They are the subject of scapegoats in their families. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where nearly 73% of the population lives below the poverty line, according to World Bank figures, some children are cursed. Or rather, the political, economic and social context curses these children. Described as “witches,” they are responsible for the ills of vulnerable families.
According to UNICEF, a United Nations agency dedicated to improving the living conditions of children, “Ignorance, poverty, and the lack of means to cover school fees for children or the damage caused by war increases the number of orphans.“Factors that contribute to belief in child witches. Once a child has sleep disturbances, behavioral disturbances, a disability or a malformation, it may be considered a child witch, as defined by the United Nations agency.”
Outside the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The phenomenon of child witches is not unique to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to a report published in 2010, the problem of children accused of witchcraft affects Central Africa in general, and the Central African Republic and Angola in particular. But this phenomenon is also known in Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia. In a 2018 report, the RFI looked at the situation of child witches in Benin, explaining that in the north of the country, “In some societies, a child who was born with a seat or two feet with deformities and whose mother died in childbirth is considered a witch“.
Moreover, belief in the phenomenon of witch children brings great benefits to the country’s evangelical churches. These churches, called “Renaissance churches,” nurture belief in the supposed curse of “witch children.” Target estimates that there are approximately 13 million believers in the country, or roughly 15% of the Congolese population.
Sponsors offer to carry out exorcisms, the cost of which is between 5,000 and 30,000 Congolese francs (between 3 and 30 euros), UNICEF reports. They promise their followers to save them from evil. “Take out all the evil in your children’s womb“, Promises of the Reverend was interviewed in the documentary. According to him, evil spiritsUsing children because their level of thinking is lower.He is credited with freeing more than 500 children from evil spirits.
“My child has a problem and she has nightmares Explains a woman who attended the priest’s sermon. She is afraid that the demons will come to take her.“She attends these sermons hoping for her daughter’s recovery,”So you can get out of this dark world“. When these so-called solutions do not achieve the desired effect, children are abandoned and find themselves on the street. According to UNICEF, there are more than 20,000 people on the streets of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But it is difficult to know exactly how many.
What are the solutions?
In the face of the scale of the phenomenon, there are certain systems of care for those children who have been rejected by their families. The Children’s House is a foster home for these “witch children”. The authors of the documentary explain that nearly 500 children were assigned to this center by the police nearly twenty years ago.
The organization, run by the Catholic Church, offers workshops to its residents, like a theater. In these workshops, self-acceptance is required to help children rebuild themselves.
We want them to understand that their suffering and misfortune do not come from their children, but rather are a fact of life.Joseph Dean “Child House”
Since 2009, the law provides for a sentence of up to three years in prison for anyone accusing a child of witchcraft. However, this law was not enforced. Joseph, the dean of the House of Children tries to change mindsets, by going to educate the communities in which the belief in witch children is widespread. “We want them to understand that their suffering and misfortune do not come from their children, but rather are a fact of life.,” he explains in the documentary.