UK preachers abusing “witch children”
Certain churches in the UK are labeling children of congregants “witches”. Pastors then demand money or sexual favors in exchange for violent and sometimes fatal “exorcisms”.
Victoria Climbié with murderous great-aunt.
The case of Victoria Climbié is perhaps the best known, and thoroughly documented by the BBC
. Born in the Ivory Coast in 1991, Climbié was sent to live with her great aunt Marie Therese Kouao in London. Her parents hoped Victoria would escape the crushing poverty of Ivory Coast and find a better life than they could provide. Instead, she found torture and death at the age of eight.
Kouau and her boyfriend, Carl Manning, brutally abused the child. At the time of her death, she was nearly bald and had 128 injuries, including cuts and burns from cigarettes. She died of malnutrition after being ordered to fast for eight days to remove “evil spirits”. Pastor Alvaro Lima of London’s Universal Church of the Kingdom of God met Victoria a few days before her death. He claims that the child told him “that Satan controlled her life, that Satan had told her to burn her body”. He believed that she was possessed, and so did not contact the police or child protective services.
Their friend, Julian Kimbidima, also believed the child was possessed. He explained demons were forcing her to do things like “[w]etting herself, soiling the whole house, prostituting herself (in the Ivory Coast), putting faeces in food and cockroaches on everything she could find.”
Kimbidima continued, “Possession is something we learn from the Bible. I generally do not question the Bible.”
Perhaps Kimbidima did not know that Manning beat the child with bicycle chains and a hammer, and left her tied up in a bathtub, naked, for days at a time. Manning and Koaou were both sentenced to life in prison.
While the Climbié case appears to be a matter of abusive individuals using cries of “witchcraft” and “possession” to cover up their own crimes — and being believed by the people around them — there are other cases where pastors are convincing parents that their children are possessed so they may extract money or sexual favors.
Debbie Ariyo is founder of Africans Unite against Child Abuse. Her organization dealt with ten cases of abuse in Britain in 2009 in which children were abused by parents who believed they were possessed. One disabled child was burned with an iron in an attempt to get rid of the “demon” causing the condition.
BBC’s Channel 4 program “Dispatches” went undercover in several of Britain’s 4,000 African churches, discovering the horrors within. One woman explains that both her parents had died; when she turned 18, the pastor at her church told her she would have to sleep with him 21 times to rid her family of the plague of witchcraft causing the deaths. In another case, a pastor told a man that his wife and children were witches; the man attacked his pregnant wife and two-year-old son, then moved out. He committed suicide 18 months later.
The full 48-minute “Britain’s Witch Children” episode, which ran Monday evening, is available online at Channel 4. Channel 4′s synposis:
Dispatches goes undercover in some African churches in the UK, where evangelical pastors perpetuate a strong belief in witchcraft. They preach that some people are possessed by evil spirits, and that these spirits bring bad luck into the lives of others.
The only way to rid the possessed from the witchcraft spell and lift their curse is to ‘deliver’ them: a kind of exorcism that can be very traumatic. Some pastors charge significant sums of money to perform these deliverances.
Often it is children who are denounced as witches by these pastors, and this labelling can lead to the physical and emotional abuse of those children at the hands of their families. In extreme cases it has led to the deaths of some children.
In parts of Africa, branding a child a witch is now outlawed, but in Britain this practise is perfectly legal, despite the fact it can have horrific consequences.
Dispatches reveals just what goes on behind closed doors in these African churches, exposing the pastors who exploit the religious beliefs of the most vulnerable.