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

Updated: Feb 27

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


Over the years, Thomas Kilian III has served Mercy Partners in various volunteer capacities, from managing life-giving projects and interning, to serving as Staff Assistant, Administrative Assistant, and Advisor. Thomas has personal relationships with our Global Partners, having previously volunteered, traveling to most of our mission points. His last return to the mission field (Uganda and Netherlands) was in September of 2018. He received a Bachelors of Science in the school professional studies, with high honor, majoring in biblical studies, general ministries, and biblical exposition. In 2018, he was ordained as an Evangelist by a church of the Restoration Movement. He can be seen at local food banks and preaching rivals at churches abroad.

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Post Drawer 458

Chatham VA






Mercy Partners is a Christian charity providing aid in conflict zones. Making God's grace evident by creating service programs that foster immediate care, sustainable aid, education, and discipleship training of native evangelists to care for their local people as equal partners.


Executive Director
Tom Kilian

Board of Directors
Kurtis Kight
Warren Grubbs

Gene Woolard

Sandie Kilian

Director of Communications

Thomas Kilian III 


Keith Wood


Virginia Charitable Organization ID



NC Secretary of State License
Certification #L201300700001
North Carolina  Trademark
Class 41 Education
Registration T-20784
USA Trademark Office
#4,256,430 class 36
Humanitarian Aid
EIN #45-2834265

Statement of Faith


• The Bible is the all-sufficient guide to becoming a friend of God and maintaining that friendship, both individually and corporately.

• The Death, Burial and Resurrection of God's only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, created the passage that all mankind can unite with their creator.


• It is only when we die to self and submit to being buried with Christ, (Rom 6:4) that we receive salvation and God's indwelling Holy Spirit.

• This burial is physical and spiritual at the same time, the physical immersion of the body led by the submitting of the human will. When we are immersed, we are saved from sin and enter a covenant, an agreement, as we continue to submit to God's Holy Spirit which guides us in all truth. Outside of this death, there is no entry or identity in Christ Jesus.