Thursday, November 13, 2008

I can't say it better than the author of the piece did. Here it is reproduced in it's entirety:

In some of the poorest parts of Nigeria, where evangelical religious fervour is combined with a belief in sorcery and black magic, many thousands of children are being blamed for catastrophes, death and famine - and branded witches by powerful pastors. These children are then abandoned, tortured, starved and murdered - all in the name of Jesus Christ.

This Dispatches Special follows the work of one Englishman, 29-year-old Gary Foxcroft, who has devoted his life to helping these desperate and vulnerable children. Gary's charity, Stepping Stones Nigeria, raises funds to help Sam Itauma, who five years ago, rescued four children accused of witchcraft. He now struggles to care for over 150 in a makeshift shelter and school in the Niger Delta region called CRARN (Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network).

Gary and Sam introduce Dispatches to some of the rescued children who have been through unimaginable horrors, such as Ekemeni, aged 13, who was tied up with chicken wire and starved and beaten for two weeks, and Mary, aged 14, who was burnt with acid before her mother attempted to bury her alive. Other children display the hallmarks of witch-branding - acid burns and machete scars. Uma Eke, aged 17, has been left brain-damaged after having a three-inch nail driven into her skull.

Hospitals refuse to treat children associated with sorcery, so Sam's centre does its best to provide medical aid. As well as the physical scars, the children arrive at the shelter badly traumatised by their experiences, with many of them brain-washed into accepting they are possessed by the devil.

The parents or siblings of children torture them in an attempt to kill them or force confessions from them to admit that they are witches. As Gary remarks, the children at CRARN are the lucky ones - they're still alive.

Influential preachers from the more extreme churches brand the children witches or wizards and exploit their desperate parents by charging them exorbitant amounts of money in return for exorcising the spirits. The film features extraordinary access to some of the preachers who openly discuss their work. One preacher who calls himself 'The Bishop,' says he has made a fortune by carrying out 'deliverances' on children. He admits having killed 110 people in the past. Dispatches films him as he administers a mixture of pure alcohol, a substance known as 'African mercury' and his own blood to one child accused of witchcraft.

Exorcism is big business. Preachers can charge as much as a year's salary for an average Nigerian to treat children. They often hold the child captive until the parents can pay up. The Niger Delta area is oil rich - but very few have access to oil wealth; the average life expectancy is around 47.

Gary visits the CRARN centre regularly from the UK - a risky journey for a westerner. He works alongside Sam to try to persuade parents to take their children back. Dispatches follows Gary as he travels to a small port which has a growing problem of abandoned children. He soon finds himself followed by a five-year-old girl, Mary, who has been ostracised for being a witch, following the death of her mother. As Gary tries to talk to her, an angry crowd gathers. She is clearly traumatised, malnourished and in real danger, so he takes her to her old village in an attempt to reunite her with her family. But with her father long-gone, her extended family wash their hands of her - terrified: "she will poison everything." Gary takes her back to the centre and after dedicated care, she begins a slow recovery.

Gary has been politely petitioning the local state government to enact the Child Rights Act which has been accepted by the National Federal Government, but to no avail. He decides on more direct action and buses the children to the governor's residence, holding a demonstration for four-hours in the blazing sun before being granted an audience. The protest is successful but a steady flow of around 10 children a week continues to enter the centre.

Shocking and tragic, Dispatches reveals the plight of the thousands of innocent children who suffer intolerable cruelty at the hands of so-called Christian pastors. As Gary, Director of UK Charity Stepping Stones Nigeria, says: "It's an absolute scandal. Any Christian would look at the situation that is going on here and just be absolutely outraged that they were using the teachings of Jesus Christ to exploit and abuse innocent children."

You can find out more about the work of Stepping Stones Nigeria at

According to the Metropolitan Police there have been almost 60 cases of child abuse related to witchcraft or possession reported to Scotland Yard in the past two years alone. Few receive much publicity but perhaps the best known involved eight year old Victoria ClimbiƩ. Branded a witch by a local pastor in London in 2000, she was tortured to death by her guardians. More recently, the torture and abuse of 'Child B' who was accused of witchcraft in London in 2005, and the torture of two boys by their father in Bradford linked to a belief in witchcraft and possession highlight a growing problem.

It is not illegal to accuse a child of being a witch in the UK and members of the UK African community openly acknowledge the growing influence and powers of the pastors - that allegations of witchcraft are taking root here and something needs to be done.

"They're brainwashing them with ideas that they can be witches or possessed with evil spirits. I think we're finding it hard to see a way out because church leaders are such strong people and are people to look up to in our community."

Moreover, with films promoting the idea of child witches being openly sold on London street markets and more extreme Nigerian preachers looking to set up churches in Britain and elsewhere, the problem will only get worse.

Find Out More

Stepping Stones Nigeria

Room 36, D Floor

St Leonard's House

St Leonard's Gate

Lancaster LA1 1NN

Tel: 0845 3138391 (Mon-Fri 9 - 5pm)



Works in partnership with local organisations in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria to build sustainable futures for some of the region's many disadvantaged children, including protecting, saving and transforming the lives of children who have been stigmatised as being 'witches'.

Child's Right and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN)


Organisation with a firm belief in, and intent on, safeguarding the rights of a child including the issues of child abandonment, street children and stigmatization as witches and wizards.

African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN)


A pan African network that promotes child rights and child protection in Africa.

Africans Unite Against Child Abuse (AFRUCA)

Unit 3D/F Leroy House

436 Essex Road

London N1 3QP

Tel: 020 7704 2261


An organisation concerned about cruelty against the African Child, promoting the welfare of African children in the UK.

Child Abuse Linked to Accusations of "Possession" and "Witchcraft"


UK Government report by Eleanor Stobart on the frequency and severity of child abuse linked to accusations of "possession" and "witchcraft" in the UK.

Child Rights Information Network (CRIN)


A global network coordinating and promoting information and action on child rights. It has numerous resources on the issue of child witches in Africa.

Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS)

PO Box 133


Kent BR8 7UQ

Tel: 01322 667207


The only independent Christian charity providing professional advice, support, training and resources in all areas of safeguarding children and for those affected by abuse. You can download their Good Practice for Working with Faith Communities - Spirit Possession & Abuse on their website.

Consortium for Street Children (CSC)

Unit 306

Bon Marche Centre

241-251 Ferndale Road


Tel: 020 7274 0087


58 UK based organisations, working in 89 countries, dedicated to the welfare and rights of street living and working children and children at risk of taking to street life.

Every Child Matters


UK Government website that provides, amongst other things, advice to practitioners and managers to help them identify and deal with abuse that may be linked to a belief in spirit possession. The guidance is aimed at all agencies working with children.

Metropolitan Police: Project Violet Team


Project Violet aims to support communities where cultural and faith-based beliefs can lead to the abuse of children, including cases involving suspected witchcraft and spirit possession.

Poor Children: Child "Witches" and Child Soldiers in Sub-Saharan Africa



Examines two different aspects of the accountability of children: those children who are thrown away by their families because they are "sorcerers," and those children who become soldiers and, through their involvement in armed conflict, inflict violence and death on others, including children.

Nigerian Children's Parliament


Official organisation representing children in Nigeria.

Nigerian High Commission

Nigeria House

9 Northumberland Avenue

London WC2N 5BX


The official website of Nigerian High Commission in London.

Nigerian Ministry of Women Affairs


Nigerian government department responsible for the speedy and healthy development of Nigerian women and the survival, protection and participation of all children as preparation for meaningful adult life.

Victoria ClimbiƩ Foundation

C/o 28 Museum St

London WC1A 1LH

Tel: 020 8571 4121


Campaigns for improvements in child protection policies and practices and to ensure effective links and coordination between statutory agencies, care services and BME communities.

Here's the link to the full channel 4 article

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