed to save a 24-year-old breast cancer patient, leading her family to report the incident to police. In Thailand, police are searching for three (likely Buddhist) monks after a woman died of a seizure after their “holy water” exorcism. In Britain, a Muslim exorcist claimed to have carried out more than 3,000 exorcisms. A “non-denominational” exorcist in Hollywood does not follow any one religious teaching on demon possession, suggesting that every single person on earth has been possessed at some point.
The arrest for exorcism and crackdown on alleged “wizards” in Pakistan merely represents one aspect of the intersection between supernatural practices and lawbreaking. While the Catholic Church often takes the brunt of attacks on exorcism — calling it a dangerous and superstitious practice — the numerous regulations around its ritual of demon ousting may prevent tragic deaths and various lawbreaking.
Demons may or may not exist and they may or may not possess people — the Bible records many instances of demon possession — but not all exorcisms are created equal. As for “wizards,” perhaps too many Pakistanis have been reading Harry Potter.