Standing in the Gap — no.15
— praying for children accused of witchcraft.
“You are not going to get any inheritance in our family,” they said, “because you are the son of another woman.” So Jephthah fled from his brothers and settled in the land of Tob, where a gang of scoundrels gathered around him and followed him. — Judges 11:2–3
This story illustrates Jephthah’s rejection from his family and his community at a young age, because he was different. Although he had the same father as his brother, he had a different mother, who was a prostitute. After being shunned by his community, Jephthah went on to become a mighty warrior, leading the Israelites’ fight against the Ammonites and winning. When the elders of Gilead asked him to be lead them in battle, his immediate response was, ‘Didn’t you hate me and drive me from my father’s house?’ (verse 7).
Inclusion or exclusion can change in a day. Witchcraft accusations can follow an inexplicable event, such as a death or failure affecting the family, or they can occur because a child is singled out as different. Whatever the cause, an accusation like this can result in fear and sudden rejection from the place and the people where you have always felt you belonged. However, with a change of circumstances or understanding, there can be a much more positive outcome for children being accused of witchcraft.
Things to thank God for…
- We give thanks for those who work to either reconcile accused children to their families or, when that is not successful, find them new, loving homes.
- We give thanks for the organisations protecting children and helping them recover from trauma and abuse, following witchcraft accusations.
- We give thanks for "the Heart of the Matter" toolkit that was so positively received at the London launch in October, and for the news that Tearfund is launching a series of resources based on this toolkit, for use across their ministries.
- Thank God for Bible Society’s invitation to SCWA to consider working with them in a Nigerian state deeply affected by witchcraft accusations. We pray this will eventually lead to the opportunity to bring church leaders together in an Action Forum there.
‘Didn’t you hate me and drive me from my father’s house?’ — Judges 11:7
When Jephthah was forced out of his home, he ended up living with a gang of scoundrels, who followed him. Many children who leave home following witchcraft accusations will end up spending time on the streets and share their experiences with other street-living children. Being accused of witchcraft is often mentioned as a reason for being on the streets by children known to SCWA’s partners in D.R. Congo.
‘I have seen a boy every day begging at the traffic lights. I know that he used to go to school near my church. After you spoke to us about these children, I talked to him today for the first time. Now what shall I do?’ — Pastor’s experience after the Action Forum in Togo, 2016
- For communities where gangs of children and young people are not seen as part of the community, but as a threat. Please pray for families, churches and organisations to open their doors to children traumatised by loss, abuse and rejection caused by witchcraft accusations.
- For ongoing support and conversations after church leaders have had the opportunity to learn more about accusations of witchcraft against children. One year after being piloted in D.R. Congo, "the Heart of the Matter" workshop has resulted in a network of support. Please pray that this will be replicated across many countries and organisations.
- For the theologians from west and central Africa, who have previously taught at Action Forums; that they might have many invitations to teach on the issues around child witchcraft accusations, influencing significant change in their nations and church streams.