The University of Zambia denied on Wednesday that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is funding a degree program at the institution to train students in witchcraft.
Damaseke Chibale, a spokesman for the university said in a statement to the Lusaka Times, which previously reported that UNESCO was funding witchcraft studies at the school, said UNESCO is providing the university with $340,000 in funding to develop a degree program in Intangible Cultural Heritage studies connected to the organization's Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage that was passed by the UNESCO General Conference in 2003.
"At that time, the international community recognized the need to raise awareness about cultural manifestations and expressions that until then had no legal or programmatic framework to protect them," the organization explained.
The convention recognizes intangible heritage "such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe, and traditional craftsmanship knowledge and techniques."
"Zambia, as a nation and a people, is rich in these intangible cultural heritage which include Gule Wa Mukulu and Makishi Dance, which were inscribed on the UNESCO Safeguarding List in 2006," Chibale said.
Among the acts that constitute witchcraft under Zambia law is using "non-natural means ... to discover where and in what manner any property supposed or alleged to have been stolen or lost may be found or to name or indicate any person as a thief or as the perpetrator of any crime or any other act complained of."
Lily Gray, a representative from UNESCO's liaison office to the United Nations in New York said she wasn't aware of the specifics concerning the funding of the University of Zambia's degree program but didn't believe witchcraft would be funded.
"I would be doubtful that anything that can qualify as witchcraft can meet the criteria (for funding)," she said.
The Bible according to Got Questions describes witchcraft as Satan's counterfeits to holy spirituality. Under the Mosaic Law the penalty for practicing witchcraft was death.
"Witchcraft is Satan's realm, and he excels in counterfeiting what God does. When Moses performed miracles before Pharaoh, the magicians did the same things through demonic power (Exodus 8:7). At the heart of witchcraft is the desire to know the future and control events that are not ours to control. Those abilities belong only to the Lord. This desire has its roots in Satan's first temptation to Eve: 'You can be like God' (Genesis 3:5)," the ministry explained.
"To become involved in witchcraft in any way is to enter Satan's realm. Seemingly 'harmless' modern entanglements with witchcraft can include horoscopes, Ouija boards, Eastern meditation rituals, and some video and role-playing games. Any practice that dabbles in a power source other than the Lord Jesus Christ is witchcraft," it adds.