Hmong pastor detained by police in South Africa for witchcraft

Written by Staff Writer, CNN Vienna, Austria

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Kenya, South Africa, Germany – These are strange days.

US President Donald Trump has “destroyed” global trust in the presidency. Russia, North Korea and Afghanistan are quarreling over nuclear programs. And yet the UK’s Prince Harry has just shared a kiss with Meghan Markle on his wedding day

All while Europe is currently dealing with an unprecedented outbreak of pneumonia, a season linked to climate change . But even as this earthworm virus spreads, another viral ailment is plaguing tourists in South Africa.

“I’m being accused of coming to our country to partake in witchcraft,” said Meiko Edlin, an American Hmong pastor and activist, to CNN affiliate Eyewitness News.

Edlin was stopped by police near Cape Town, South Africa, while on her way to make her dream of a “Hmong wedding” — a picture-perfect union in which the bride marries a distant relative — come true.

“I was interrogated for two hours. They felt that I was an extra one that was not allowed in the hotel because of what I’m supposed to be bringing,” Edlin told Eyewitness News.

Overnight, according to Eyewitness News, police picked up Edlin and detained her for two days before she and an American pastor in South Africa were finally allowed to return to America on Tuesday.

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Cue Kwekwe Garro, a fellow American Hmong person who was detained for two days, and another person who was deported on arrival back to the United States from Cape Town.

Because it’s an Australian-based organization, the South African Tourism Company and the South African National AIDS Council jointly brokered the cajoling of the American passengers to return home. The South African company first released a statement asking the passengers to leave the country as quickly as possible.

South Africa Tourism also provided a four-hour point-of-departure notification for the US passengers.

The “Hmong-i” is in fact a Chinese term that represents a Hmong folk flower and drink, and it has been the source of incidences of “poriferous disease,” aka “leek disease,” in which tourists make dubious commitments to host foreign families of Hmong people, according to the World Health Organization.

Edlin told Eyewitness News she believes it was a misunderstanding. She said the motel where she was staying was meant to be the southern terminus of the traditional course to a Hmong wedding, and that she made the wrong turn in order to ensure her return.

“It was an initial misunderstanding, a very unfortunate misunderstanding,” Edlin told CNN. “Of course we’re very sad and very sad for them that they’re all back on American soil and I’m sure it’s hard for all of them.”

CNN has reached out to the hotel, the South African National AIDS Council and the South African Tourism Company for comment on this story.

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