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Children Accused of Witchcraft and Brutalized in Nigeria

Submitted by on August 26, 2010 – 10:45 am5 Comments

In a recent social phenomenon similar to the infamous Salem Witch Trials in America, several children in the state of Akwa Ibom, located in Nigeria, were accused of witchcraft and abandoned, tortured—some were killed. These extreme and completely irresponsible actions are taken in the wake of poverty and death in Nigeria, rooted in the human-nature response of attempting to explain the problems or blame them on others.

Perhaps even more unfortunate is the fact that religious institutions—which should be places of refuge during such times—are at the center of these practices, blaming children for the deaths of loved ones or for misfortune. The leaders of these groups claim they can help “cure” these children and charge fees—anywhere from $300 to $2,000—for their deliverance. Eventually, they tell the families the children are too far gone for deliverance and say the children should instead be abandoned.

As CNN reports, these church leaders prey upon and profit from the ignorance of those who suffer the most due to economic conditions in the region. It seems some are so desperate for answers they are even willing to turn their backs on their own children.

In one particularly horrific story highlighted in the report, a five-year old was blamed for the death of his mother, beaten until he confessed to being responsible for the death, and forced to remain in a room with the corpse for three weeks with very little food and water.

Enter the Child’s Rights and Rehabilitation Network, an orphanage founded by Sam Ikpe-Itauma to take in abandoned children, feed them, counsel them, and provide them with healthcare. The orphanage supports over 200 children, however, funding is hard to come by. Ikpe-Itauma has enjoyed some success and was the subject of an HBO documentary, Saving African Witch Children.

“When a child is accused of being a witch—that child is hated absolutely by everybody surrounding him so such children are sent out of the home…But unfortunately such children do not always live long. A lot of them, they’re either killed, abandoned by the parents, tortured in the church or trafficked out of the city.” —Sam Ikpe Itauma

As if funding, staffing, and adequate resources for needy children are not enough, organizations like CRARN also have to deal with a less than cooperative government, which released a statement saying these types of organizations are running a scam and the problems of child abandonment, abuse, and neglect are due to witchcraft and are being blown out of proportion.

“We insist that the name of Akwa Ibom state must not be smeared and the people of the world should not be deceived by certain NGOs who are claiming to be taking care of stigmatized children of Akwa Ibom.” —Aniekan Umanah, Information Commissioner of Akwa Ibom

There is something to be said about a government which is more concerned with its own name than the safety of its children and a social crisis affecting its citizens. This story may not continue to make national news, and it probably won’t become a major cause here in America, but the implications concerning the future of a generation which has endured so much at such early ages cannot be ignored. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that “an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Do we have a moral obligation to do what we can to put an end to that injustice, whether we continue to see the story on our news networks or not?

For more information about the CRARN and what we can do to help, visit the official Web site.

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