News / Africa

Children Accused of Witchcraft Left Vulnerable in Central African Republic

A 15-year old boy accused of witchcraft in the Central African Republic came to a home for street children in Bangui after suffering abuse at home. Photo: G. Joselow (VOA)A 15-year old boy accused of witchcraft in the Central African Republic came to a home for street children in Bangui after suffering abuse at home. Photo: G. Joselow (VOA)
x
A 15-year old boy accused of witchcraft in the Central African Republic came to a home for street children in Bangui after suffering abuse at home. Photo: G. Joselow (VOA)
A 15-year old boy accused of witchcraft in the Central African Republic came to a home for street children in Bangui after suffering abuse at home. Photo: G. Joselow (VOA)
Gabe Joselow
— Eleven-year-old Gracia sits in a chair that is two sizes too big for her, dangling her skinny legs and speaking with poise and wisdom about a life that has not been easy.
 
She was born poor; her parents died when she was very young. After that, people who knew her say she began to act erratically. She had strange dreams.
 
Gracia says the uncle she lived with accused her of being a witch.

“When I was with my family,” she says, “they beat me and accused me of sorcery because I would go out at night. That's why they brought me here.”

Gracia now lives at a center for vulnerable children outside of Bangui. She says she is treated like the others there. And unless she talks about it, there is no way to know her background, except maybe from the two small scars over her left eye - cuts from a razor blade that was used in a exorcism ritual.
 
Gracia says she does not believe in witchcraft. But Michel Gbegbe, president of the organization running the center, says he does.

“We have received children who did not know they were witches,” he says. “But then they start to realize it as they develop their sorcery and then they understand it.”
 
Gbegbe says Christian values are at the center of everything he does here. He says children accused of witchcraft are “healed” through prayer and counseling.

Exorcism and the Church
 
Although the concept of witchcraft has a history in some African cultures, here in the Central African Republic and in other countries, belief in witchcraft has increased along with the number of Christian revivalist churches.
 
The United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, has documented many examples of pastors spraying children with gasoline, administering poison to children and beating them in elaborate exorcism rituals. There have also been cases of children being left for days or even weeks inside of churches with little or no food.

Of course there is money to be made off of these rituals and both Christian and so-called “traditional healers” charge a relative fortune for their services.
 
Fosca Guilidori, the Chief of Child Protection for UNICEF in the Central African Republic, says families here sometimes turn to witchcraft as a way to explain the changes taking place in a society that is rapidly becoming more urban.
 
“I think in a way it's a reaction to the modernity,” she says, “to the fact that people are even more poor than before, and it is a way that society is dealing with the modernity and globalization.”

A Way Out

Guilidori says children often are cast out of their homes, and can run into trouble with the law like other street children who often turn to prostitution or stealing to survive.

She says reintegration into the community is key for helping children who are accused of witchcraft, starting with finding host families to adopt them.
 
“Of course, it takes a long period,” she says ,”but it seems like the community is starting to understand the child is with his foster family and nothing has happened to them, so maybe he [or she] is not a witch.”

The number of children labeled witches is hard to determine. Guilidori says they know only of those who end up in the juvenile justice system.

This was the case for a 15-year-old boy at a center for homeless children in Bangui said his uncle beat him with a piece of wood and broke his arm after accusing him of being a witch. It was only after the police intervened that he was able to get help.

Despite it all, he says he still believes in sorcery but does not believe that he himself is a witch.

Of those children who have had encounters with the law this year in the Central African Republic, only about five percent have been accused of having ties to witchcraft.
 
Experts say that in a developing country that lacks basic services and education and has a history of conflict, too many children, witches or not, remain vulnerable.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid