UYO, Nigeria (CNS) — Three years after taking in 2-year-old Inimffon Uwamobong and her youthful brother, Sister Matylda Iyang lastly heard from the mom who had deserted them.
“Their mom got here again and advised me that she (Inimffon) and her youthful sibling are witches, asking me to throw them out of the convent,” mentioned Sister Iyang, who oversees the Mom Charles Walker Kids House on the Handmaids of the Holy Youngster Jesus convent.
Such an accusation isn’t new to Sister Iyang.
Since opening the house in 2007, Sister Iyang has cared for dozens of malnourished and homeless kids from the streets of Uyo; lots of them had household who believed they have been witches.
The Uwamobong siblings grew to become nicely and have been capable of enroll in class, however Sister Iyang and different social service suppliers are confronted with related wants.
Well being care and social staff say mother and father, guardians and non secular leaders model kids as witches for various causes. Kids topic to such accusations are sometimes abused, deserted, trafficked and even murdered, in accordance with UNICEF and Human Rights Watch.
All through Africa, a witch is culturally understood to be the epitome of evil and the reason for misfortune, illness and dying. Consequently, the witch is probably the most hated particular person in African society and topic to punishment, torture and even dying.
There have been experiences of youngsters — labeled as witches — having had nails pushed into their heads and being pressured to drink cement, set on fireplace, scarred by acid, poisoned and even buried alive.
In Nigeria, some Christian pastors have included African witchcraft beliefs into their model of Christianity, leading to a marketing campaign of violence towards younger folks in some locales.
Residents of the state Akwa Ibom — together with members of the Ibibio, Annang and the Oro ethnic teams — consider within the non secular existence of spirits and witches.
Father Dominic Akpankpa, government director of the Catholic Institute of Justice and Peace within the Diocese of Uyo, mentioned the existence of witchcraft is a metaphysical phenomenon from those that have no idea something about theology.
“For those who declare that any person is a witch, you would need to show it,” he mentioned. He added that the majority of these accused of being witches might be affected by psychological issues and “it’s our obligation to assist these folks with counseling to return out of that state of affairs.”
Witch profiling and abandonment of youngsters are widespread on the streets of Akwa Ibom.
If a person remarries, Sister Iyang mentioned, the brand new spouse could also be illiberal of the kid’s perspective after being married to the widower, and as such, will throw the kid out of the home.
“To attain this, she would accuse her or him of being a witch,” Sister Iyang mentioned. “That’s why you’d discover many kids within the streets and while you ask them, they are going to say it’s their stepmother who drove them out of the home.”
She mentioned poverty and teenage being pregnant can also drive kids into the road as nicely.
Nigeria’s legal code prohibits accusing, and even threatening to accuse, somebody of being a witch. The Youngster Rights Act of 2003 makes it a legal offense to topic any baby to bodily or emotional torture or submit them to any inhuman or degrading therapy.
Akwa Ibom officers have included the Youngster Rights Act in an try to scale back baby abuse. As well as, the state adopted a legislation in 2008 that makes witch profiling punishable by a jail time period of as much as 10 years.
Father Akpankpa mentioned criminalizing injustices towards kids was a step in the correct route.
“A variety of kids have been labeled witches and victimized. We used to have child factories the place younger ladies are stored; they provide delivery and their infants are taken and bought out for financial good points,” he advised CNS.
“Human trafficking was very alarming. A variety of child factories have been found, and the infants and their moms have been saved whereas the perpetrators have been dropped at justice,” he added.
On the Mom Charles Walker Kids House, the place a lot of the kids are sheltered and despatched to highschool on scholarship, Sister Iyang demonstrates the Catholic Church’s dedication to defending baby rights. She mentioned a lot of the malnourished children the order receives are those that misplaced their mom throughout childbirth “and their households convey them to us for care.”
For contact tracing and reunification, Sister Iyang fashioned a partnership with Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Girls Affairs and Social Welfare. The method begins with parental verification by gathering details about every baby and their location previous to separation. With the knowledge in hand, an investigator drives to the kid’s residence village to confirm what has been realized.
The method includes neighborhood chiefs, elders and non secular and conventional leaders to make sure that every baby is correctly built-in and accepted locally. When that fails, a toddler will positioned into the adoption protocol underneath authorities supervision.
Since opening the Mom Charles Walker Kids House in 2007, Sister Iyang and the workers have cared for about 120 kids. About 74 have been reunited with their households, she mentioned.
“We’ve 46 now left with us,” she mentioned, “hoping that their households will someday choose them up or they are going to have foster mother and father.”
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