Christian Pastors and Alleged Child Witches in Kinshasa, DRC




Against earlier predictions, witch accusations are proliferating and flourishing in many modern, urban, and Christian environments. And they are taking new forms. One dramatic change involves who is accused, with children now often the prime suspects when misfortunes occur. Another dramatic change relates to who is consulted when witch suspicions are present. Rather than non-Christian diviners or traditional healers, many now consult Christian pastors and prophets for help in identifying witches and dealing with them. Based on a survey of 713 pastoral leaders in Kinshasa from all major church traditions, and on supplemental qualitative research, this report 1) explores the profile of accused children, 2) identifies what these children are accused of, 3) identifies what sorts of evidence are used to establish the guilt of the accused child, and 4) considers the consequences to the child of being labeled a witch. Furthermore, this report explores what it is that church leaders believe, teach, and practice in relationship to child-witch allegations—considering the role of church tradition and theological education on their patterns of understanding and engagement. Specifically, we identify and examine two broad paradigms widely present in Kinshasa churches—a “witch diagnosis and deliverance paradigm” and a “child protection paradigm.” We consider some grassroots strategies of transformative engagement engaged in by l’Équipe Pastorale auprès des Enfants en Détresse [EPED] leaders, and end by inviting African theological and pastoral leaders into a conversation about the impact of theological understandings, congregational discourses, spiritual disciplines, and pastoral practices on the well-being and flourishing of vulnerable children.
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Copyright (c) 2020 Robert Priest