The Child Witches of Kinshasa

I’m counting down to my trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Excited isn’t the word – this is a part of the world I’ve always wanted to visit. But this isn’t a tourist trip. I’m going with Save the Children, to investigate the child witches in Kinshasa.

Child Witches – what a concept. It seems so strange, so alien – so dangerous. The Congo is a part of the world we all feel scared and ignorant about. It’s Heart of Darkness country. War, rain forest, child soldiers, witch doctors. And now child witches. What does it mean?

We have heard a little bit about it in the UK, through the papers. We know that young lives have been devastated by accusations of witchcraft, just as people in Europe were devastated in our own past. It’s part of the important work Save the Children do in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to try and help the witches – to rehabilitate them, often back into their own families.

I don’t believe in witches myself, although the heart of Africa is the one place you might find them if you did. So what does this African witchcraft entail? Why should children be accused of such a thing? And what effect do such accusations have on their lives?

I’ll be blogging about all this over the next week. I know this much already – that those accused often believe it themselves. They are witches, no doubt about it in their minds. The existence of witches is as real to people over there, as the belief in God is to many in our own country. And I know this; the witchcraft is something that happens at night, while you sleep and dream. You may be anything in the day world – poor or rich, young or old. But in the night world, the world we all visit when we dream, you could be something completely different.

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One Response to The Child Witches of Kinshasa

  1. Antonia says:

    Hey Melvin, firstly, you’re doing an amazing thing here – this is such a controversial area. Now, you say you don’t believe in witches, however do you believe in anxiety, stress , depression or sleeplessness. You say that you don’t believe in witches, however the question is, is it a case of believing? It happens – it’s there as by now I’m sure you’re far more aware and informed than myself – I’ve only watched a couple of TV programmes about the witches culture in the Congo and also in Nigeria. However, I did travel along the Amazon many years ago and I did have some slight contact with witchcraft there. There were beliefs in ‘sucking out’ spirits to draw out the sickness and just think how in Westernised medicine the leeches have made a comeback.
    Don’t you think that it’s more of a matter of perspective and not necessarily belief. Surely, if a child believes they are a witch, we can only help them by going along with that perspective in order to try to neutralise it? Also, what’s your opinion on context? I think that context, i.e. a society that believes in witches is the key here. Don’t you find that you have to follow through the beliefs and stories in order to then work at changing the social viewpoints?
    Enough now – sorry to bombard you with questions, but this is a fascinating and disturbing subject and I do admire you for broaching it, yet I feel it is essential not to put in every safeguard against demonising a community.
    Another thought – isn’t our West full of witchcraft that corrupts kids too – materialism being paramount?
    Truly enuff! laters, Antonia

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