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Demonic Possession, Oppression & Exorcism

A West African / Fundamentalist
Christian syncretistic religion in the UK

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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):

bullet 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.
bullet "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 evangelical Christianity."
bullet 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."
bullet 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:

bullet 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."

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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 Victoria Climbie."

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. " 'Witch' child abuse jury sent out," BBC News, 2005-JUN-01, at:
  2. James Westhead, "Abuse case sparks new fears," BBC News, 2005-JUN-03, at:
  3. "Abuser speaks of witch belief," BBC News, 2005-JUN-04, at:
  4. "Witchcraft case sparks abuse fear," BBC News, 2005-JUN-04, at:
  5. John Steele, "Aunt helped to torture girl, 8, for being a witch," News.telegraph, 2005-APR-06, at:
  6. Vikram Dodd, "Police investigate religious links after witchcraft abuse of child, 8," Guardian Unlimited, 2005-JUN-04, at:

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Copyright 1998 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2005-JUN-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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