Sunday, June 16, 2013

Bewitched Children: A Human Rights Issue for the Church

Katherine Marshall of The Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs has a recent piece at The Huffington Post titled "Bewitched Children? A Problem the Church Should Tackle." This is a problem in the Christian community in Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but Marshall notes that this takes place in other places as well. As Marshall's essay describes it:
What is involved? The telling is painful. A community gets the idea that a child is a witch, usually because something painful has taken place, for example a death or illness or a calamity. The children so accused are subject to acid burning, they are set alight, hot wax and oil is poured over them. They may be starved to death. Children are beaten to extract a confession. Some are buried alive or drowned. The list goes on and on.

Here is a story (the name is changed) from a reputable advocacy source:

"When her aunt died, 12-year-old Belinda's mother accused Belinda of killing her aunt through witchcraft. She was taken to a church in Kinshasa, where the pastor confirmed that Belinda was indeed a 'witch' and guilty of cursing her aunt. Her mother took her home, where her uncle held her down and ran a burning iron over her back and legs while her mother looked on. When the uncle went to fetch acid to pour on the burns, Belinda fled. She spent the next two years living on the streets, before being rescued by a Christian child-care agency."
A quick Google search reveals other good sources of information describing this tragic phenomenon. ThinkAboutIt features a piece titled "Brutalities in the name of Jesus Christ," while Free African Media has a piece titled "Witch-hunts: The darkness that won't go away." 

Marshall's essay notes that Christian churches and organizations are involved in combating this problem, but much more needs to be done. In addition to helping the victims and their families, we need to not only address the casualties of this problem but also deal with the root causes, the religio-cultural beliefs and fears related to witchcraft. It would seem to me that an educational program needs to be put together to help Christian pastors and their congregations come to a new understanding, and which helps them move beyond fear to embrace the way of the love of Christ, even toward those perceived as enemies.

I have been involved in various dialogue and peacemaking efforts that dovetail with the Pagan community, such as my support of The West Memphis Three. The alleged "witch-children" is another issue that I care deeply about, and I echo Marshall's call for the church to get involved in this in greater ways. One way to do that is to get in touch with The Witchcraft & Human Rights Information Network.

If you're an Evangelical, will you join me in fighting this injustice?

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