A fascinating article, from the London Telegraph, on “child witches” in Nigeria here.
The devil’s children are “identified” by powerful religious leaders at extremist churches where Christianity and traditional beliefs have combined to produce a deep-rooted belief in, and fear of, witchcraft. The priests spread the message that child-witches bring destruction, disease and death to their families. And they say that, once possessed, children can cast spells and contaminate others.
The religious leaders offer help to the families whose children are named as witches, but at a price. The churches run exorcism, or “deliverance”, evenings where the pastors attempt to drive out the evil spirits. Only they have the power to cleanse the child of evil spirits, they say. The exorcism costs the families up to a year’s income.
During the “deliverance” ceremonies, the children are shaken violently, dragged around the room and have potions poured into their eyes. The children look terrified. The parents look on, praying that the child will be cleansed. If the ritual fails, they know their children will have to be sent away, or killed. Many are held in churches, often on chains, and deprived of food until they “confess” to being a witch.
The ceremonies are highly lucrative for the spiritual leaders many of whom enjoy a lifestyle of large homes, expensive cars and designer clothes.
Ten years ago there were few cases of children stigmatised by witchcraft. But since then the numbers have grown at an alarming rate and have reached an estimated 15,000 in Akwa Ibom state alone.