Displaying items by tag: Congo
Between 20 November and 3 December, at least thirty Christians were killed, and ten young women and girls raped, in attacks on five villages by the extremist Allied Democratic Forces. Locals described scenes of terrified Christians flooding into the streets as the jihadists surrounded churches, armed with guns, clubs, machetes, swords and axes. Fourteen Christians with severe wounds are in hospital in a critical condition, and at least fifteen people were abducted. A survivor, hiding in the latrine, watched through a vent as his wife and three children were murdered. A pastor In Mayitike said the militants tried to force villagers to convert to Islam before killing them. When his family refused to convert, they shot his wife in the head and cut their four children into pieces with a sword.
In 1912, medical missionary Dr William Leslie went to live and minister to tribal people in a remote corner of the Congo. After 17 years he returned to the USA discouraged, believing he had failed to make an impact for Christ. He died nine years later. In 2010, a team from World Ministries made a shocking and sensational discovery. They found a network of reproducing churches hidden like glittering diamonds in the dense jungle across the Kwilu River from Vanga, where Dr Leslie had been stationed. Each village had its own gospel choir, although they wouldn’t call it that. They wrote their own songs and would have sing-offs from village to village. There were eight churches, scattered across 34 miles - even a 1,000-seat stone ‘cathedral’ in one village, which got so crowded that a church-planting movement began in the surrounding villages.
A quarter of people interviewed in eastern DR Congo believe Ebola is not real, underscoring the enormous challenges that healthcare workers are facing as the epidemic exceeds 1,000 cases. Public mistrust is not helping; people refuse vaccines, resist treatment and conceal symptoms. Even though health workers are better prepared than ever, with new technologies, trial treatments, and futuristic mobile treatment units, they are not curbing the spread of the virus. Five Ebola centres have been attacked since last month, sometimes by armed assailants. The violence led French medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to suspend activities at the epicentre of the outbreak. Now Bunia city, with 1 million people, has confirmed a case. Pray for the health ministry and partners as they listen to the affected communities, address their concerns, and quell misinformation and mistrust; and for the military to strengthen defences against attacks on health centres. See https://qz.com/africa/1582080/ebola-in-dr-congo-tops-1000-cases-struggles-to-contain-spread/
Conflict over land used by herdsmen and farmers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is sending thousands into Uganda. Wycliffe Associates in Uganda invited members of DRC people groups to learn Bible translation for their individual tribal dialect. People attending the workshops found that their neighbouring enemies were at the same workshop at the same time - then the Holy Spirit went to work, as they were being equipped to steward God’s Word for their people. The power of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit bring reconciliation. Many DRC tribal groups function without any written language: about 242 languages are spoken. Translators use translation recorders in French, the majority language, and then record the same portion of scripture in their dialect to share with their communities. Pastor David Platt said the greatest social injustice today is the 2 billion people who have never heard of God's redeeming love. Bible translation is addressing that injustice.
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