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Taboo Dooms Newborns to Be Killed People familiar with the Omo Valley tribes near the southern border of Ethiopia tell us these people seldom speak aloud about the local taboo called Mingi.

This taboo dooms many newborns to death.

A child born out of wedlock, for example, bears a curse, according to this taboo. Likewise, any visibly disabled baby is seen as a curse to its family.

But it doesn't stop there. Mingi rejects a toddler as a curse-bearer if her top teeth come in before the bottom ones. Twins are also considered cursed — at least one of them, and often both.

Cursed children are "put out" of their village, by ruling of the elders. They may be left in the bush as prey for wild animals. Sometimes their mouths are filled with dirt to silence their cries. People familiar with Mingi tell us that a "cursed" child may be starved or drowned.

In 2012 the Kara tribe outlawed this sort of infanticide, but other tribes in the valley still practice Mingi, fearing that a cursed child will afflict the entire tribe with famine, disease, or drought.

Published reports tell us that as many as 300 Omo Valley kids die every year because of Mingi beliefs.

Reading about this unthinkable carnage stirred at least two immediate reactions in my soul.

My first response was to wonder how information like this would impact those who keep telling us that one religion is just as good as another. (Perhaps, if they were honest with us, they mean that one religion is just as bad as another.)

Maybe I'm wrong, but my next reflection was that any educated, compassionate citizen in my community would be deeply troubled to learn what is happening to so many Mingi-marked children. Surely this slaughter of innocents would strike any of us as ignorant, mindless, bloody savagery.

Why would all of us react in this way? Because all of us — even outspoken unbelievers — uphold traditional Christian estimates of the value of human life.

As I pondered the matter further, however, it struck me that a non-believer would have to consider the Omo Valley tribes to be mild and benevolent folks compared to pro-choice Christians in the U.S. today.

After all, these Ethiopians who fear the Mingi curse are killing only 300 children a year, while more "enlightened" believers in almost any single American state will end the lives of ten times that many babies for reasons that sound far more callous and selfish.

Gene Shelhurne mav be addressed at 2310 Anna St., Amarillo, TX 79106-4717 or at Get his books or magazines at

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Original Publication Date: November 5, 2015

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