TOGO: Salesian missionaries provide care and support for children accused of witchcraft
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries continue to support children accused of witchcraft in the Kara region of Togo. In 2014, Salesians in the region released the report “Children accused of witchcraft in the Kara region” which aimed to educate the international community. The report analyzed the causes of innocent children being accused of witchcraft and its abusive and often deadly consequences.
Award-winning filmmaker Raúl de la Fuente used the report to create the short documentary film “Yo no soy bruja” (“I’m not a witch”), which was sponsored by the Salesian Missions office in Madrid to shed light on the struggles of children in Togo.
The report and film are part of the “I’m not a witch” campaign, which was launched in 2014 by Salesian Missions Madrid to address the ongoing child abuse and violence faced by children in Togo and other areas of Africa and Asia as a result of poverty and tribal traditions. The campaign works with families, communities, governments and the international community to raise awareness while highlighting the root causes and conditions that lead to accusations of witchcraft and the resulting violations of children’s basic rights.
According to a recent The Union Journal article, the victims of witchcraft accusations are the most vulnerable in society including elderly, widows and orphaned children.
“Whatever is different,” said Raúl de la Fuente in the article. “When there are several deaths or illnesses in the same family, the culprit is usually looked for in the clan. If it is a boy who has no mother and lives with his stepmother, she will look at the one who is not her own son.”
“Yo no soy bruja” tells the story of several children accused of witchcraft and highlights the work of Salesian missionaries who care for them in many of their programs. One child’s story featured in the film is that of Georgette, a girl in Togo who was accused of witchcraft by her stepmother. Georgette’s hands were badly burned and later many fingers had to be amputated after her stepmother submerged them in boiling water, purportedly to determine if she was a witch.
Father José Luis De la Fuente, director of the Don Bosco Center in Kara, where many of these children seek refuge, said in the article, “Georgette was second in her class. She is very smart. In her family, she was the only one who progressed and that is why the stepmother condemned her as a witch. Those who get very good grades and outshine others, those who do not study, those who steal, and those who are a little more aggressive than the rest are all at risk.” He also noted that accusations of witchcraft are on the rise. In one Salesian shelter of 110 children, 40 percent were accused of performing witchcraft up from 20 percent in 2010.
At the Don Bosco Center in Kara, Fr. De la Fuente, along with other Salesian missionaries, counter the deeply rooted cultural beliefs that routinely demonize children and blame them for illnesses, deaths and other misfortunes that are more accurately the outcome of overwhelming poverty. The Don Bosco Center offers a loving home where youth can recover from their physical and emotional wounds. In addition, the Center provides opportunities to break the cycle of poverty through education and training.
More than 80 percent of Togo’s rural population lives in conditions of poverty making the country one of the world’s poorest, according to UNICEF. Children in the country suffer the most, with close to 50 percent of those living in poverty under the age of 18. One in eight children will not reach their fifth birthday and the number of children who drop out of school because their parents cannot afford to educate them is high. Children are also often forced to work in exploitative and dangerous conditions to help support their families.
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Salesian Missions – Togo
The Union Journal – The curse of the witch children | Future Planet
UNICEF – Togo