Displaying items by tag: Africa
Stop Child Witch Accusations (SCWA) is a coalition of Christian individuals and agencies responding to the reality of children experiencing serious harm or the threat of harm due to accusations of witchcraft or belief in malevolent spiritual influence. We are motivated to action through a shared concern to end the abuse and stigmatisation suffered by thousands of children who are accused of witchcraft. Our approach is to facilitate dialogue between local people and within local forums, supporting communities to come to their own understandings of this problem and how best to address it and to contribute to the development of effective, practical responses and advocacy resources, adaptable for use in different localities and contexts.
Over the last two years we have been working closely with church leaders based in DR Congo, and a group of African theologians concerned with this issue. The attached report describes our approach, activities and future direction. It is intended to demonstrate an effective and adaptable model for working with church leaders to address the issue of child witchcraft accusations.
Across the globe, children are accused of being witches. As a result, they are subjected to unimaginable abuse and torture: some are even killed. In some African nations, this phenomenon has become a societal norm. Communities in the grip of poverty, violence and conflict are prone to the belief that social ills are caused by dark forces which inhabit humans. In the search for someone to blame for their problems, people tend to scapegoat the most vulnerable in society: children are easy prey. Suspicion and fear spread like wildfire.
Small organisations in affected communities, such as those in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), are struggling to meet the complex needs of the large numbers of children subjected to these accusations. Few governments or agencies have engaged with the issue with any great commitment or effectiveness.
At the very heart of the issue are strong cultural and faith–based beliefs. Some church leaders are complicit in the ‘deliverance’ rites which subject accused children to often brutal and sustained torture. Many other church leaders are working tirelessly to stop the abuse. Yet, all too often, efforts to tackle this abuse have been hugely critical of the church, rather than engaging with it.
Stop Child Witch Accusations (SCWA) believes that the issue must be approached from a faith perspective, as well as from a human rights one. The church, often the first port of call for families who believe their child is a witch, must be engaged. There is an urgent need for a concerted, preventative approach, which identifies and addresses root causes. SCWA is a coalition of predominantly Christian, UK–based organisations involved in supporting frontline efforts to tackle this abuse in Africa. SCWA and its partners are addressing the issue in three African nations profoundly affected by this phenomenon.
Church leaders in affected communities need to be engaged and influenced to help bring about change in any harmful belief or practice they may adhere to. They need to be given an essential grounding in sound theology, children’s rights as enshrined in law, and in child development. A recent survey of 1,000 pastors in Kinshasa, DRC, found that 70 per cent of respondents knew at least one child aged five or under who had been abused as a result of witchcraft accusations. An equal number acknowledged that sermons in their churches preach that child witches do harm by their supernatural powers. These church leaders also need to be equipped with practical strategies and resources so they can become key influencers of values and attitudes, both in their congregations and communities.
SCWA’s work with African churches is underpinned by systematic research into the root causes of witchcraft accusations. It believes this is essential if responses are to be relevant, targeted and effective. The complexity of the phenomenon means that its drivers vary from country to country, even from town to town. SCWA has now developed a unique, dual–pronged approach — engaging and training pastors with specific reference to root causes identified through local research.
Please pray for the work of the SCWA and the eradication of witchcraft accusations against children as well as specifically for the following:
- Concerted and collaborative efforts by local and international communities to tackle this issue in practical ways, drawing on the learning shared in this report. Round table forums such as those piloted by SCWA need to be replicated in forums at the UN and at governmental level.
- Advocacy organisations (working at a local level) to engage positively with the church on the issue of child witch accusations.
- Funders to invest in research into roots, realities and responses. Plus more funding to develop trainers and training resources, tailored to local contexts and translated into local languages. Training needs to target more sectors of society, including police, teachers, parents and community leaders.
- Recognition and support for the many small organisations in affected communities, struggling to meet the needs of children accused of witchcraft.
- Increased advocacy at a national and regional level to promote robust judicial and legal systems in affected countries, to crack down on this abuse and end impunity for abusers.
- More strategic efforts by church authorities to ensure that all churches everywhere have child protection policies in place.
- Theological colleges to include teaching on the issue of child witch accusations and related topics in their curricula.
The issue of child witch accusations is huge and complex: the challenges it poses can appear insurmountable. But SCWA believes that, with concerted and collaborative action, change in harmful beliefs and practices will follow and the flood of accusations will recede. Its own experience has proved this is possible. It warmly invites others to join in its efforts to end this abuse that wrecks the lives of countless children.
For the rest of this report or more information, please contact:
The Bethany Children's Trust
22 Eden Street
Kingston Upon Thames
On January 29, the court sentenced Petr Jasek to life in prison for espionage, to six months in prison for spreading rumours that undermine the authority of the state, to a fine of 100,000 Sudanese Pounds (approx. USD 16,000) for undertaking NGO work without a permit, and to one year in prison each (to be served consecutively) for inciting strife between communities, for entry in and photography of military areas and equipment, and illegal entry into Sudan.
Rev. Hassan Abduraheem Kodi Taour and Mr. Abdulmonem Abdumawla were each sentenced to ten years for abetting Jasek in the crime of espionage, and one year each for inciting strife between communities and spreading rumours that undermine the authority of the state (even though the legal maximum penalty for this last crime is six months in prison). All of these sentences are to be served consecutively.
The lawyers have indicated they will appeal the sentences within 15 days.
Separately, in a court case against the threatened demolition of four Christian churches, a court ruled that the authorities must supply the lawyer for the churches with an official order for the demolition of the churches. To the lawyer's dismay, the official decision does not just involve the four churches he was representing, but also applies to another 21 places of worship (most of them churches) that are scheduled for demolition.
Christians in Sudan request prayer:
- that the three convicted Christians will know the Lord's strength and comfort during their ordeal
- for wisdom for the lawyers defending them
- for a fair appeal process, and that the three men will be acquitted soon
- for an end to the increasing pressure against churches and other religious minorities in Sudan, and that Christians will know the peace of the Lord
- that all officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him
Middle East Concern
URL for this prayer request: http://meconcern.org/2017/01/29/sudan-update-on-imprisoned-christians-8/
Rev’d Kuwa Shamal, Rev’d Hassan Abduraheem, Mr Petr Jašek, and Mr Abdulmonem Abdumawla were arrested in December 2015 and held in prison on charges of national security crimes. They were charged with helping fund medical treatment for a student injured in a demonstration. The trial, which started in August 2016, has been subject to several delays and postponements. Rev’d Shamal was acquitted on 2 January 2017, and released due to lack of evidence. Christian Solidarity Worldwide said: ‘We continue to press for the immediate release of these three men and are deeply concerned at the unnecessary delays. They have committed no crimes and have been held unjustly for over a year, simply for an act of kindness.’
A worker for Christ wanted to write about recent news, but didn’t. Firstly it was too depressing, and secondly there was a fear of information getting into the wrong hands with the possibility of personal danger. The desperation is to get people praying. Asked for their greatest fears, most replied, ‘being hacked to death and wasting away through starvation.’ Burundi has the highest rate of malnutrition in the world. The worker and colleagues need prayers for protection and wisdom in complex situations. He write: ‘“Why are you still here?” Because God calls us to weep with those who weep, to be a voice for the voiceless and to “not love our lives so much as to shrink from death”. (Rev 12:11) “How do you see things going?” Not well in human terms but, through the eyes of faith, I still believe that God is on His throne and that the Church is the hope of the world as He has stationed His best troops in Burundi. “What about your family?” We have agreed to live by faith, and want to model this to our children as we stand alongside the precious suffering Burundi community. Will you stand with us in prayer, if you have the emotional energy? I am here, amongst other things, to fly the flag for Burundi. Can you see it waving? It’s small, soiled, stinking, fear-ridden, torn, blood-and-tear-stained, but look more closely….that is not the whole story.’ See also
A Nigerian air force jet has mistakenly bombed a camp for displaced people near Rann in the north-east of the country where the military is engaged in what it calls its final push against Boko Haram. Up to 100 people were killed and dozens more injured. The dead include six Red Cross employees. The Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) aid agency said it is treating 120 injured people and is seeking help with medical evacuations. ‘This large-scale attack on vulnerable people who have already fled from extreme violence is shocking and unacceptable’, said the MSF director of operations. A Red Cross spokesman stated that the agency's dead employees had been ‘part of a team that had brought in desperately-needed food for over 25,000 displaced persons’. A spokesman for the Nigerian military said that some ‘remnants’ of Boko Haram had been detected outside Rann, and the military had acted to eliminate them. He said that after the mistake was realised, they were ‘all in pain’.
A final deadline has been declared in Gambia, a country in flux with two presidents and West African troops poised to take action. Outgoing president Yahya Jammeh has refused to step down since losing the December election to rival Adama Barrow, who has been sworn in as president in the Gambian embassy in Senegal. Troops from several West African countries, backed by the UN, have entered Gambia in support of Barrow, but have given Jammeh a few more hours to step aside before taking further action. Unless last-ditch negotiations are successful this morning, military intervention is regarded as inevitable. Jammeh has held power in Gambia since a military coup in 1994. See
Last year’s maize crop failure is still proving debilitating: it takes more than a season to fully recover from the ravages of drought. Although the rains arrived on cue in November last year to plant this season’s crops, many farmers had either been forced to eat their seed, or had no harvest from the previous year to eat. Their livestock herds were decimated and the lack of jobs meant families also had no money to purchase their farming inputs, let alone food. Barnabas Fund has provided seed, fertiliser and training so that farmers could plant on time. Hope has returned, but the crisis still simmers and the outcome of the harvest will be critical. A new strain of stalk-borer insect attacking the maize is also a threat. How can farmers survive until the April/May harvest? Barnabas is working closely with local churches to ensure that they are not forgotten or left hungry during this crucial period. Violet, a farmer and mother of five, is appreciative: ‘We want to thank God for providing us with food for our family - our lives have changed. We have seen God’s hand through our brothers.’
Four men have been arrested in connection with the suicide attack at the St Peter and St Paul church in Cairo last month, which killed 28 people and injured over 40. Eleven people are still in the hospital. Egypt's Interior Ministry says one of the four men arrested has links to the Muslim Brotherhood, though the group has denied any involvement. Hours after the attack, the terror group IS said one of its soldiers, named Abu Abdallah-al-Masri, was responsible for carrying out the attack, the worst on Egypt's Coptic Christian community since 2011. Despite this claim by IS, Egypt appears eager to pin the blame on the outlawed Brotherhood. Damage to the church was repaired just before 7 January, the day Coptic Christians celebrate Christmas. The renovations were undertaken by Egypt's army under orders of president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who has promised to rebuild all churches that have been destroyed or damaged since 2013.
On Wednesday the Nigerian army said it had arrested 963 persons suspected to be Boko Haram terrorists during an operation between 4 and 9 January. Commander Lucky Irabor said, ‘On 3 January four women and thirteen children were apprehended by vigilantes and were later handed over to our troops. Preliminary investigation revealed that the women were wives of Boko Haram terrorists who fled from Sambisa forest as a result of our operations. All suspects are now in our custody undergoing investigation. On 5 January, following a tip-off, troops arrested four Boko Haram suspects at Shuwari village. Also on 5 January, 119 Nigerian Internal Displacement Persons (IDPs) were handed over to Nigerian troops at Banki by the Cameroonian forces. On 9 January, a surrendered Boko Haram member was identified as a male sympathiser and spy in Monguno area.’
A day of mourning has been declared for the victims of killings in Kaduna, which is to be observed on Sunday, 8 January, 2017. This is following a massacre that occurred on the evening on Monday, 26 December, 2016, in the Sanga Local Government Area of the state. The Secretary General of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Musa Asake, made the call for a special prayer for the victims, reported to be 38 in number. ‘In view of the present predicament, the president of CAN has directed that Sunday, 8 January, be declared a national day of mourning by all Christians. We are to pray fervently for our southern Kaduna brothers and sisters who are victims of these wanton killings and also for the peace of our dear country, Nigeria.’ Asake thinks the presidency is not doing anything substantial in response to the mass killing of innocent people. ‘While we commend President Muhammadu Buhari for waging war against the Boko Haram fundamentalists since his assumption of office, his silence in the ongoing genocide in the last few weeks speaks volumes over the perceived official endorsement of the dastardly and ungodly acts. The security operatives in the area appear to be turning blind eyes to the killings.’