16 November 2008

Saving Africa's Witch Children

The disturbing new trend of witch-hunting, apparently sponsored by Neopentecostal Churches, continues to get publicity, but unfortunately the media reports are not very informative.

Channel 4 - News - Dispatches - Saving Africa's Witch Children:
In some of the poorest parts of Nigeria, where evangelical religious fervour is combined with a belief in sorcery and black magic, many thousands of children are being blamed for catastrophes, death and famine - and branded witches by powerful pastors. These children are then abandoned, tortured, starved and murdered - all in the name of Jesus Christ.

This Dispatches Special follows the work of one Englishman, 29-year-old Gary Foxcroft, who has devoted his life to helping these desperate and vulnerable children. Gary's charity, Stepping Stones Nigeria, raises funds to help Sam Itauma, who five years ago, rescued four children accused of witchcraft. He now struggles to care for over 150 in a makeshift shelter and school in the Niger Delta region called CRARN (Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network).

Is anyone doing any research into this phenomenon, on the origins and spread of these beliefs, and who is holding and propagating them?


Daniel Clark said...

Dispatches do not always have a reputation for providing the most nuanced perspective on subjects...

The issue of witch-children has become a contentious subject here in the UK, although to be fair African Pentecostal churches have put together a code of conduct in this area. Yet, there are many syncretistic "churches" which escape under the radar.

BTW what does the term "NeoPentecostal" refer to in an African context (how does it relate to African Independent Churches?)? I am more familiar with its use in Latin America, especially Brazil.

Anonymous said...


Have you seen this documentary? Is it worth watching? Like Daniel I am a little sceptical of Dispatches but have downloaded the programme from 4OD, is it worth my time? On a related note I've just finished a book on witchcraft which i should be reviewing today or tomorrow.

Steve Hayes said...


The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, which is of Brazilian origina, is growing rapidly in South Africa. Ten years ago it was in storefront churches, now it has several large buildings. I would classify it as Neopentecostal. There are several homegrown Neopentecostal churches as well, many of them directly or indirectly influenced by "prosperity" teaching from people in the USA like Kenneth Copeland.

Steve Hayes said...


What is the book you have been reading?

The problem with witchcraft is that it can mean so many different things to different people. I'm particularly interested in Christian responses to it, especially in Africa, which seem to be changing. The "premodern" approach of traditional African independent churches seems to be giving way to a more "modernist" approach by the neopentecostals described in the report.

I've also tried to discuss this in the AIC discussion forum and the New Religious Movements discussion forum, but if anyone is doing research into this phenomenon, they are not saying.

Anonymous said...

It's not a modern book (subjecy matter) but a telling of the English Witch-hunts in 1640s England (Matthew Hopkins & John Stearne).

Anonymous said...

After watching channel 4's dispatches: Africa's witch children I am appalled that 'priests' are allowed to carry out such acts which go against basic human rights. I am even more appalled that parents would allow their children to be subjected to such cruel acts of injustice, it could even be called torture.

I am only 14 however I feel strongly about this as the children featured are innocent, impressionable and some of them are my age; I find it impossible to imagine anything remotely like the ordeal these children are being subjected to.

However on a more possitive light I am overjoyed at the fact there are people who care and can see the 'priests' for the scammers they are. I feel there should be a way in which we can help these charity workers help the children of Africa who have been branded witches. Therefore I feel my school should find some way of assisting this worthwhile charity as it and as soon as I am 16, regretably a few years away, I will be looking in ways in which I can take a more hands on approach to helping this charity, and hopefully setting up more around Africa.

Anonymous said...

I have now watched the programme; It is absolutlely disgusting (the subject matter, not the programme). I found myself trying to comprehend / rationalise the persecution or understand it sociologically - I just can't.

Kelli said...

There is something you can do to help these children. Watch the documentary and spread awareness, visit my blog Children of Nigeria, sign the petition Stop Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries of Nigeria from labeling children as witches.

THIS NEEDS TO STOP NOW!!! Do it for the children.

Please read in full before downloading.

I have found a website that you can download Dispatches - Saving Africa's Witch Children 2008 for free.
Dispatches - Saving Africa's Witch Children 2008 for free.

To start this P2P download, you have to install a BitTorrent client like µTorrent for free.

Wyzo for free.

Please donate to Stepping Stones Nigeria to help with the Documentary.

~Thank You ~


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