When a child is accused of witchcraft, the accusation often come from either an uncle, grandmother, stephmother/father, neighbors, people from the village and the priest. Actually it´s very rare they are accused by their own parents. But once a child has been accused of being a witch, there is no turning back. Villagers will require the child to either be exorcised from the so-called evil spirits through nightly exsorcism rituals by the local priest. Or the parents take the child to a witch doctor, who they believe has magical powers to exorcise the witch from the child. But this cost a lot of money and superstition is most common in the poorest areas. The children are often tortured and killed. The parents can do nothing against the whole village and the local occult groups who all demand that the bewitched child must either be tortured to death or expelled from the village. The parents or the family members of the accused child are risking being killed, if they let their child stay in their house. The parents believe that the child is bewitched, if it is a priest, who appointed the child to be a witch. The child is killed either by being beheaded, buried alive, burned alive or simply beaten/tortured to death.
Belief in witches in Denmark
Keep in mine that this superstition is not an African thing. Back in the 1600´s women were burned alive at the stake in Denmark because we thought that they were witches. The accused woman (often a demented old woman) had to confess her pact with the devil and through torture forced to concede her “conspirators” (husband and children were also buried alive). The last illegal witch mistreatment in Denmark took place in 1897, and the last witch accusation was made in 1934! It is not many years ago that Denmark believed in witches! So instead of pointing fingers, we must together make an effort to help the villagers through advocacy and try to enlighten the communities who are living in ignorance and extreme poverty.
Why Development is behind in Nigeria
Why have we in Denmark moved on? And why, has time not moving in the poor villages in Nigeria where superstition reigns as it did in Denmark in the 15th and 16th centuries? There are two main reasons: Ignorance and poverty. Where you find extreme poverty, you will also find extreme ignorance. Poverty means that children do not attend school. When children do not attend school development stops and no progress is being made.
DINNoedhjaelps main responsibilities
Right now, Nigeria is the African country with the most children out of school: DINNoedhjaelp main task in Nigeria is to create awareness. When the Nigerian government does not use agents to inform and educate, we must through our educational work try to stop the superstition.
Of course the children at DINNoedhjaelp orphanage misses their families. They talk often about their siblings, cousins, grandparents and parents (or parent if one parent is dead). And it is our biggest responsibility that the children maintain contact with their families. Sometimes we take the children to what we call “home visit, and this is something the children look very much forward to. Home visits is the most important part in our advocacy programme.
When children, who previouly lived an outcast life, accused of being witches, almost tortured to death, children who no longer was allowed to attend school due to the witch accusations, children who their friends from their village would no longer play with again, children who lived in fear, when those same children come back to their family and village again and looks healthy, strong, speak good English, have gotten their confidence and hope back, that gives the whole village something to think about, and they realize their own ignorance and realises that the children are not actually witches. We prove to the whole local community that the children are not witches, but that the ones who accused them of being witches have been indoctrinated by either the pastor or other villagers.
At DINNoedhjaelp orphanage in Nigeria all the children goes to school. Education creates development and the children´s schooling also helps to process their horrible past of severe torture and abuse. Besides going to school, we also work with the children every day through singing, dancing, playing and being creative. Drawing and painting are the childrens favorite activities. The children develope their senses and creativity. Drawing and painting is an expression of their spontaneity and imagination. Children express their best thoughts, memories and feelings through play, song and dance.