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Hyena Men and the Sacrifice of Infants: traditional beliefs and the call of Christ’s disciples

In 2013, the Executive Director of MERCY PARTNERS, Tom Kilian, met with the Republic of Ethiopia's Human Rights Commission's Chief Commissioner and Ambassador, Teruneh Zenna, in Gambella, Ethiopia (pictured above). The discussion topic centered on the need for people of traditional belief to embrace the Creator's love, an act that requires us to view each life as sacred as immorality runs deep.

There is a Malawi tradition for village elders of communities to hire a male sex worker, traditionally known as a "hyena." The "hyena" then forces girls who have reached puberty to have sex. Village elders do not see the act as rape but as a form of ritual sexual "cleansing." Although this news has shaken many, we are not so surprised.

Furthermore, in the particular region where they met, tribal decisions to kill children in the Omo River Valley is straightforward. The sacrifice of one infant for the good of the entire tribe is a rite that some elders witness hundreds of times throughout their lives. There is no other reality for them.

Ambassador Teruneh shared, "Bad health of a baby is to determine if the top teeth come in before his bottom teeth, the baby boy is cursed and will need to be killed according to traditional belief."

When Tom asked what Mercy Partners could do to provide help to the Human Rights Commission, the Ambassador's reply was simple.

"Non Governmental Organizations and Missionaries are positioned in the city centers and urban areas, but not many are found elsewhere."

Tom responded, "You mean nothing practical is done in the bush?" The Ambassador sadly nodded and said, "185 children have been killed this year, some tossed in the river." He was deeply troubled by the immorality of his people.

This conversation came after a brief presentation to the commissioner of the ministry MERCY PARTNERS conducts in South Sudan. Simple, practical bush evangelism provides a hand up rather than a handout. We are penetrating remote areas with the Good News of Jesus, places of no roads, electricity, or safe water, literally, the ends of the earth. Tom shared, "Many NGOs fail because they do not permit the message of a caring, Living God who has created all with purpose. Meanwhile, missionaries fail to meet the practical needs of "heart change," promoting the fallacy that one must be educated and westernized before receiving the Bible. And as the Ambassador has defined, missionaries are sticking to city centers' resources."

Before the meeting ended, Tom prayed for peace and protection over the Ambassador as they embraced. MERCY PARTNERS will continue to overcome traditional beliefs by partnering with the Loving Creator and show mercy regardless of resources.


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Thomas, Director of Communications for Mercy Partners


Thomas Kilian III, as Director of Communication, has personal relationships with our Global Partners having traveled to most of our mission points. He is degreed with a Bachelors of Science in the school professional studies, with high honor, majoring in biblical studies, general ministries, and biblical exposition. He's an ordained Evangelist and is the author of the forthcoming book Start being, Stop Doing (

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