Standing in the Gap — no.7
— praying for children accused of witchcraft.
'Your father left these instructions before he died: "This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly." Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.' When their message came to him, Joseph wept. — Genesis 50:17
‘Witchcraft allegations are “the dark side of kinship”.’ (Geschiere, 1997)
As we reflect on this statement from a professor of anthropology who worked in Cameroon, it calls us to look carefully at how and why families are entangled in the horror of witchcraft accusations. Like Joseph, we know that family can almost make or break us. Family members often accuse children of witchcraft, or reject their children rather than themselves face rejection by their communities.
In Togo, it is often the child who must leave the family home when an identified perpetrator of child abuse is a member of the family, making the child a victim twice over. This might shock us, but we must ask what norms are hiding behind ‘kinship’ and need to be exposed.
Now please forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly. — Genesis 50:17
- Lord, as we seek to reconcile the realities of abuse and rejection in life with your will and your love, we thank you for the examples of family strife and reconciliation in your living word, which continues to guide, teach and lead us onwards in your name.
- Father, we give you thanks for family; for lasting relationships that can bring us both great joy and pain. We thank you, Lord, that as you call us to forgive, you equip us to do that and make us capable of forgiving, even in situations of extreme trauma.
- Ask God for greater understanding of the phenomenon of children themselves claiming to be witches. Pray for understanding and insight within communities, so that they will recognise the vulnerability of these children and protect them from further harm.
- Through teaching and training, many church leaders are being transformed in their thinking and attitudes, and now want to defend children and protect them from harm. Some church leaders and members in Kinshasa are even offering alternative family care; adopting children accused of witchcraft and providing them with loving homes. Pray that their example will encourage others in the Christian community to do the same.