Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Sub-Saharan Salem

Today's New York Times has a startling article today about the prevalence of accusations of witchcraft in Africa. Specifically, a rise in those accusations in Angloa and the Congos directed at the must vulnerable victims - children:

In parts of Angola, Congo and the Congo Republic, a surprising number of children are accused of being witches, and then are beaten, abused or abandoned. Child advocates estimate that thousands of children living in the streets of Kinshasa, Congo’s capital, have been accused of witchcraft and cast out by their families, often as a rationale for not having to feed or care for them.

The officials in one northern Angolan town identified 432 street children who had been abandoned or abused after being called witches. A report last year by the government’s National Institute for the Child and the United Nations Children’s Fund described the number of children said to be witches as 'massive.'
As in Salem, there are real down to life factors that lead to such accusations that have nothing to do with the supernatural:
But officials attribute the surge in persecutions of children to war — 27 years in Angola, ending in 2002, and near constant strife in Congo. The conflicts orphaned many children, while leaving other families intact but too destitute to feed themselves.

'The witches situation started when fathers became unable to care for the children,' said Ana Silva, who is in charge of child protection for the children’s institute. 'So they started seeking any justification to expel them from the family.'

Since then, she said, the phenomenon has followed poor migrants from the northern Angolan provinces of Uige and Zaire to the slums of the capital, Luanda.
So, at bottom, it's not really about baseless superstitions. But those superstitions are a shield that people doing shitty things to other people use to justify their actions. We'd all be better off if we could leave all of those kinds of superstitions behind and confront the problems of the real world head on. And as soon as possible.

1 comment:

Rebecca Burch said...


What kind of a world do we live in that someone could just discard their children like that! I can't imagine, even in the most dire situations, EVER just turning my kids loose like that, let alone blaming them for it.