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Ignace Maloba, a Wesleyan pastor in rural Congo, has had an unexpected new ministry as of late: hunting child witches. Four years ago, local informants led him to the dusty back streets of Kolwezi, a copper-mining town 160 miles from Lubumbashi, a major city in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire).

After traversing the area several times, Maloba finally found the "witches"—two girls and four boys incarcerated in a forlorn church compound. "I was extremely surprised," the pastor told Christianity Today.

At the request of local church leaders, CT visited this area of Congo to report on how churches are handling—and mishandling—abandoned children who face accusations of sorcery and witchcraft due to parental neglect, birth defects, and disability. Tragically, some pastors attempt exorcisms in which they place children's hands in near-boiling water to purge "spirits," resulting in severe burns.

One couple, Astrid Kayanga and her pastor-husband, Ngube Ngube, told CT about making routine pastoral visits one Sunday afternoon in Kasulu, a bustling community near Lubumbashi. They visited one home several times, each time hearing a child weeping in the backyard. Finally, Pastor Ngube asked to see the child. His request quickly turned into a rescue mission for 4-year-old Deborah, a suspected "sorcerer."

Coordinated Church Response

As pastors and ministry leaders in Kasulu compared notes, they came to realize the size of the problem: Parents were abandoning thousands of children, leaving them to survive on the streets of the DRC's major cities.

The problem can grow much worse. With 66.5 million people, the DRC has one of the world's fastest growing populations. About 47 percent is at or below age 15. A ...

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September 2009

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