Congo-Kinshasa (MNN) ― There's a tragic story being told over and over in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The country has been badly scarred by war, and people are superstitious. They want explanations when things go wrong. Lorella Rouster with Every Child Ministries explains, "Anything bad that happens, even if someone gets sick, even though they may understand that germs cause disease, they might think that ‘Germs are all over, so why should I get sick right now? Someone must have cursed me.'"
Increasing hardship means many children end up living with members of their extended family. However, Rouster says, "There is a really big problem in Congo right now, with children being accused of witchcraft by their families, and children often being cast out of their families and ending up on the streets."
Experts say this phenomenon is unique to Congo and seems especially prevalent in poor urban areas. Many of these children are subject to abuse, starvation, or worse. Few can scrape enough earnings to pay for what they need.
For the past several years, Every Child Ministries has been reaching out to street children, primarily boys, around a market area across from the Teachers' Training University. The children had been stripped not only of family and love, but of all human dignity and hope until the arrival of ECM workers who began to show a personal interest in them.
Does it make a difference? "It's a living demonstration to the whole community that shows that these children are valuable. When they succeed in life after they've been cast out of their families--they've been roaming the streets on their own--we're hoping that it really will cause people to think twice before they reject their own children."
The Gospel plays a big role in their approach. Some of the staff are holding conferences to alert families to the problem of falsely accusing children of witchcraft. "They include things like the emphasis on the value of children, and then show that the power of Jesus Christ is greater than any other power. They can call on His power and His help rather than accusing their children of witchcraft."
ECM also works to restore families in Congo. Many of the children sponsored through Every Child Ministries need complete care, not just extra help. "A sponsorship with Every Child ministries costs $30 a month and provides schooling, clothing, medical needs and spiritual counseling."