The scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail of the villagers dragging a woman to a knight screaming “Burn her!” is obviously a humorous exaggeration. Long gone are the days of burning people at the stake who stand accused of witchcraft, but in many places marginalized people are still persecuted for consorting with witches. In Nigeria, some Pentecostal pastors have incorporated ancient African beliefs about witchcraft and demonic possession with their specific brand of Christianity resulting in a warped campaign of violence directed at Nigeria’s most vulnerable population, children.
Children and babies who are branded as evil, or witches, are being abused, abandoned, and
murdered. Families who have fallen on hardships, such as poverty, death of a family member, or other hardships believe that these things only happen because the family is cursed. Families will reach out to pastors who specialize in “witch hunting” and they will “examine” the child to determine if they are a witch, for a fee. The child is taken to a church for the exorcism, and there they are abused, tortured, starved, suffer extreme dehydration, made to drink toxic liquids (in one documented instance the child had to drink cement), and even murdered.
As of 2007 the BBC aired a documentary, Saving Africa’s Witch Children, with estimated that 15,000 children in the Niger Delta (not including the rest of the continent) were forced into the streets. These children are abandoned by their families and shunned by the community. According to Safe Child Africa, a humanitarian organization trying to stop this horrific trend, “Some children literally vanish—they are killed and buried or taken into the bush and abandoned to their fate. Some ‘vanish’ to the streets where they are vulnerable to further abuse such as gang violence, drugs, and trafficking.”
For more information on the abandoned children of Africa and information on how you can help, go to SafeChildAfrica.com.
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