Witchcraft superstitions in Nigeria are rooted in centuries of tradition. However, within the past 10 years, that belief has led to the abuse and outcast of children who are accused of being witches or possessed with black magic.
Pastors in Nigerian churches tell parents that the children need to be delivered from Satanâ€™s possession, but they require a fee that can range from $300 to $2,000. Poverty, ignorance, and fear combine and lead to the abandonment, torture, or killing of a child. The parents are legitimately convinced that the child could use black magic and do them harm.
Sometimes it is unknown what caused the parents to believe that their child is a witch. It could be because the child has seizures, or talks in his sleep. Another belief is that the children are responsible for deaths in their family. They are cast out into the street and left alone, shunned by the entire community.
Sam Ikpe-Itauma is a Nigerian man who runs the Childâ€™s Rights & Rehabilitation Network, or CRARN. It is an orphanage that takes in outcast children and provides security, health care, nutrition, and counseling. It currently supports nearly 200 children, but it cannot support many more. Unfortunately there are many children who live on the streets, abandoned by their families and society.
(Sam Ikpe-Itauma, at a screening of the documentary “Saving African Witch Children.” He runs the Childâ€™s Rights & Rehabilitation Network.)
Local governments are under the belief that CRARN, and other similar organizations, are using the children to run a scam. They are adamant that the issue is being blown out of perspective and that a new Childâ€™s Rights bill has largely taken care of the problem. In addition, there have been some arrests, the government acknowledges, but there havenâ€™t been any prosecutions.
Based upon the video accompanying CNNâ€™s report of this tragic treatment of children, there is obviously a problem. The children shown in the report have scars and injuries as a result of pastors attempting to â€œdeliverâ€ the children from their witchcraft. Some adults cut accused children, sometimes cutting off one of their fingers, and beat them and burn them with hot water in an attempt to â€œdeliverâ€ them from their â€œevilâ€ ways.
Clearly this situation is not being blown out of proportion, and is, in reality, a hideous example of what can result from ignorance and fear. If only there were more people like Sam Ikpe-Itauma, who is helping as many children as he can.