A West African / Fundamentalist
religion in the UK
Dr Richard Hoskins of King's College, London, UK is a consultant to
the Metropolitan Police on religiously-motivated crime. He testified in
2005-JUN at a trial of three adults charged with the physical abuse of a ten
year old child, whom we will call "AB."
In this case, a West African woman had brought her niece, AB, to Britain from
Angola in 2002 by passing her off as her own daughter. The girl's actual parents
are believed to be dead. The aunt, the girl, and two other adults lived together
in an apartment in Hackney, East London. An eight-year-old boy who lived with AB
accused her of attacking him in the night with witchcraft. The adults agreed
that the 10-year old girl was a witch and practiced an evil form of witchcraft.
It is quite possible that the adults were terrified of the harm that they felt
AB would do to them or to others.
"Witchcraft" is a term with over a dozen different meanings, some
mutually exclusive. Definitions range from evil sorcery to
Wicca, a benign, earth centered religion. In this
case, the word is used to refer to a blend of evil sorcery and black magic -- a
practice intended to harm or even kill other humans.
According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC):
Dr. Hoskins said that: "...belief in 'ndoki' - the [Lingala] word for witchcraft - is
widespread in West Africa and among some immigrant communities in London,
fuelled by a massive growth in small fundamentalist Christian churches. The
abusers in this case - who worshipped at such a church in Hackney - may have
believed they were carrying out a form of exorcism, driving out evil
spirits. All of the accused are committed Fundamentalist Christians.
"Correspondent Angus Crawford said community workers believed the growth
of 'breakaway churches' could be one possible cause of the abuse. A minority
of these preach a powerful blend of traditional African beliefs and
One of the accused, Sita Kisanga, "said the girl was possessed by an
evil spirit, known as kindoki. 'In our community, kindoki happens. It is
killing people. It is doing bad things,' she said." Subsequently, when
interviewed on the radio, Kisanga said that "Kindoki is something you have
to be scared of because in our culture kindoki can kill you and destroy your
life completely. Kindoki can make you barren. Sometimes kindoki can ruin you
chances of staying in this country. The authorities will arrest you and
deport you and kindoki can be part of it."
Another of the accused is reported as believing that AB, as a witch,
transported herself to Africa during the nighttime to do bad things.
According to the News.telegraph:
Kisanga was a regular at a church called Combat Spirituel, based
in Dalston, East London. Police found notes which suggested that she had
been to a prayer meeting about the little girl's possession. A diary entry
found at her home read: 'On retreat there was indeed a prophecy that [the
girl] has got ndoki'."
Children affected by what is known as "ndoki" were usually
treated as suffering from an "external" affliction that could be dealt with
by a curative medicine, without violence. However, the beliefs of some
fundamentalist Christian sects in "internal" possession and the need to
exorcise evil forces had mixed with traditional beliefs to create incidents
in which children were beaten to be cured. "The exorcisms are usually
confrontational, much more aggressive," Mr Hoskins said.
One BBC article showed a drawing of the girl with 43 scars on her body where
she was cut.
There are allegations that the three adults hoped that an exorcism would
drive out the demons and end the danger that the girl represented to the adults.
An exorcism required the use of extreme physical pain in order to force the
demons to leave AB. The girl testified that the adults slapped, punched and
kicked her repeatedly. One pushed a kitchen knife into her chest until it drew
blood. She told police, "It's because my auntie says I have witchcraft. She
dances and laughs when she hits me." AB was beaten with belt buckles and a
high-heeled shoe. She was only fed tea and bread. The adults seemed particularly
concerned that the girl would practice her evil powers at nighttime. So they
woke her up twice and rubbed chili-peppers into her eyes. They forced her into a
large plastic bag, allegedly to "throw her away for good" by drowning her
in a nearby river. But they changed their mind at the last moment.
She was discovered on a cold November morning, covered in cuts and bruises,
with swollen eyes, on the steps to her block of apartments. According to the
person who found her, she seemed "freezing cold and terrified."
Is this case unique?
According to the BBC: "Dr Hoskins says there are a growing number of
reports of children being abused as a result of accusations of witchcraft and
social services are currently investigating four other almost identical cases -
although he says this may be only the 'tip of an iceberg'."
Detective Superintendent Chris Bourlet, of the Metropolitan Police
leads Project Violet. a program to prevent religiously-motivated child
abuse. Bourlet said: "the aim will be prevention, working with churches and
communities - not to challenge their beliefs but to raise their awareness of
child abuse." A group of about five officers will gather intelligence on the
problem and try and persuade churches to follow child protection procedures.
There may be similarities between the current case and the abuse of Victoria
Climbe. Her relatives believed that she was possessed by evil spirits. She
was subjected to physical abuse to drive out her demons. She was eventually
murdered. Dr Richard Hoskins: "It was sheer chance that this little girl [AB]
was rescued in time. If she hadn't been then the injuries and abuse would
in all probability have escalated and she could well have ended up as the next