Danielle Welch reports on the work of SCWA – tackling the issue of child witchcraft accusations that devastate the lives of countless children around the world.
For the last four years, my diary has featured regular appointments for a “witchcraft meeting” … more accurately labelled as ‘Steering Group for Stop Child Witchcraft Accusations Coalition’, of which SGM Lifewords is a part.
The rise in accusations of witchcraft against children is a twenty-year phenomenon that doesn’t get talked about very widely. It’s a huge and complex issue, and it devastates the lives of countless children around the world. Cases have been reported in 32 countries across four continents – though accusations are particularly prevalent in areas of West and Central Africa. While adults have been accused of witchcraft for centuries, accusations against children are a relatively new or emerging trend. Once accused of being a witch, children can experience all kinds of trauma, ranging from marginalisation and rejection from their family or community, to outright physical abuse – even prolonged torture – in the name of deliverance. In the most extreme cases, children have been killed.
Response from the streets
SGM Lifewords first got involved in the question of how to respond to children traumatised in this way, through the work of our Pavement Project programme in DR Congo. Unicef estimates that 20,000 children living on the streets in Kinshasa alone, are there because they have been accused of witchcraft. Bethany Children’s Trust (BCT) was working with partners in DR Congo, who were meeting more and more street-living children accused of being witches. Because they knew our work with Pavement Project elsewhere in the world, BCT asked if we could help their local partners. While everyone was concerned to learn more and think about how to respond to the root causes of the problem, first there was the pressing issue of how to help children who had already suffered incredible trauma and abuse.
Witchcraft-related stories from DR Congo (and elsewhere) are horrifying. I’ve met ‘seasoned’ workers who are still moved to tears by what children are suffering in the name of deliverance: “I’ve been doing this for 20 years”, one said, “and it still wrecks me.” And it should. Accusations of witchcraft go right to the heart of a child’s identity and sense of self.
Will the green bag work?
Pavement Project is incredibly effective in helping children recover self-worth, and see themselves as Jesus sees them. But I’ll admit we were nervous about whether a Bible-based approach would really help children whose sense of self had been destroyed in the name of Christian belief. Four years on, I’m delighted to say that it has! We have seen (and documented) the same 90% ‘success rate’ with Pavement Project counselling in DR Congo as we have in any other context where we’re working.
There’s not time to tell you here about the other work that SCWA is doing to address the causes of witchcraft accusations against children. But please do read the Boyd Report – it makes a far better and nuanced explanation than I can give you here, and it directs you to ways you can pray and help.
Let’s do more!
For our part, we’re blessed to have been able to provide Pavement Project counselling and tools in DR Congo, as one way of responding to this extraordinary issue. Thank you for your support that makes this possible. We would like to do more, to equip more partners, and make sure children receive the love and care they need – in the name of Jesus. If you are able to make a gift specifically towards this work in DR Congo, you can do so here.