Witchcraft in the Central African Republic

One would think that the days of witch hunts and trials would be a thing of the past, something only referenced to as an example of mass hysteria in Salem, Massachusetts. Alarmingly, more and more cases of witchcraft are being documented in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.).

Every year, hundreds of citizens of the C.A.R. are convicted of witchcraft, with penalties ranging from prison to death. The Catholic mission in Bozoum, located 200 miles from the capital Bangui, often intervenes in witchcraft cases.

“They often accuse the weakest people — people who live alone, the ones who will not cause a lot of trouble and against whom, unfortunately, you can do whatever you like,” said mission priest Father Aurelio Gazzera.

Many times those accused are children and elderly women, but lately there has been a rising trend in the amount of children being accused. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have become active in trying to education the people of C.A.R. of their human rights, raising awareness of legal assistance, and protecting children accused of witchcraft.

A U.N. study found that in the local prison, more than half of those held were accused of witchcraft. To spread more awareness to this dilemma in the communities of the C.A.R., UNICEF is co-sponsoring a documentary film, ‘Witch Trials in the Central African Republic’, to be shown to local audiences in hopes of curtailing this dangerous trend.

As one child recounts, “In the end, I ran away. I had a broken arm and my head was bleeding from the blows of a machete. I’m not a witch. I don’t know what a witch is.”

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