how to explain the emergence of the phenomenon “child witches?”

They are the subject of scapegoats in their families. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, where almost 73% of the population lives below the poverty line, some children, according to figures from the World Bank, have been hit by a curse. Or rather, the political, economic and social context curses these children. Described as “wizards”, they are held accountable for the ills suffered by vulnerable families.

According to Unicef, the UN agency dedicated to improving the living conditions of children, “ignorance, poverty, lack of funds to cover children’s tuition fees or damage caused by war, which increases the number of orphans”Are factors that contribute to the belief in child witches. As soon as a child has sleep or behavioral disorders, a disability or a malformation, it can be considered a child witch, the UN agency specifies.

In addition to DRC

The phenomenon of child witches is not unique to the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to a report published in 2010, the problem of children accused of witchcraft affects Central Africa in general, the Central African Republic and Angola in particular. But the phenomenon is also known in Nigeria, Sierra Leone or Liberia. In a report from 2018, RFI looked at the situation of child witches in Benin and explained that in the northern part of the country, “in some societies a child born at the seat or feet, with malformations, whose mother dies during birth is considered a witch“.

An evil circle

In addition, belief in the phenomenon of child witches provides significant benefits to evangelical churches in the country. These churches, called “revival churches,” nurture faith in the supposed curse of “child witches.” The Target Institute estimates that there are approximately 13 million believers in the country, or nearly 15% of the Congolese population.

Priests offer to perform exorcisms, which cost between 5,000 and 30,000 Congolese francs (between 3 and 30 euros), reports Unicef. They promise their followers to deliver them from evil. “I will bring forth all the evil that is in the womb of your children”, Promises a priest who has been interviewed in the documentary. According to him, evil spiritsuse children because their reasoning is lower.“He is credited with freeing over 500 children from evil spirits.

My child has a problem, she has nightmares, explains a woman attending the pastor’s sermon. She fears that the demons will come to take her.“She is attending these sermons in hopes of healing her daughter,”so she can get out of this dark world”. When these so-called solutions do not give the desired effect, the children are abandoned and are on the streets. According to Unicef, there are more than 20,000 in the streets of Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC. But their exact number is hard to know.

What solutions?

Faced with the scale of the phenomenon, certain systems exist to take care of these children who have been rejected by their families. “Børnehuset” is a nursing home for these “child witches”. The authors of the documentary explain that almost 500 children have been entrusted to this center by the police for almost twenty years.

The organization, led by the Catholic Church, offers its residents workshops, such as theater. In these workshops, self-acceptance is required, to help children rebuild themselves.

We want them to understand that their suffering and their accidents do not come from their children, but that it is a reality in the stages of life.Joseph, dean of “Børnehuset”

Since 2009, the law has provided up to three years in prison for those who accuse a child of practicing witchcraft. However, this law has never been applied. Joseph, the dean of the “Children’s Home” is trying to change mentalities by sensitizing the communities where the belief in child witches is widespread. “We want them to understand that their suffering and accidents do not come from their children, but that it is a reality in the stages of life.”He explains in the documentary.

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