08:58 GMT09 May 2021
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    Witchcraft as Child Murder

    Brave New World
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    In a growing number of countries in Africa, and Asia, children are named to be witches and killed. This phenomenon is on the increase. We in the West should perhaps sit up and take notice.

    In this programme, Dr Joost Fontein, Director of the British Institute in Eastern Africa, a lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh and Editor of Critical African Studies explains this phenomenon. Some of the main points are listed below:

    “Witchcraft exists everywhere, even now in this modern world. For example, we have Wicca, so it depends how you define the word. The phenomenon of child witches is relatively new, and has epicenters in the Congo and elsewhere, but there have also been high profile cases in France and the UK. It coincides with the rise in extreme Pentecostal Christianity.”

    “Children in the Congo in particular have been accused of being possessed by demons or witches by Pentecostal or Pentecostal related churches. Often the churches are very schismatic, and there are contexts where there are entrepreneurial pastors, who put themselves forward as being able to heal these phenomena. Children are blamed if the family falls into poverty, and accused as being witches. The parents are also implicated in this, but we have to be very careful, because in some cases the parents and priests consider that they are not killing a child, they are killing a demon. If we want to understand this phenomenon we have to understand what a world that is inhabited by witches and demons is like.”

    “We [the West] have no choice but to do something about this. But we have to be very careful what we do. It is so easy to ‘other’ alien cultures, and this can be as damaging as the events themselves. Social workers can write reports, which are extreme, and out of context, and which can be incredibly destructive for the families. We need to take each case on its merit.”

    “If we decide to do something — what can we do? We could make such practices illegal in the UK for example. In other countries, it seems that we in the West have little moral ground to decide what to do.”

    “You can’t make the belief itself illegal, which is not the problem, the problem is the practice connected to that. Such practices are already illegal in most countries, the trick is to encourage other countries to apply their own laws.”

    Pentecostal Christianity, witchcraft, Church, victim, children, Africa
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