Abandoned and abused children in a shelter (all photos courtesy of The Guardian, London)
In Nigeria (especially in Akwa-Ibom State) families now routinely abuse, maim, banish and kill their blood children on the grounds that these innocent souls are "WITCHES." And, according to reliable reports, we are not talking about rare incidents but what amounts to an epidemic, a descent to new barbarism sponsored by new-age Christianity.
In recent decades, the mixture of material poverty made worse by the depredations of the political leadership and predatory dogmas of new-age Christian pastors, have led to a tremendous altering of cultures and societies in Nigeria and many parts of Africa. Built around a theology of fear, these fundamentalist Christian churches (much like their medieval counterparts in Europe) earn their relevance by spreading the fear of infernal forces--the scope of which is determined by the Church elite--as the basis of religious and social life. I daresay that not even that racist tribe of European Missionaries of yore, for whom my postcolonial self feels no charity, have done as much damage in the social life of communities in Southern Nigeria. You only need to see the physical abuse of old men and women declared "pagan" inhibitors of communal progress by their kin; or burning and looting of cultural heritage sites and art forms, and general onslaught against anybody or group perceived to be promoting "paganism," which often refers to anything related with indigenous social and cultural practices.
Etido (9) with nail driven into his skull, now brain-damaged
Udo (12) victim of machete attacks by his own community
What makes these developments so dangerous is the apparent complicity of the political leadership in these matters, especially in cases where there ought to be criminal prosecutions. Like in these infanticides and gross child abuse, for instance. Frequently, children are doused with acid, impaled with nails, slashed with knives, buried alive, or poisoned because a so-called Christian pastor diagnosed them as "witches"! In one pathetic if not diabolical instance, a popular "prophetess" made a film, in which she declared the symptoms of a Child-witch: high fever and late-night crying, which as any parent knows is the same symptom for virtually every childhood illness. And this coming from a mother of three children! Can someone tell me why these so-called pastors, including one who declared on camera to have killed more than 100 "witches," should not be prosecuted for mass murder. While the children-killer's action may not be as spectacular as Jonestown, it is no less serious, and should be investigated. At best he would be found a liar (which should serve his congregation well); at worst he may found to be one of the world's worst child killers (which should be a blight on humanity).
Gerry (8) with petrol burns inflicted by father
Given the mandate bestowed on Akwa-Ibom state and Nigerian federal governments, to guaranty life and safety of each and every citizen of the land, including and especially the most vulnerable, I cannot understand why scores of parents, and their conniving pastors have not yet been prosecuted for abusing the human rights of these innocent children. If Nigeria cannot acknowledge and aggressively move against these terrible crimes, pressure must be applied from outside to put a stop to this madness. It is not enough to pass Child Rights Act, as the Nigerian government did some years ago, when child murderers, torturers and abusers regale in their crimes in their churches, in documentaries and public programs.
If the government and civil society organizations in Nigeria cannot save these children from the tyranny of new-age Christianity, and if the Christian Association of Nigeria (the umbrella Christian organization) does not take the initiative to bring the perpetrators of these growing crimes against our children to justice, or actively work against the socio-religious and economic basis of these crimes, they cannot claim any moral justification for the existence of both Church and State.
A society that sacrifices its children to religious faith, is a damned, cursed society.