In Nigeria, nun cares for abandoned children labeled as witches – Catholic Philly

Sister Matilda Iyang poses outdoors on the Mom Charles Walker Youngsters Residence Oct. 7, 2020, on the Handmaids of the Holy Little one Jesus convent in Uyo, Nigeria. 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. (CNS picture/Valentine Iwenwanne)

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 informed 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 Youngsters Residence on the Handmaids of the Holy Little one Jesus convent.

Such an accusation just 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 turned nicely and have been in a position to enroll in class, however Sister Iyang and different social service suppliers are confronted with related wants.

Well being care and social employees say mother and father, guardians and spiritual leaders model kids as witches for various causes. Youngsters topic to such accusations are sometimes abused, deserted, trafficked and even murdered, based on 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 demise. Consequently, the witch is probably the most hated particular person in African society and topic to punishment, torture and even demise.

There have been experiences of kids — 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 integrated African witchcraft beliefs into their model of Christianity, leading to a marketing campaign of violence towards younger individuals in some locales.

Residents of the state Akwa Ibom — together with members of the Ibibio, Annang and the Oro ethnic teams — consider within the spiritual existence of spirits and witches.

Father Dominic Akpankpa, govt 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.

“In case you declare that anyone is a witch, you would need to show it,” he mentioned. He added that the majority of these accused of being witches may very well be affected by psychological problems and “it’s our obligation to assist these individuals with counseling to return out of that state of affairs.”

Witch profiling and abandonment of kids 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 realize 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 if you ask them, they may say it’s their stepmother who drove them out of the home.”

She mentioned poverty and teenage being pregnant can also power kids into the road as nicely.

Nigeria’s prison code prohibits accusing, and even threatening to accuse, somebody of being a witch. The Little one Rights Act of 2003 makes it a prison offense to topic any youngster to bodily or emotional torture or submit them to any inhuman or degrading therapy.

Akwa Ibom officers have integrated the Little one Rights Act in an try to cut back youngster 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 best course.

“Loads of kids have been labeled witches and victimized. We used to have child factories the place younger ladies are stored; they provide beginning and their infants are taken and offered out for financial beneficial properties,” he informed CNS.

“Human trafficking was very alarming. Loads 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 Youngsters Residence, the place many of the kids are sheltered and despatched to high school on scholarship, Sister Iyang demonstrates the Catholic Church’s dedication to defending youngster rights. She mentioned many of the malnourished kids the order receives are those that misplaced their mom throughout childbirth “and their households carry them to us for care.”

For contact tracing and reunification, Sister Iyang shaped a partnership with Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Ladies Affairs and Social Welfare. The method begins with parental verification by gathering details about every youngster and their location previous to separation. With the data in hand, an investigator drives to the kid’s residence village to confirm what has been realized.

The method entails group chiefs, elders and spiritual and conventional leaders to make sure that every youngster is correctly built-in and accepted locally. When that fails, a baby will positioned into the adoption protocol underneath authorities supervision.

Since opening the Mom Charles Walker Youngsters Residence in 2007, Sister Iyang and the employees have cared for about 120 kids. About 74 have been reunited with their households, she mentioned.

“We’ve got 46 now left with us,” she mentioned, “hoping that their households will at some point decide them up or they may have foster mother and father.”

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