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Child Witches: How Ancient Superstitions Are Leading to Child Abuse

Submitted by on August 30, 2010 – 12:39 pm

There is a disturbing new trend of child abuse happening in Africa and in African immigrant communities in the United Kingdom. Children are being accused of witchcraft or demon possession, and families are paying exorbitant fees to have their child exorcised by a religious leader. Religious beliefs are excusing child abuse, and this practice by religious charlatans is severely damaging children emotionally, psychologically, and physically.

When an African family suffers a loss or has a string of bad luck, sometimes they will attribute it to a bad spirit or a demon. They look for something supernatural to blame for the death or misfortune. According to groups working in Nigeria, they suspect children first because they believe that a spirit can enter a child, transform them into snakes or other dangerous animals, and then inflict harm on their family. Children with conditions like Down syndrome, autism, epilepsy, and physical disabilities are also often accused of demon possession.

The family goes to a pastor and asks if the child is possessed. Preying on cultural superstitions, the pastor claims that the child is indeed possessed with a demon and must undergo an expensive treatment. Treatment can mean anything from prayer to beating the child, pouring boiling hot water on their face, pouring petrol into their eyes and ears, and sexual abuse. Once the pastor has received their payment, they tell the parents that their child’s condition is irreversible. At this point, some Nigerian pastors will cut off one of the child’s fingers with a machete to indicate to the entire community that this child is possessed by an evil spirit. Some children are simply abandoned by their families while others are attacked or killed by people in the community who fear the child’s “evil spirit.”

There are groups in Nigeria and the U.K. that are trying to educate lower income families and rescue children from abusive situations, but in Nigeria, they are running into problems with the local government who deny that abuse is going on. Government officials have stated that Nigeria’s new Child Right’s bill has solved the problem, and they claim that their community is being smeared by NGOs who are “making money for themselves.” The truth is that most of these orphanages being run by NGOs have to turn away children because they hardly have enough money to take care of the children already in their care. As for the Child Right’s bill, there have been arrests since it went into effect, but at this time, no one has been prosecuted.

In the United Kingdom, abuse is less severe physically, but the stigma of being labeled a witch and being abused by their own family can do irreparable damage to a child psychologically. AFRUCA (Africans Unite Against Child Abuse) has been working with lawmakers in the United Kingdom to crack down on abusive exorcisms and criminalize accusing children of witchcraft.

AFRUCA, Stepping Stones Nigeria, and the Child’s Rights and Rehabilitation Network are all working to end this cruel practice that turns parents and communities against their own children. To learn more about AFRUCA, go to http://www.afruca.org. For Stepping Stones Nigeria, go to http://www.steppingstonesnigeria.org/, and for the Child’s Rights and Rehabilitation Network, go to http://www.crarn.net/.

Watch this propaganda video “End of the Wicked” made by prominent African preacher Helen Ukpabio about children and witchcraft. She believes in witchcraft and thinks that her work is driving away evil spirits.

Click here to watch Journeyman Pictures follow a group that rescues children accused of witchcraft.

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