After years of pushing at closed doors, SCWAâ€™s growing network is gaining access to churches entangled in child witch accusations and helping them walk in the truth.
Spend time with children living on the streets of Masisi and the full horr or of their stories surfaces quickly.
Child witch accusations have driven many on to the streets on this town in North Kivu, DRC; many bear the physical scars of this abuse and the trauma runs deep.
Julienne is 15 and heavily pregnant. She doesnâ€™t know who her childâ€™s father is: too many men have raped her.
Her guardian abused her from when she was nine â€“ then, fearing his wife might find out, he accused Julienne of being a witch. Fearing for her life, she fled. But life on the street has been just as cruel. â€˜My life is nothing but rapes,â€™ she says. Heartbreakingly, Julienne blames herself: â€˜May God forgive me.â€™
Those same words, â€˜May God forgive meâ€™, were echoed many times as Pastor Jean-Paul of LVLE trained 134 church leaders from Masisi in â€˜The Heart of the Matterâ€™, the resource BCT has produced in partnership with other members of SCWA.
Many wept as they confessed to performing â€˜deliverance ritesâ€™ on children theyâ€™d accused of witchcraft. Some had made a good living out of it. Pastors shared that they knew of children who had died after being held over fires or forced to fast for days on end.
One recalled a seven-year-old boy whose stepmother had presented him as â€˜abnormalâ€™; the boy was made to fast â€“ and died. His body was thrown on the street during the night to give the impression he had been kidnapped and murdered. After the burial, it came to light that the only problems the child had had were wetting his bed and snoring.
The need to awaken the Church to this issue is urgent. LVLEâ€™s research suggests that up to ten children in the Masisi area die each year as a result of these â€˜deliverance ritesâ€™; every month, between 40 and 80 children are accused of witchcraft.
As SCWAâ€™s network of connections grows, its vision to see the Church engaging with the issue of child witch accusations is also coming to fruition in countries where BCT does not have partner projects.
A relatively new relationship between SCWA and Storychangers, a German NGO, took root at the Lancaster conference on witchcraft beliefs in January.
Maimouna Obot of Storychangers recently trained 60 pastors in Eket, south-west Nigeria, using SCWAâ€™s â€˜The Heart of the Matterâ€™ resources. The training helped bring to light harmful beliefs and provided a safe space where pastors could address them together. Many committed themselves not only to educating parents and communities about child witch accusations but also to speaking out against the abuse.
â€˜The highlight for me was seeing peopleâ€™s attitude towards children turning from indifference to engagement in childrenâ€™s lives,â€™ says Maimouna.