Socially Acceptable

God almighty. There’s just no end to it. Hell and damnation.

A BBC reporter went to Angola to look into links between witchcraft, poverty and the spread of churches that mix ‘traditional African beliefs and evangelical Christianity.’

Stepping inside Mr Kitoko’s “clinic” was like entering Bedlam. Many of the so-called patients were chained to the walls and floor. A boy of 15 had been shackled here since January…In a darkened room, six men were chained to the walls and floor. A fight broke out over food. One man tried to stab another with a shard of glass.

And it gets much, much worse.

Lying on the floor of the main hall was the limp, bloated body of an eight-year-old boy. Domingo Jose was barely conscious, his face, belly, arms, legs, even his fingers gorged and inflamed. He was barely alive. Mr Kitoko took a large swig from a glass bottle and spat water into Jose’s face. The child winced, too weak to cry out. Mud was smeared on his belly. The priest grabbed and twisted at Jose’s groin.

The BBC crew tried to get help – but it took a few days for help to arrive.

On the dusty streets of the Palanca Township, we stumbled upon a small Pentecostal church. Entering a small concrete out-house, we found a shocking sight. Sitting on the floor was a terrified, near naked girl of eight, her head shaven. She cowered as her mother and a pastor shouted at her. This was an exorcism, the pastor told us. The mother’s marriage had broken down, it was the child’s fault as she was possessed with Kindoki. Something had been rubbed into the girl’s eyes as part of this ritual. Her ordeal had already lasted three days, and there was another 24 hours to go. The pastor dismissed the risk the child could die from such treatment. He said: “Why should the child die? If the child dies, it means the child is evil.”

Shit. It has everything, doesn’t it. The child is stripped, shaven, on the floor: humiliated. She has her mother and the pastor shouting at her – she’s rejected and reviled by her own mother and by the holy guy. And then the physical torture just for good measure. And she’s all of eight years old – just like the child in London who was tortured the same way. It’s enough to make you scream.

Angola has been wracked by nearly 30 years of civil war. Many children have been orphaned, cared for by aunts, uncles, the extended family. But they can’t afford to keep them. It is socially unacceptable to push a child out because of poverty. But if they are possessed, it’s a different matter.

Custom is a wonderful thing. It’s socially unacceptable to push a child out, but it’s just fine to chain him to a wall, strip her, shave his head, shout at her, spit in his face, rub peppers in her eyes. Humans, humans, humans – the things we come up with.

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