Frequently Asked Questions
— Responses In Brief
FAQ 1: What is meant by a ‘child witch’, or a child witchcraft accusation?
The definition of a ‘witch’ varies from culture to culture, but it generally refers to a person who is believed to act in secret, typically at night, and to have an innate and malevolent ability and power to harm others supernaturally. A ‘child witch’ is a child who is believed to have caused harm to someone through the secret use of occult powers. Belief in witchcraft is primarily influenced by an individual’s worldview. Accusations of witchcraft against children are a consequence of this worldview combined with the belief which prevails in many cultures that all misfortune must have been caused by someone.
FAQ 2: Where is this happening?
This is a global issue. Witchcraft accusations against children have been reported from over 30 countries across five continents. SCWA currently focuses on witchcraft accusations against children in Africa as this is where our Member agencies have the greatest experience, expertise and local connections.
FAQ 3: How many children are accused of witchcraft?
Child witchcraft accusations remain an extremely hidden problem. Most accusations go unreported and undocumented. There is also a significant lack of robust research into the scale of the problem. In consequence, there are no reliable statistics on the number of children affected. SCWA helped to fund some research among 700 church leaders in Kinshasa. This revealed that over 70% knew of at least one child who had been accused of witchcraft: « Click here for the Kinshasa Survey summary report. »
FAQ 4: Why are children accused of witchcraft?
Accusations of witchcraft have throughout history typically been levelled against the most vulnerable members of society. The reasons why children are being accused of witchcraft are complex and include: a philosophical response to the problem of suffering, poverty and socio–economic inequality may sometimes be a contributory factor, family breakdown, changes to traditional views of childhood, and the promotion and legitimisation of child abuse in some popular cultural media. Although SCWA focus on accusations against children, we work closely with others who are responding to accusations against adults.
FAQ 5: Who accuses children of witchcraft?
Any member of a community or family may accuse a child of witchcraft, although in most reported cases the accusation is made by an extended family member. Some church leaders are also involved in accusations and ‘deliverance’ rituals. It must be remembered that the belief in witchcraft is sincere and parents often consider they are acting in the child’s best interests by seeking to have the witchcraft ‘removed’.
FAQ 6: What is the role of religion or religious beliefs in child witch accusations?
Accusations of witchcraft can be found in those claiming adherence to Christianity, traditional beliefs, Islam and Hinduism. We believe that it is important to respect the beliefs held by others, but we do not believe that these can ever be used to justify abuse of children or, indeed, of adults. SCWA’s current experience is within the context of the Christian church. This is why it is so crucial to engage with churches and to provide proper, biblically–grounded training and teaching to bring about change, both within churches and in communities.
FAQ 7: What are the consequences of a child being accused of witchcraft?
An accusation of witchcraft against a child results in severe violations of their human rights and has a lasting impact on their lives and development. Documented consequences include severe physical, psychological and emotional abuse, discrimination, neglect, increased vulnerability and murder. Even if perceived to have been ‘cured’ of witchcraft, they are often subject to ongoing social ostracism within the community.
FAQ 8: What is being done about this?
Current initiatives to end the abuse of children believed to be witches includes: direct support to affected children, often provided by local civil society organisations; NGO projects to reduce and prevent abuse through community engagement; a UK National Working Group on child abuse linked to faith or belief; recognition of the issue and recommendations for action by UN and EU agencies; and some recognition of the issue by governments of some affected issues. SCWA’s specific focus is on encouraging and supporting churches to respond positively and in a non–abusive manner to the issue of child witchcraft accusations. We have developed an effective resource for church contexts: « Click here to access "the Heart of the Matter" and related resources. »
FAQ 9: What else needs to be done to end this abuse?
Bringing about changes in deeply entrenched cultural beliefs, attitudes and practices does not happen overnight. There are no ‘quick fixes’ and no single solution. Indeed, responses need to be multi–sectorial, holistic and long–term. But SCWA’s experience with local partners has shown that change is possible and is happening. We consider action needs to focus on: research into the roots, realities and responses to child witchcraft accusations; increased promotion of community–based conversations; child rights and child protection training for churches and communities; holistic support of families in crisis; improved implementation of child rights laws; and outlawing films and other cultural media which promote and legitimize the abuse of children.
FAQ 10: What can I do to help?
Everyone has a part that they can play to help raise awareness of this form of abuse, increase understanding and to help to bring an end to it. You can help by: becoming better informed about the issue; raising awareness to encourage action by others; promoting and practicing child protection; sharing your skills; fundraising and prayer.
FAQ 11: How should we deal with demon possession?
There are examples of people being delivered from demonic influence in the Bible. But there is no example of a witch or those perceived to have inherent, malevolent powers having ‘deliverance rites’ performed on them. When it comes to dealing with demon possession or oppression, our response must be the same as that of Jesus Christ who always treated the afflicted person with gentleness, love, respect and compassion, and who never harmed them.
FAQ 12: What is SCWA’s position on children affected by trafficking, FGM, and such?
SCWA believes that any action that harms or hurts children is wrong, even if it is consistent with or arising from cultural beliefs, practices and norms. We all have a duty to see that the rights of children, as described in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, are upheld, so that all children are kept safe, nurtured and given the support they need to reach their full potential.