Today's Observer has a harrowing piece on child witches in parts of Nigeria. The children are beaten and bound - treated like animals. It always infuriates me to read or hear about stuff like this. Not because it's about Africa, and it reflects badly on me (my ego isn't so easily bruised), but it taps into my righteous indignance as a human being. There are some things which should be seen as universally evil, about which there cannot be any debate, and this is one of them.
I see no religious or cultural justification for treating children - who cannot defend themselves - in such a manner. It displays some of the basest and most abhorrent (an overused word) behaviour of humankind.
Stories like this are reported often enough, taking place in Britain, and in Africa. But I know how easy it is to brush it aside as some kind of filicidal fringe. It isn't. I remember my days at a boarding school in Nigeria, one of the Federal Government Colleges. One of the boys in my dorm was cursed enough to be branded a witch, along with his siblings. Nobody would eat with him. If you've been to boarding school, you'll know how important sharing food is to the collective experience and the strong bonding that goes with it. For nobody to touch your food, is for you not to exist. Nobody would be seen hanging around him, or any of his family. The kid was probably only about 11 years-old, and he already knew what it meant to be ostracised. I've written about this before.
The Crucible by Arthur Miller is one of my favourite plays of all time. Like I've said before, when Arthur Miller wrote it, he used the Salem witch trials as an allegory for Senator Joseph McCarthy's hounding of suspected communists. He probably didn't write it with Nigerian snake oil salesmen and helpless African children in mind.
Hosea 4:6 says, "my people perish for lack of knowledge." Have I taken it out of context, and twisted it for the purposes of this post. Maybe. But people are perishing because of their ignorance, and I think it's apt to use a Bible passage to illustrate this point.
Watch the video. Read the piece. Get angry.